AUSTIN, Texas — A proposed Texas law to address police killings and misconduct would require police officers to have liability insurance.
It’s a move the bill’s sponsor, Houston State Rep. Jolanda Jones, said will make cops think twice before unnecessary action against the public. The bill was inspired in part by the beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police, which resulted in his death.
“For far too long law enforcement officers use their jobs to justify taking extreme, unjustified actions that kill our neighbors, friends and family,” Jones said.
The relatively new lawmaker filed HB 1808, which would require peace officers across Texas to carry personal liability insurance as a condition of their employment.
“You can’t waffle taxpayers to pay for rouge officers,” Jones said.
Jones is a defense attorney as well as a state legislator and said the bill would shift the burden of paying out settlements of misconduct from taxpayers to the officer.
“It is time that we have meaningful police reform while providing relief for taxpayers for police misconduct,” Jones said.
Additionally, the Houston representative said the bill would not impact qualified immunity. Jones argued this law won’t impact police staffing or recruitment.
“What are you afraid of?” Jones questioned. “If you’re a good officer, you literally have nothing to worry about.”
But members of law enforcement, including the Houston Police Officer’s Union, said what’s needed is more widespread training to address issues— not propping up insurance companies for them to make money.
“I think it’s unnecessary, it’s not needed,” HPOU President Douglas Griffith said. “Again, it’s just a way for more frivolous lawsuits to take place.”
He added that staffing is already an issue and this could add another burden on the backs of law enforcement.
“Our officers go out there every day working their tails off and this would just be another thing that they have to pay for out of their pocket,” Griffith said.