Pubdate: Wed, 23 May 2001
Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (TX)
Copyright: 2001 The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Author: Deon Daugherty


Morris News Service AUSTIN =AD A bill that gives the public access to
information about crimes committed by peace officers was signed
Tuesday by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The bill stems from a controversial
drug bust in Tulia in which 43 people were arrested.

In the Tulia case, undercover officer Tom Coleman conducted a solo
drug operation that netted the arrests of 43 people - of whom are
black, raising suspicion that the operation was racially motivated.

Coleman and law enforcement officers in Swisher County have denied any
unethical behavior by Coleman, saying those arrested were engaged in
drug trafficking.

Defense attorneys learned that Coleman had been accused of stealing
and misusing county property when he worked in Cochran County as a
deputy sheriff.

Had those records - given to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement
Officer Standards and Education - been available, Coleman might not
have been in the position to conduct the operation, said supporters of
the bill.

The bill opens those records to the public.

''We think the public has the right to know, as do juries,'' said Will
Harrell, Texas ACLU executive director. ''Most police officers are
standup citizens who are legitimately concerned about law enforcement
and public service. Others are utter scumbags and we think the public
needs to know who they are.

'Plus, he said, cities and their police departments don't want those
''bad actors'' in their agencies.

The bill is one of three so-called ''Tulia Proposals'' drafted by the
Texas chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

A bill to limit a judge's discretion on admitting evidence is still
pending in the House and unlikely to pass this session.

The third bill, which required corroboration for undercover officers'
testimony, has been fractured into different House and Senate versions.

The Senate altered the bill to address undercover drug informants. The
House bill includes both informants and undercover drug agents who
have been witha department for fewer than two years.

Pattie Brookins, mother of Freddie Brookins Jr., said just thinking
about what happened to her son is painful. He is serving a 20-year
sentence as a result of the Tulia drug bust.

''I'm pleased because it will help a lot of people - although it's
too late to help Freddie,'' she said. ''I just can't hardly bear it.
Freddie was our baby. He didn't see color.''
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