State report finds regulation of Texas law enforcement is ‘toothless’

Texas Politics

(Nexstar File Photo)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A state report released during the review of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement found that the state’s regulation of law enforcement is “by and large, toothless.”

The report, compiled as part of TCOLE’s legislative review by the Sunset Advisory Commission, indicated the commission has limited authority to set or enforce anything except minimum license standards of professional conduct, which the review stated are outdated and insufficient.

“The Sunset review found the state’s regulatory approach has resulted in a fragmented, outdated system with poor accountability, lack of statewide standards, and inadequate training,” an executive summary of the staff report reads. “And while Texas has a continuing need to regulate law enforcement, the state’s current regulation is, by and large, toothless.”

A request for comment to TCOLE was not returned Wednesday afternoon.

The staff report highlights main issues including ineffective regulating, inadequate practices for information technology services and lack of conformation in statute for common licensing standards.

The report recommends establishing a blue ribbon panel to evaluate law enforcement regulation in the state.

“Rather than attempting to repair a fundamentally broken system, a comprehensive look at how the state regulates law enforcement is needed to make needed changes to best protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, as well as law enforcement personnel,” the report’s authors stated, recommending that the commission continue for two more years, until 2023.

Regarding IT services, the report suggests TCOLE require fingerprint-based criminal background checks, rather than delegate that responsibility to employers of licensees, which would improve effectiveness to protect the public. Additionally, it recommends the the state clearly authorize TCOLE to issue subpoenas for investigative records.

According to the staff report, continuing the commission with its existing organizational structure would cost the state $4.2 million yearly. Adding the recommendations would able to be implemented under the current financial structure, the report concluded.

The Sunset Advisory Commission scheduled a public hearing for Dec. 7 during which members will discuss TCOLE.

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