‘We are not rioting,’ Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee calls for even-handed policing amid protests in Houston

FILE PHOTO - Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, wears a mask and speaks to a reporter as she walks towards the House Chamber on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Washington. The House is expected to vote on a nearly $500 billion Coronavirus relief bill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee urges caution as state and federal officials deploy officers and other resources amid police brutality protests in Houston. She said some residents are concerned that the officers may not serve with the same temperament as local officers.

“The temperament, the demeanor, the actions (are) in the keeping of what we try to do here in Houston,” Lee said at a news conference at a local church Sunday.

Protestors in Houston and cities across the country are demanding justice for the death of George Floyd, a Third Ward native who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis. While the majority of the protests like in Houston have remained peaceful, other cities are in chaos.

People are looting businesses, lighting cars on fire, breaking windows and vandalizing property. While lawmakers and local departments are calling for additional reinforcement and enforcing curfews.

In response to escalating protests in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a national emergency, ordered thousands of DPS troopers to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin and activated the Texas National Guard. The FBI also deployed tactical teams to assist state and local law enforcement.

Despite those calls for action, the scene in Houston is much calmer. A diverse population of Houstonians - including black men, families, college students and white people - are participating in protests,

“We are not rioting. We are protesting,” said Lee, who joined the protestors in Houston this weekend.

Lee, who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said she has been on the phone with members of Congress discussing federal policies that could help manage the relationship between the police and the community.

She said she will introduce the Law Enforcement and Integrity Act to overhaul the structure of accountability for police departments. She said the program would provide incentives and accreditation for 18,000 departments.

“I think once you understand how to train (and) deescalate, you will enrich community relationships,” she said.