Texas Legislative Black Caucus hosts town halls to address police reform, racial injustice

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Legislative Black Caucus is hosting three regional town halls this week in response to the protests around the country, sparked by the death of George Floyd.

““Where would we be today without the religious faith-based protest of the Civil Rights Movement in the ’50s and the ’60s?” State Rep. James White said, adding that he is proud of today’s peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional right.

While some Democrats have urged Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session, other Democrats and Republicans say more work can be done now at the local level.

In the meantime, the Governor is continuing conversations with the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, Abbott’s office confirmed Thursday.

“I got a phone call from Governor Abbott inviting myself and Chair Dutton to a conversation to continue to dialogue,” Democratic State Rep. Nicole Collier said Wednesday night. “So I want you to know that what we’re doing is working, and that we are being your voice and making sure that we speak up for you.”

The next legislative session begins in January, but Republican Rep. White said local governments have the power to make change sooner.

“We have local governing entities. We have counties. We have our county sheriffs that could impact their budgets now as it relates to investigating incidents of deadly force use by law enforcement,” Rep. White said. “We have city councils that can redirect monies for training and in mental health and all that. So they can do that now.”

Others agreed that action at the local level is needed, including addressing the use of force in situations where officers fear for their own lives, Rep. Collier said.

“Why do they feel that they’re in danger when they come into a Black community? Should that be something that is trained… should they receive training on that?” Rep. Collier said during Wednesday’s town hall.

The representatives on Wednesday’s town hall also addressed whether police officers could be tested to gauge their racial sensitivity.

Democratic State Rep. Harold Dutton added that passing any type of bill at the state level is difficult.

“The legislature happens to be, as I call it, the place where good ideas go to die. Because, you know, we only pass, about one fourth of the bills that are filed,” Rep. Dutton said, adding that he hopes his colleagues will be able to support bipartisan measures come January.

“I think there’s a consciousness… that is a hope [that] is here today, and I hope is here come January… that we haven’t fallen back into, ‘Well, it’s not really that bad anymore,” Rep. Dutton said.

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