The Texas commission that regulates the state’s licensed law enforcement officers says it has no authority to act on the findings of the Texas House Investigative Committee’s report into the massacre of the school of Uvalde, which describes a series of failures of several agencies.
“The findings of the House Investigative Committee report are outside the jurisdiction of our agency,” the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, or TCOLE, said in a statement.
The licensing agency “generally has the authority to take disciplinary action on a peace officer’s license for violations of our administrative rules or for criminal convictions,” the statement added.
TCOLE’s statement comes as a number of law enforcement agencies have come under increased scrutiny for their response to the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary, where 21 people – including 19 children and two teachers – were killed.
The 77-page preliminary report published on Sunday describes an “overall nonchalant approach” by the authorities on the ground, as well as “systemic failures and grossly poor decision-making”.
Although there were 376 responders at the scene from local, state and federal agencies, it took police more than an hour after the gunman opened fire in two adjacent classrooms to the confront and kill him.
The weeks following the shooting saw accusations between law enforcement: Texas Department of Public Safety Director Col. Steven McCraw called the response a ‘dismal failure’ during a hearing before a Texas Senate committee last month, blaming the feet of school district police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who McCraw said was the incident commander. But Arredondo told the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself the incident commander.
The ever-evolving narrative of the shooting and law enforcement’s misguided response — along with a host of unanswered questions — have prompted calls for accountability.
But a report from a Sunset Commission set up to review Texas agencies and programs found that TCOLE “has no authority over law enforcement agencies.”
The agency “sets and enforces minimum licensing and training standards for law enforcement personnel,” the report, released in January 2021, says, but local agencies “set their own standards of professional conduct and policies. disciplinary, as well as additional training requirements”.
Accordingly, TCOLE “has relatively limited authority to establish or enforce anything other than minimum licensing standards…and no authority to establish or enforce standards of professional conduct, except in the case of a criminal conviction or deferred judgment of a licensee.”
The board will make a decision on Arredondo’s employment in a closed session, District Superintendent Hal Harrell said, adding that he awaits the report and its findings, which will be considered.
The DPS announced this week that it would conduct an internal review of its officers’ actions, but at least one state official questioned whether the agency could be trusted to “review its own inaction.” and its failures” on the day of the shooting.
In a letter to Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, said it was the Senate’s “obligation” to “hold the DPS and its employees to account. and public officials”.
“Therefore, I ask that you direct the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice to review the DPS’s internal investigation to ensure that it has thoroughly and aggressively examined the actions of its employees in response to the attack. against Uvalde.”
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