TEXAS - For most drivers, getting pulled over is something they dread, but Texas lawmakers want to make sure the youngest ones out on the road know exactly what to do. Texas high school students will soon take a new course, teaching them how to safely interact with police officers during traffic stops.
The Texas Education Agency recently sent educational materials, including a 16-minute video, to school districts across the state. Through reenactments and police interviews, law enforcement agencies hope the video answers common questions about what to do when drivers get pulled over. The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement was among several stakeholders that helped put the video together.
“A lot of it could be nerves as well - ‘What did I do, what have I done?’ Kind of almost overthinking the situation, it may be a safety stop, your tail lights may be out,” said Deputy Chief Michael Antu, director of special services and enforcement at TCOLE.
The requirement is part of the Senate Bill 30 or the Community Safety Education Act. Texas lawmakers passed the legislation last session, after several deadly encounters, particularly the high-profile case of Sandra Bland. She died in a Waller County jail in 2015, after a confrontational traffic stop.
“With this training going out now, there’s a little bit more understanding of both parties in this interaction and hopefully that’ll lead to lessen the anxiety,” Cantu said.
But there are people who are skeptical of the video. Chris Harris, data analyst and campaign coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, believes civilians need to be taught about their rights and law enforcement officers should focus on accountability.
“Compliance to every instruction that they give is not necessary and it shouldn’t be necessary to avoid violence in interactions with them,” Harris said. “I sincerely hope that at minimum, this will be an opportunity for students, people getting their drivers licenses, and everyone that has to see this video to learn about what their actually rights are in their interaction with police.”
The curriculum outlined in TEA’s instructional guide goes over the duties of peace officers, citizens’ rights, proper behavior and how to file a complaint. It also includes tips and possible questions.
Law enforcement officers also have to go through some type of training regarding these interactions, as well.
“Officers are trained for problem solving and to deal with whatever is being presented to them because you can’t go into it as one size fits all,” Antu said.
The new requirement applies to any student who enters the ninth grade in the 2018 to 2019 school year and thereafter. Under Senate Bill 30, school districts may tailor their instruction to their local communities and can solicit help from local law enforcement agencies.