“There is no right anywhere in the U.S. Constitution to harm another person or destroy property,” Governor Greg Abbott forcibly told the press in Dallas on Thursday.
Alongside Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, and backdropped by Dallas police officers, Abbott announced a policy proposal that would make participating in a riot a felony, with a mandatory six-month jail sentence.
Additionally, those who aid and abet rioters would also be subject to a felony, and all charged therein must be detained until at least their first court appearance. “We are tired of seeing rioters get arrested and then get back on the street 30 minutes later,” he added.
Striking an officer, under the proposal, would carry with it a six-month mandatory sentence and causing injury or destroying property would be a felony.
Each aforementioned proposal heightens current penalties, but Abbott also suggested two new penalties for blocking hospital entryways and using fireworks.
This litany of proposals will have to pass legislative muster and Abbott has been circling the wagons gathering support for his “Back the Blue” pledge.
At the Thursday press conference, Abbott specifically singled out Austin and its reforms, one of which was opting to cut $3 million of overtime pay. He emphasized, “If you defund overtime pay, when riots happen and you most need officers, they may not be there due to local officials’ decisions.”
Furthermore, Austin cut funding for the next three cadet classes at a time when 150 positions remain unfilled. One of the Dallas officers who spoke at the press conference said their department is down 600-650 officers.
Abbott has been stumping around the state, gathering support for his “Back the Blue” pledge among elected officials and candidates, from which he’ll need backing to implement these changes.
The governor added that he’s been discussing police reforms with the Texas Legislative Black Caucus about better training and limiting the use of deadly force tactics within police departments.
Departments already use a use of force matrix for their officers, but police reform advocates insist it needs to be further tailored.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa criticized the proposal, stating: “Instead of talking about the issues that matter most to Texans — ending the coronavirus crisis, protecting and expanding healthcare coverage, and building our economy back better — Abbott chose to introduce nonsensical proposals that will not hold up in court. This was done in a pathetic ploy to help Trump and Texas Republicans’ election chances.”