FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 06/06/2019
REP BURNS’ LEGISLATION SIGNED INTO LAW BY GOVERNOR ABBOTT
AUSTIN, Texas – On Wednesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 3540, a bill authored by State Representative DeWayne Burns (Cleburne), which gives police officers the ability to use professional discretion when responding to minor altercations involving persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities in a group home setting. HB 3540 passed through both the Texas House and Senate unanimously.
"Allowing law enforcement to use common sense and exercise professional discretion in addressing these situations will provide more tools for law enforcement and benefit Texans with disabilities. I am thankful to The Arc of Texas and our law enforcement community for their input and help with this legislation," said Representative Burns.
The tensions that result in roommate disagreements in group homes can often escalate to physical altercations. Currently, officers often have no choice but to arrest these individuals should a roommate or other person call and report it. HB 3540 allows officers to assess the situation and visit with group home staff to determine the level of danger present, if any, and whether a person with an IDD needs to be arrested or not.
"While sometimes necessary, arrest is not always the correct response in these situations. There can be long- term harmful effects on individuals detained inappropriately," continued Rep. Burns. “Every person and every situation is different, and until now our law enforcement officers had their hands tied when it came to determining the best course of action. Now that Governor Abbott has signed this legislation into law, officers will have more options at their disposal.”
Officials supporting the bill included Texas Governor Greg Abbott. "Many of our jails are not equipped for Texans with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and an arrest or detainment in certain situations might lead to more harm than good. HB 3540 provides our peace officers with the freedom they need to make appropriate and responsible decisions that are not only best for law enforcement, but for the individuals they interact with. I am grateful for the hard work of Representative Burns and Senator Hughes on this important issue, and I am proud to sign HB 3540 into law." said Governor Abbott.
In addition to Governor Abbott, a number of advocacy groups voiced their support for HB 3540, including The Arc of Texas, an organization that advocates for the human rights and self-determination of Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)."The alarming rate of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in jails and prisons points to the unique support needs and characteristics of Texans with IDD," said Kyle Piccola, the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for The Arc of Texas. "Legislation like this is critical to improve outcomes for Texans with IDD in our criminal justice system and to provide the appropriate accommodations they require. We are extremely grateful to Representative Burns for authoring HB 3540 and to Senator Hughes for sponsoring it in the Senate."
CONTACT: Dalton Moore