KBS Reference Desk: Peace Officer Legislation

Q:        As we settle into the new school year, police officers in my district have been asking if there are any changes that impact them. Did the 87th Texas Legislature pass any laws that affect peace officers?

 A:        Yes, the 87th Texas Legislature was as busy as ever; here are a few key laws that will impact school districts and peace officers.

House Bill 929, effective September 1, 2021, imposes new requirements related to the activation of body worn cameras deployed by peace officers. This bill amended Texas Occupations Code Section 1701.655, to require law enforcement agencies to adopt policies that require peace officers who are equipped with body worn cameras to keep them activated for the entirety of an officer’s participation in an investigation. In non-investigatory situations, the cameras may be turned off. As a result of HB 929, it is reasonable to expect peace officers to be recording more video than ever before. This means there will be more video that needs to be stored and preserved in accordance with applicable state law and records retention schedules. District administrators should make certain they work with their police departments to gauge how much additional storage space is needed to accommodate the extra video data and budget accordingly. Retention schedules can be located at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/localretention/schedule_ps.

Senate Bill 1359, also effective September 1, 2021, addresses mental health leave for peace officers. This bill amends Chapter 614 of the Texas Government Code to require law enforcement agencies to adopt policies providing mental health leave for peace officers if they experience a traumatic event in the scope of their employment. The policies must provide objective standards for when a peace officer is entitled to mental health leave, must not reduce an officer’s pay, must state the number of mental health days available to an officer, and must provide for some level of anonymity for peace officers who take mental health leave. The policies may provide a list of the mental health services available to peace officers, but it this is not required.

Importantly, much of the specifics pertinent to SB 1359 remain with the employer to define. For example, the bill does not define what is a “traumatic event”, it does not specify a minimum number of mental health days required, and it does not specify what level of anonymity peace officers who take leave are entitled to. Districts will need to sort through these issues themselves in concert with their police department administrators. TASB HR has issued initial guidance and sample policies, which can be located at https://www.tasb.org/services/hr-services/mytasb/hr-library/leaves.aspx.

House Bill 2073, effective upon signature of the Governor in June, requires political subdivisions (including school districts) to implement paid quarantine leave for peace officers, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters who are exposed to a communicable disease while on duty. The quarantine leave policy must allocate leave required for quarantine in addition to pre-existing leave, such as sick leave, vacation, and holidays when the peace officer has an on-duty exposure to a communicable disease. Further, the quarantine leave policy must allow for reasonable expenses (medical care, transportation, lodging, etc.) in connection with quarantining to be reimbursed.

There are two important clarifications to be made regarding this bill that have generated some confusion. First, to be eligible for quarantine leave, a first responder must have been exposed to the communicable disease while on duty. Quarantine leave does not apply if a peace officer or firefighter is exposed to a communicable disease in a social setting or at home. Second, to qualify for quarantine leave, the leave must be ordered by the first responder’s supervisor or the political subdivision’s health department. So, by way of example, if a first responder was exposed to a communicable disease that he or she is vaccinated against, and the local health department, due to the individual’s vaccination status, does not require isolating after such an exposure, the first responder would not be eligible for quarantine leave.

For specific questions or additional information regarding these three legislative changes that impact peace officers, or other legislative changes, please consult with your local school law attorney.

Related Posts

Recent Articles

KBS Reference Desk: Attendance Waivers
November 19, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: HB 103 Texas Active Shooter Alert
November 12, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Remote Learning and ADA-Funding
November 5, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: CBD Oil
October 29, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Temporary Custodians of Record – TPIA
October 22, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Dyslexia Handbook Update
October 15, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: HB 1525 PTO Donations
October 1, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: State Certifications Update – SB 13 & SB 19
September 24, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Accelerated and Supplemental Instruction HB 4545
September 17, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Active Threat Excercises
September 10, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: HB 1927 Firearms
September 3, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Remote Participation in Board Meetings
August 27, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Waiving Minimum Attendance Requirements for Seriously Ill Students
August 20, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Inquiring About Vaccine Status
August 13, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Temporary Suspension of TPIA due to Catastrophe
August 6, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Standard for Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
July 30, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Bullying Policies and Reporting SB 2050
July 23, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Homeschoolers and UIL
July 16, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: TOMA Suspension Extension
July 9, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Revision to Resignation without Penalty Deadline
July 2, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: SB 179 School Counselors
June 25, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: 2021 TRS Surcharge SB 202
June 18, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: When do Virtual Board Meetings End
June 11, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Buy American Program
June 4, 2021
KBS Reference Desk: Board Member with Substantial Interest Closed Meeting Attendance
May 28, 2021