Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales will announce the creation of a Civil Rights Division to handle officer-involved shootings. It will consist of two prosecutors, an investigator and a victim’s advocate. The team will respond to the scene of shootings in an effort to more effectively and independently review these cases, as well as custodial deaths and cases of excessive force. After law enforcement conducts its investigation of the incident and files a case with our office, the Civil Rights Division will review the case and may conduct a further investigation. The Civil Rights Division will report directly to District Attorney Gonzales.
The budget for the new division is $385,984. The request will be presented to Bexar County Commissioners on Tuesday.
When he took office in January 2019, Gonzales established the following protocol for officer-involved shootings: the Special Crimes Division reviews all cases and presents them to the District Attorney and his administration. All shootings are presented to a grand jury for review. Previously, law enforcement agencies were given clearance letters from the District Attorney’s Office, before cases had been filed and reviewed by prosecutors. Cases were not always presented to a grand jury.
“I remain committed to finding the best practices for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office. While Bexar County is not the first to establish a Civil Rights Division, I have spoken to other larger District Attorneys about how they have been able to make the process more independent with their own Civil Rights Divisions. Until the State of Texas establishes a truly independent investigative and prosecutorial process, it is up to local law enforcement and prosecutors to do their best to scrutinize these shootings with as much independence as we can manage,” Gonzales said.