- A Texas law grants police discretion when releasing investigative records if the accused was not convicted of a crime.
- Nicknamed the “dead suspect loophole,” the law could allow officers to withhold information from the Uvalde shooting.
- The Uvalde school police chief has stopped cooperating with a state investigation into the shooting.
A 1997 Texas law that grants police discretion when releasing investigative records if the accused was not convicted of a crime may allow Uvalde police to withhold records, bodycam footage, and 911 calls related to last month’s shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Nicknamed the “dead suspect loophole,” the law was intended to protect the privacy of the wrongfully accused but critics say it has allowed Texas police to withhold information related to suspects who die in custody, even under suspicious circumstances.
“Families of those who die in custody never get closure or access to details of their loved one’s death because of this loophole,” Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dade Phelan, tweeted. “This is an area in dire need of reform. Details of in-custody deaths shouldn’t be kept secret, and neither should the details re: Uvalde.”
The gunman, who killed 21 during the incident and wounded 17 more, was killed before being taken into custody. As he was never charged with a crime, records of the shooting investigation are not required under Texas law to be released.
Since the Uvalde school police chief has stopped cooperating with a state investigation into how officers responded to the school shooting, critics of the law itself are concerned officers could withhold key records and information which could reveal what happened during the shooting.
Uvalde police officials have changed their story about the tactical response to the shooting more than a dozen times and yet-to-released released security and bodycam footage could determine a clear timeline during the incident and clarify whether police confronted the shooter.
A 2019 attempt to close the loophole died in the Texas Senate but, in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting, there are renewed calls to ensure transparency surrounding police records.
“More than anything, the families of the Uvalde victims need honest answers and transparency. Period,” Phelan’s twitter thread continued. “It would be absolutely unconscionable to use the “dead suspect loophole” to thwart the release of information that is so badly needed and deserved right now.”
Phelan’s office did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.