Other Voices

Public safety issues fit for dinner table, state Capitol

School safety bill is introduced to senate as top priority

Senate Bill 1, School Safety and Resiliency Act, was introduced to the senate on Wednesday by Rep. Max Wise (R) of Campbellsville.
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Senate Bill 1, School Safety and Resiliency Act, was introduced to the senate on Wednesday by Rep. Max Wise (R) of Campbellsville.

To our new Texas Legislators: Congratulations on your election! After a long and often tense election cycle, it is finally time to leave your districts, go to Austin and do the work of the people who elected you.

With the addition of many new state senators and representatives, the 28,000 members of the Texas Municipal Police Association – the largest law enforcement association in Texas – believe this legislative session has great potential. But we all have work to do in order to keep Texans safe. And it is work we must do together.

The safety and prosperity of each neighborhood in Texas is dependent on a robust law enforcement presence; that requires a successful partnership between residents, elected leaders and police officers. In order to maintain thriving, professional police departments, and to make our neighborhoods safer and more livable, it is important that we address critical law enforcement issues in 2019.

A critical concern for law enforcement that sometimes goes unvoiced is officer benefits. We ask that lawmakers and city leaders across Texas keep the promises made to the men and women who protect our communities 24/7, 365 days a year, by protecting our benefits.

Financial security is a small part of the overall sacrifice police officers make, but the importance of protecting pension benefits cannot be overstated. Otherwise, veteran officers will continue to leave our profession, and leave our streets patrolled by fewer and less-experienced officers.

Ensuring the law continues to side with the innocent and law-abiding, rather than the guilty and corrupt, is also critical to our success. It is in this spirit that we oppose reductions in arrest authority for class C misdemeanors.

Furthermore, we oppose the current movement to end asset forfeiture. This only helps the drug cartels that are exploiting our porous border and wreaking carnage in our cities. It is clear the asset forfeiture law that allows law enforcement to seize vehicles and other property of criminal drug gangs reduces crime in our cities.

We have no issue with the current movement to reduce penalties for nonviolent offenders, because we want to successfully reintegrate these offenders into society. But those who are a threat to our safety and the public should not receive reduced penalties.

Police officer associations will continue to fight to protect dues collection, so we can appropriately represent our members. There are those who continue to misrepresent the usage of dues deductions for police associations, but here are the facts: the dues collected via payroll deduction in Texas are completely voluntary, meaning there is no “fair share” in Texas. These dues assist officers injured in the line of duty – and the families of those killed while protecting our communities. They also allow law enforcement associations to support Little League Baseball & Softball programs, Blue Santa and many other charitable causes within their communities.

We would also like to see policymakers return to the discussion of issues that affect the vast majority of Texans, instead of engaging in wedge debates based on false narratives about our profession. If you ever have law enforcement questions, we are only a phone call away.

Let’s return to President Reagan’s dinner table metaphor and recognize that what gets discussed at the dinner table is what should be discussed on the floor of the House and Senate. These meat-and-potato issues are, of course, education, healthcare and public safety.

We need a thoughtful approach to making our communities safer and free of political influence. Let’s make 2019 the year we return to rational, thoughtful policing policies that allow officers to do their jobs, which is to keep all of us safe.

Aaron Crowell is president of the Texas Municipal Police Association.