Criminal Justice

Harris County Passes Package Of 11 Criminal Justice Reform Proposals

The centerpiece was Commissioner Rodney Ellis’s proposal for a civilian oversight board to investigate allegations of use of force by police

Harris County Commissioners Court
Harris County Commissioners Court

Harris County leaders passed a package of 11 criminal justice reform measures, just hours after attending George Floyd's funeral. The cornerstone was a proposal to provide stricter civilian oversight of police.

The item ordered the Justice Administration Department to study creating a civilian oversight board to review allegations of the use of force by police.

"The analysis shall consider elements such as subpoena power, independence from law enforcement, authority to discipline, necessary resources and access to specially trained non-law enforcement investigators," said Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who proposed the measure.

The item passed 4-1, with only Commissioner Steve Radack voting no.

The other items that passed were:

  • Engaging community in budgeting for evaluations for all criminal justice departments funded by Harris County (passed 5-0)
  • Requesting the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and constables precincts submit monthly reports on officer uses of force (passed 5-0)
  • Commission a study on creating a county-level emergency responder program to take over 911 calls for things like mental health and substance abuse crises (passed 5-0)
  • Commission a study on creating a county-level agency to administer violence interruption programs (passed 5-0)
  • Make improvements to the indigent defense system (passed 5-0)
  • Study best practices for alternatives to criminal justice to deal with poverty, homelessness, public health and mental health, substance use and violence prevention, within $25 million (passed 3-2, Radack and Jack Cagle opposed)
  • Commission a report on the effects of criminal fines, fees, and cash bail on vulnerable communities, including low-income, and racial and ethnic minority groups (passed 5-0)
  • Requestina a bi-annual report tracking racial disparities in the criminal justice system, with first report to include evidence-based recommendations for addressing those disparities (passed 5-0)
  • Request for the Justice Administration Department to work with Harris County law enforcement to develop a model use of force policy, including banning choke holds (passed 5-0)

While most measures passed unanimously, there was one more notable exception: a resolution in memory of George Floyd.

That also passed 4-1, with Radack dissenting over language citing "racist policing and a broken law enforcement system" as causing Floyd's death.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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