The Honorable James White, Chair
Texas House of Representatives
Eighty-Eight Legislative Session
Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety 1100 Congress Ave.
Room E2. 146
Austin, TX 78701
Cc: The Honorable Rhetta Andrews Bower, Vice Chair
March 25, 2021
Dear Chairman White, Vice Chair Andrews Bower and Honorable Members of Committee,
I want to begin by thanking the committee for providing the many Texans gathered in this chamber today the opportunity to share their visceral experiences relative to police/community engagement. Moreover, it is both an honor and privilege to be sitting before this distinguished body within these hallowed halls of our Great States capitol.
Arguably, criminal justice reform is one of the most prevalent social issues of contemporary society. Today, my testimony will address the “imperative” to enact amenable provisions in the proposed House Bill 88, also colloquially referred to as the “George Floyd Act.” With this intention, we must redress antiquated police tactics, which have adversely affected historically vulnerable communities. In particular, communities of color, similar to the district in which I currently have the immense privilege to serve as an elected official. Comparatively, my district is a microcosm of Texas in terms of its ethnic demographic make-up as demographically, my district consists of a majority-minority constituency. Given this dynamic, uniquely, through candid discourse relevant to policing, many of my constituents are overwhelmingly cynical about their interactions with law enforcement. Notwithstanding, we are fortunate to have a police chief committed to inclusive police policies via community policing initiatives dedicated to improving community/law enforcement rapports in my city.
Nevertheless, when considering the unfortunate loss of lives taken much too soon and the pervasive narratives of police brutality throughout the country. The sincere efforts of numerous governmental entities at the local level only serve as the impetus for a more palpable criminal justice system. Therefore, it is paramount that state legislators write into law adroitly comprehensive criminal justice reform that will save lives and augment persons’ protection.
Notably, | will mention a few Texans who have suffered at the hands of police misconduct and whose lives would have likely been saved had the “George Floyd Act” been in effect. Mr. Botham Jean, Ms. Sandra Bland, Mr. Joshua Feast, and Mr. George Floyd. Accordingly, with due reverence to prevent future tragedies; I implore this body not to forget the names mentioned and not mentioned today. Let us not forget that their lives mattered! As such, posthumously, their experiences need not be in vain. Thus, this is a clarion call in championing this committee to press forward in ensuring the constitutional virtues of fundamental human deference regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, or religion.
Respectfully, members of this esteemed committee, the process for a more equitable justice system begins today—the power rests in your vote. I encourage you to listen to the millions of Texans who desire and deserve a more equitable and transparent justice system. One that truly adheres to the United States constitution’s most eminent tenets. The procedural right to due process and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. On balance, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, before his untimely death, graced us with this prescient axiom, “what
we face, is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”
Keith G. Henry
Commissioner, District 1