Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed the Sandra Bland Act into law, almost two years after her controversial death in a jail cell set off nationwide protests.
The law goes into effect on September 1 and “mandates county jails divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment, makes it easier for defendants to receive a personal bond if they have a mental illness or intellectual disability, and requires that independent law enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths,” according to the Texas Tribune.
The act was named for Sandra Bland, 28, who was arrested after a traffic stop and was later found dead in her jail cell in July 2015. Although her death was ruled a suicide, activists and others criticized the jail’s handling of Bland.
Originally, a bill introduced by Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston included more language dealing with racial profiling as well as police interactions during traffic stops. However, the bill wasn’t able to gain traction within committees due to police groups and other pressures until the language involving police encounters was softened or removed, though the parts of the bill involving de-escalation training remained.
Still, despite the criticisms that the bill is more of a mental health bill than one that addresses the problems leading to the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail cell, Coleman said that it would increase public safety.
“The Sandra Bland Act will prevent traffic stops from escalating by ensuring that all law enforcement officers receive de-escalation training for all situations as part of their basic training and continuing education,” he said.
“The Sandra Bland Act will prevent traffic stops from escalating by ensuring that all law enforcement officers receive de-escalation training for all situations as part of their basic training and continuing education,” he added.
But what the bill does not contain — namely, strong language addressing racial profiling and police de-escalation training — is perhaps most noteworthy.
Bland, an Illinois native, was found hanged in her cell at the Waller County, Texas jail just days after being pulled over for failing to use her turn signal. She was arrested after getting into a heated argument with Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia, who was later fired.
Bland’s family later reached a $19M settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit.