AUSTIN, Texas — Botham Jean’s name now lives on in the Texas government as Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Botham Jean Act into law Wednesday. Representative Carl Sherman, who authored HB 929, shared the news on his Twitter page.
On Sept. 6, 2018, then Dallas Police Department Officer Amber Guyger shot and killed 26-year-old Jean. She alleged that, after working a long shift, she mistook her apartment for Jean’s, who lived a floor above her in the South Side Flats. Guyger told authorities that she believed Jean was an intruder, which led to the shooting. Investigators discovered Jean was unarmed at the time of the deadly incident. Guyger was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder.
The Botham Jean Act makes it illegal for peace officers to disarm body cameras during the course of an investigation in which they are involved in:
(c-1) A policy described by Subsection (a) must require a peace officer who is equipped with a body worn camera and actively participating in an investigation to keep the camera activated for the entirety of the officer's active participation in the investigation unless the camera has been deactivated in compliance with that policy.
In a previous interview with Spectrum News 1, Allison Jean said she hoped the law named in her son's honor would prevent other families from experiencing what she went through.
During the course of the investigation, Dallas Police Department Sgt. Mike Mata instructed another officer to turn off the dashcam to the patrol car Guyger was sitting in the night of the deadly encounter. In a later interview with media outlets, Mata said he made the request since she was receiving a call from her attorney, which he deemed attorney-client privilege. It was that loss of evidence that caused outrage from not only the Jean family but also community members.
For Sherman and those who sponsored the legislation, it was important to have a bill that addressed “systemic problems” in law enforcement to combat accountability within agencies across the state. Allison Jean described the bipartisan show of support in both chambers as a “major step.”
“What it says to me is there is greater sensitivity among lawmakers for police reform and accountability,” she said. “Before the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, I noticed that there was majority support at that stage. But I feel heartened that as it progressed through the House, through the Jurisprudence Committee and through the Senate that that support was maintained on both sides.”
The Senate unanimously voted to pass HB 929, and in the House, the bill was passed on its third reading with 108 in favor.
“To me, what is really great about this entire process is that you have bilateral support of this bill and by extension I think there is a greater awareness of the issues that are being confronted related to police reform and accountability and that we should be hearing some other changes coming down stream.”
The bill goes into effect on Sept. 1.