Congresswoman Escobar Advocates for Funding to Ensure Police Accountability and Transparency in El Paso
El Paso, Texas, June 9, 2021
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) submitted a statement for the record to the House Appropriations Committee for their Member Day hearing. In her written testimony, Congresswoman Escobar advocated for necessary funding to help provide transparency and accountability in policing in El Paso.
Read her written testimony as submitted to the Committee below:
Thank you, Chairwoman, Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee for giving me this opportunity to testify on some of my priorities for the committee.
As you craft the FY 2022 Appropriations bill, I urge that you please consider funding for two of my Community Project Funding requests under the subcommittee of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.
These two projects would greatly benefit El Paso, Texas, my home and the district that I am honored to represent. Specifically, these projects request funding for body-worn camera acquisitions for the El Paso Police Department and funding for El PasoCounty’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).
I would first like to request funding to support the City of El Paso’s acquisition of body-worn cameras for the El Paso Police Department. As we have seen in the past, body-worn cameras are necessary to help provide transparency and accountability to the public, protect both law enforcement officers and civilians during interactions, and even help gather evidence necessary top resenting an effective case in court.
Second, I strongly urge the committee to consider allocating funding for the El Paso County Crisis Intervention Team, a program that can revolutionize the way El Paso responds to individuals experiencing mental or emotional crises. El Paso County’s CIT is currently a fledging program providing mental health first-responder services to individuals in need of immediate mental health crisis assistance. In cities across America, it is not unusual to call on law enforcement officers for help when a person is experiencing a mental health or emotional crisis either at home or in public. However, because law enforcement officers are often not adequately trained to respond to these kinds of situations, interactions can and have resulted in officers opening fire against people in crisis. CITs, staffed by mental health professionals and EMTs, provide a safer alternative to relying on law enforcement for people in crisis. A robustly-funded CIT program would increase their capacity to serve El Paso County with more teams, more resources, and offer an expanded area of service.
Finally, I want to emphasize with the full committee, as I have with every subcommittee to which I have provided testimony, it is essential that you include mechanisms within your bill to guarantee that federal funding makes it to its designated recipient. This is especially important for items like community project funds, which are designated for local governments and other entities. As you may know, for months Texas Governor Greg Abbott held critical COVID relief funds hostage. This means entities like schools were unable to properly spend relief funds on COVID safety measures or were unable to reimburse themselves. While Governor Abbott recently released some of these funds, he is also holding up federal funds meant to help local governments with migrants arriving at our nation’s front door. I urge the full committee to take this in consideration as you are crafting this year’s appropriations bills.
Thank you for consideration on these important funding requests.