HPD chief joins other law enforcement leaders in Austin to fight controversial bathroom bill

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AUSTIN, TEXAS–Texas police chiefs, sheriffs, public safety experts, sexual assault survivors, sexual assault experts and public school superintendents gathered on the South Steps of the Capitol Tuesday to urge lawmakers to once again reject efforts to pass unnecessary bathroom bills and discriminatory legislation, including HB 46, HB 50 and SB 3 and SB 91.

“I am here today to oppose the so-called bathroom bill. It doesn’t address a problem of bathroom predators, because there is no problem of men dressing as women to assault women in public restrooms.  It doesn’t make us safer, it creates confusion for ordinary citizens, complicates law enforcement’s job, and puts a target on the backs of LGBT Texans.  It solves no problems, while creating a host of new ones.  And worst of all, it facilitates discrimination,” said the police chief of the fourth largest city in the country, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

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“As Chief of Police for the City of San Antonio, I asked my department to go through the record.  What we found is this: there were no known incidents of bathroom assaults performed by men posing as trans-gender women.  I am a believer that if you propose a bill to address a criminal justice concern, it is important to determine if there is an actual problem you are trying to solve.  The bathroom bill doesn’t solve the most basic test of any public safety bill: it does nothing to make us safer,” said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

 “My paramount concern is the safety of the public. The test of every new law, every new ordinance, every new policing policy is this: does it make our society safer?  The so-called bathroom bill does not. It makes matters worse.  It is a solution to a non-existent problem. It discriminates against thousands of our fellow Texans and makes the job of law enforcement significantly more difficult,” said Austin Police Chief Brian Manley.

“We are the premiere experts in the state on sexual assault and the only statewide organization in Texas solely dedicated to protecting and assisting victims of sexual assault.  We are here today, as the leading advocates of sexual assault victims in the state of Texas to tell you that bathroom bills do nothing to help victims of sexual assault. This discriminatory bill is not about protecting women or children and will do nothing to protect women and children. This bill will not protect victims of sexual assault. There are already numerous laws on the book to protect victims. This bill is not about women’s rights. This is a false narrative. If the legislature really wants to do something to protect women’s rights, they should provide funding for the backlog of rape kits across the state of Texas and protect women from serial predators.  SB 3 and bills like them are why nearly every sexual assault and domestic violence agency in the United States strongly opposes these discriminatory bathroom bills, said Annette Burrhus-Clay, Executive Director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

“I am sexual assault survivor. I am here today speaking as a sexual assault survivor and I am adamantly opposed to bathroom legislation.  This is a law that will not help sexual assault survivors like me.  It will not protect victims of sexual assault.  In fact, it will put victims in danger.  If lawmakers really want to make the state of Texas safer, legislators should focus on the back log of rape kits,” said Lavinia Masters, a sexual assault survivor from Lewisville in North Texas.

“I am a proud Texan and I have dedicated my life to enforcing the law.  Bathrooms are not the problem. This state has a crisis on its hands, of children being abused and neglected – and even dying – on the watch of the state of Texas. We have real problems with sexual assault and with domestic abuse, drugs, drinking and driving and murder.  Any attempt to draw the focus away from those problems and to bathrooms should be widely condemned,” said El Paso Chief Deputy Sheriff Sylvia Aguilar.

“I am here today to speak as one of the top female law enforcement officers in the state of Texas- that bathroom bills are not about protecting women’s privacy or about public safety. There is no public safety crisis in our bathrooms right now. I’ve dedicated my life to enforcing our laws so that my friends, family and neighbors can live in safe and vibrant communities. I believe we should take threats to the public safety seriously.  But that means acknowledging what those threats are, and allocating resources in an appropriate and responsible way to get the job done.  When we spin our wheels over made-up scare tactics like this, we’re doing a real disservice to our communities. We’re not talking about how we can better address real public safety threats, like domestic violence or illegal drug use.  On behalf of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, I encourage law makers to reject this legislation, said Harris County Assistant Chief Debra Schmidt.

 “Police officers dedicate our lives to protect and serve and fight to keep our citizens safe.  It a job we take seriously.  Just a little over a year ago, five of our brave Dallas Police officers were killed in the line of duty.  The shooting was the deadliest assault on U.S. law enforcement since the September 11 attacks.  We have real crime to fight and it is a difficult and dangerous job.  Bathroom bills do not keep our citizens safe,” said Dallas Police Major Rueben Ramirez.  A report recently released by the Police Foundation that examined data from the Dallas Police Department which looked at claims of sexual assault of women in restroom facilities, finds virtually no data whatsoever to remotely support the idea of a bathroom predator crisis.  In fact, the Police Foundation reviewed incidents in Dallas from January 2014 to September 2016 and found no evidence of bathroom assaults by men claiming to be women.  Law enforcement officials in states across the country have gone on record saying there has been no increase in bathroom violence following the passage of non-discrimination ordinances in various cities.

 “In all my years of serving as Chief of Police, I have never once taken a police report because of a gender issue. School districts face multiple issues that the legislature could help us with, but the bathroom bill is not one of them. Bathroom bills are a distraction from real problems that actually exist,” said Corpus Christi ISD Chief of Police Kirby Warnke.

 “For the kids that go to Northside ISD and the millions of Texas school children across Texas, this bill will not make them safer. I don’t know if you can find a principal anywhere who would tell you that this is in their top ten of worries or concerns. Northside Independent School District, like many large school districts across our state, have made accommodations for transgender students, and it’s worked. The fact is we’re focused on what’s best for every child. These sorts of decisions are best left to the local schools, the students and the families involved. The bottom line is I’d sure like to see the Texas Legislature use its valuable time to thoughtfully consider school finance, facilities funding for fast growth schools and support for our local public school districts more generally. We all want to ensure our children are safe, but more importantly, we want to ensure they are all treated respectfully and with dignity,” said San Antonio’s Northside Independent School Dis2trict Superintendent, Dr. Brian Woods.

Among the participants are: Mayor Steve Alder, Austin; Austin Police Chief Brian Manley; Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo; San Antonio Police Chief William McManus; Dallas Police Sgt. Ruben Ramirez; Annette Burrhus-Clay, Executive Director of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault; Lavinia Masters, Sexual Assault Survivor, Lewisville in North Texas; Rep. Joe Moody, Chairman of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee; El Paso Chief Deputy Sheriff Sylvia Aguilar, El Paso Sheriff’s Office; Harris County Assistant Chief Debra Schmidt, Harris County Sheriff’s Office; Harris County Constable Chris Diaz; Corpus Christi ISD Chief of Police Kirby Warnke; Brian Woods, Superintendent of Northside ISD San Antonio; Jimmy Rodriguez, San Antonio Police Association; Sgt. Dawn Hansen, Austin, Cleat Executive Board Member Austin Police Association and others.