Gov. Greg Abbott announced a legislative proposal to discourage Texas cities from defunding the police at a Fort Worth press conference on Tuesday.
At the afternoon press conference at the Bob Bolen Public Safety Complex, Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen proposed legislation that would freeze a city’s property tax revenue if that city defunded its police department.
“Cities that endanger residents by defunding law enforcement should not be able to get more property tax dollars from those same residents whose lives the city just endangered,” Abbott said.
Abbott said that defunding the police would cause “lawlessness in our cities” and “chaos.”
The announcement comes after the Austin City Council unanimously voted to cut its police department budget by $150 million on Thursday.
State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, commended Fort Worth for voting to continue the Crime Control and Prevention District tax, which provides revenue from a 1/2 -cent sales tax to programs that aim to reduce crime.
“Fort Worth is doing it right,” Goldman said. “And we’re not going to let a major city in the state of Texas turn into what Portland is doing, what Seattle is doing.”
Bonnen, the state House speaker, said the Texas House of Representatives will support the legislation. He criticized Austin Mayor Steve Adler for supporting what he called the “socialist agenda” of taking money from police.
“Law enforcement is not a tool of political agendas,” Bonnen said.
Abbott said while he is open to strategies that will make policing better, “Texas will not tolerate a reduction of law enforcement.”
“We need our officers, and we need them funded,” he said.
After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody earlier this year, Black Lives Matter protesters across the country have called for defunding police — which many say would mean reallocating some police department funding to community programs.
In response to a question about the calls to defund the police based on brutality against people of color, Abbott said, “If we have police brutality, we don’t need less police, we need less police brutality.”
“And so we need to take action, whether it be as a Legislature or in police departments or whatever the case may be,” Abbott said. “We do need to take action to ensure that law enforcement officers are trained in ways in which they will not engage in police brutality.”
On Thursday, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus also proposed a bill related to Floyd’s death and law enforcement. The George Floyd Act aims to curb police use of force and further criminal justice reforms in Texas.
Abbott said he has met with Floyd’s family and wants to ensure that what happened to him does not happen again. He said the way to do so is to provide law enforcement with the training and resources they need, and reevaluate use-of-force policies.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, state Sens. Jane Nelson and Kelly Hancock, and state Reps. Charlie Geren, Stephanie Klick and Giovanni Capriglione also joined the press conference.
Price said she supported the proposal.
“For me and for most mayors, public safety is job one in this community,” she said at the press conference. “It’s not political — it’s common sense to keep your community safe.”
Price said while she understands the concerns about the community’s relationship with the Fort Worth Police Department, “we will not defund our police to solve those issues.”
“Cities that are dismantling their police departments are putting their citizens at risk,” she said.
After the press conference, Price told the Star-Telegram that she found out about the proposed legislation Monday night. She said it is clear from the CCPD vote that Fort Worth citizens want a funded police department.
Altogether, the CCPD tax will provide Fort Worth police with an additional $1 billion through 2030. This revenue is in addition to what the police department receives through the city’s general fund, which this year amounted to more than $267 million.
Police Chief Ed Kraus proposed to City Council on Friday that some CCPD funding be redirected to nonprofits, civilian response teams and other alternatives to traditional policing.
The city faced criticism ahead of the May election that the sales tax fund amounted to a “police slush fund” that no longer serves the public.
Kraus told reporters he supports Abbott’s statement that defunding police is not the answer. He said police can use their funding to serve the community.
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