EPPD recommends opposition to several proposed police justice reform efforts

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Snapshot of the El Paso City Council meeting on Monday night.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The El Paso Police Department recommends opposing several police justice reform bills in the city’s legislative priorities for Austin.

The El Paso City Council voted 7-1 in favor of supporting state efforts to address mass violence, reduce residential speed limits, Medicaid expansion, mental illness efforts among some issues. District 6 Rep. Claudia Rodriguez casted the lone dissenting vote.

Over law enforcement, the council voted in-line with the El Paso Police Department’s recommendations for issues police support. The council took no action on items the department opposed at the state level.

The council did strike one line in the department’s recommendations for support entitled ‘policies or procedures in conformance with existing EPPD policy.’

City Reps. Peter Svarzbein and Henry Rivera also pushed to ensure El Paso express interest in funding for body cameras. The council decided to remain neutral in the deliberation of the proposed George Floyd Act unveiled by the Texas Black Caucus last August.

East Side Rep. Cassandra Hernandez said the police department does not set policy but the council does.

“I certainly don’t want the motion to reflect that the police department is giving policy directives to council,” Hernandez said.

Gonzalez said recommendations from the police department were made out of concerns for their safety.

“That recommendation is grounded in safety of the officer,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said. “I am always going to advise the safety of the employee first.”

The El Paso Police Department has proposed the council consider opposing the following:

  • Prohibiting neck or throat restraint, unless allowed in extreme circumstances
  • Removal of qualified immunity
  • Elimination or revision of asset forfeiture
  • Prohibition of no knock entries, unless adopted under TCOLE policy
  • Unfunded mandates
  • Disciplinary matrix
  • Cite and release mandates

The El Paso Police Department supports

  • Policies around the department’s policies
  • Use for force policy promulgated by the TCOLE
  • De-escalation policy promulgated by TCOLE
  • Release of police employment records promulgated by TCOLE
  • Duty to intervene
  • Additional reporting requirements for use of force, no knock entries
  • Consent to motor vehicle search, provided that motor vehicle recording is allowed
  • Additional training, provided that does not result in significant increase in costs, unless state provides resources and funds.

*Information on El Paso Police Department opposition and support from city documents.

The council made their vote on Monday night as part of their work session before tomorrow’s regular council meeting. They discussed priorities and what issues to support in Austin as the legislative session continues.

Guadalupe Cuellar and Snapper Carr, who represent the city’s interests in Austin, provided an overview of bills filed in the legislature impacting various policies and agendas.

Cuellar told the council that more than 40 police reform bills had been filed and the George Floyd Act could receive a hearing. And, Carr said there will be much discourse about public safety and policing this year.

“The topic of public safety reform it is going to be a very broad topic because of the national discussion brought about by the protests following George Floyd’s death this summer,” Carr said. “Couple that with discussions nationwide around police funding. Couple that with discussions about updating in training with these other items.”

Nationwide, local police departments and state legislatures have been called to change policy over policing due to the high-profile death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Among the council’s discussions were updates from the police department on best practices, racial profiling, use of force and deadly force incidents and the composition and scope of the El Paso Discipline Review Board and the Shooting Review board.

The discussion came from a resolution passed by the council last June when calls from the community for change in policing pushed the city to review its methods.

Zina Silva, an assistant police chief with EPPD, said the city has contracted two groups to help analyze and review the department’s data processes with racial profiling and use of force and deadly force.

The Justice Research Consultants will help the city with traffic stop and racial profiling assessments. And, Hillard Heintze, will help analyze use of force in the department.

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