Jefferson County’s Historic New Sheriff
Swept to victory amidst a dramatic election year, newly elected Sheriff Zena Stephens has taken the reins of a department of more than 400 people and a budget of $40 million in Southeast Texas, undeterred by a hate incident attacking her campaign office nearly a year ago. Texas Monthly sat down with the first black woman to hold the title of sheriff in the state (and one of only two currently elected in the country) to discuss her career, challenges in police-community relations, and her strategic vision for her new role.
“She’s the Sheriff” (Texas Monthly | January 2017)
(Image Credit: Todd Spoth/Texas Monthly)
New House report calls for increase in mental health resources across state
- The report by the Texas House Select Committee on Mental Health warned that current resource levels are inadequate to support mental health initiatives across areas like education, healthcare, and criminal justice.
- The cost of the effects of insufficient mental health resources—both financial and human—is expected to climb as the state continues to grow, and the state has begun to focus on behavioral healthcare reform to confront those costs.
- Recommendations include increasing the use of telemedicine, increasing resources to jail diversion programs, rural healthcare reform, increasing the rate of hospital construction, healthcare-practitioner education incentivization, and increasing access to substance abuse counseling and other resources.
Interim Report 2016: A Report to the House of Representatives 85th Texas Legislature
(Image Credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera/The Texas Tribune)
Newly released dashcam footage shows Ft. Worth police officer shooting man in back, contradicting earlier claims
- The incident took place in July as officers responded to a report of an armed robbery in an apartment complex.
- David Collie was shot in the back while walking away from the officers, who claimed he appeared to be armed and fit the description of one of the robbery suspects despite Collie being significantly shorter and thinner than the suspects.
- Collie is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the encounter, and the officers returned to duty after a few days of internal investigation that found no wrongdoing on their part.
Source: TheWFirm YouTube
“Man Paralyzed After Being Shot in His Back by Fort Worth Police: Lawyer” (NBC 5 | December 2016)
“Video released in FW police shooting that left man paralyzed” (Fox 4 | December 2016)
“Dash Cam Video Appears To Show FW Officer Shoot Man In Back” (CBS 11 | December 2016)
“Attorney: Viral video not an isolated incident among Fort Worth cops” (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram | December 2016)
“New Video Casts Doubt on Police Account of Shooting of Black Man Left Paralyzed” (NBC News | December 2016)
“Police say a black man was shot after pulling a blade on officers. A new video raises doubts.” (The Washington Post | December 2016)
“KING: Chilling details emerge after Texas police shoot black man in the back, paralyzing him” (The New York Daily News | December 2016)
The Growing Humanitarian Disaster of the Detention-Industrial Complex
Accounting for nearly a third of federally detained migrants and nearly half of detained asylum-seekers, the nearly two-dozen immigration detention centers that dot the Texas landscape have come under increasing scrutiny for human rights infringements, including indefinite detention, malnourishment, medical negligence, and legal counsel inaccessibility. Through the eyes of a detainee, The Texas Observer traces the human realities of an ever-expanding detention regime focused on mass incarceration over the humanitarian treatment of asylum-seekers. The first installment of its series on federal detention centers colors this sketch with data on the ballooning detention industrial complex, from the growth of for-profit incarceration to the exploding public budgets for detention administration.
“‘Even the Birds and Animals Are Free’” (The Texas Observer | December 2016)
“America Under Detention” (A Texas Observer series)
Detention Facility Locator (U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement)
(Image Credit: Jen Reel/The Texas Observer)
Black community leaders push for justice following violent arrest of black mother
- Clergy and activists called on Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald to fire an officer involved in the violent arrest of Jacqueline Craig, a mother who had called for assistance after a neighbor reportedly choked her son for littering, and her two daughters.
- The recording of the incident shows the officer asking Craig why she hadn’t taught her son not to litter and why the neighbor didn’t have the right to choke the boy, which led to Craig’s daughter attempting to draw her mother away from the situation and Craig herself being arrested despite having committed no crime.
- In a press conference, Fitzgerald interpreted the video of the incident as indicating “rude” but not racist behavior, sparking outrage as community members fear improper handling of the investigation.
Source: Fox 4 News Fort Worth YouTube
“Mother calls Fort Worth police for help, gets arrested after ugly confrontation” (The Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
“Black leaders pressure Fort Worth officials for swift firing of officer in viral video” (The Dallas Morning News)
“White Texas Cop’s Arrest of Three Black Women Appears Racist: Lawyer” (NBC News)
“NGAN Calls for Action Against Officer, Neighbor in Viral Video” (NBC 5 Fort Worth)
El Paso ISD passes resolution supporting undocumented students
- EPISD trustees voted to affirm the district’s commitment to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children (DREAMers).
- The resolution stopped short of declaring EPISD a “sanctuary district,” which would involve a refusal to cooperate with federal attempts to use school districts in immigration law enforcement activities.
- The resolution comes on the tails of the El Paso Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office indicating they would decline to serve as immigration law enforcers should President-elect Trump move forward with his immigration plans.
Resolution on DREAMers and immigration law enforcement (El Paso Independent School District)
“EPISD declares support for undocumented students” (The El Paso Times)
“EPPD, Sheriff’s Office would not enforce immigration law if Trump proposal approved” (KVIA)
Proposed anti-immigrant bill for 2017 targets sanctuary cities
Source: Fox Business YouTube
- SB 4 proposes to target sanctuary cities: cities that refuse to comply with detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that ask local authorities to keep previously booked individuals in jail when suspected of being undocumented.
- Austin became one of the first Texas cities to declare resistance to these detentions in mid-November, with Travis County Sheriff-elect Sally Hernandez having announced a break in policy with her predecessors.
- Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced the bill—later filed by Senator Charles Perry for the upcoming session—as a part of his 10-point list of legislative priorities for 2017, which also includes proposed anti-trans and anti-choice bills.
Lt. Governor Patrick Announces Top Ten Legislative Priorities (Office of the Lieutenant Governor, November 2016)
“New Sanctuary Cities in Texas Vow to Resist Donald Trump’s Deportations” (The Intercept, November 2016)
“Will San Antonio Be a ‘Sanctuary City’?” (The San Antonio Current)