Sulphur Springs Independent School District Police Department this year was not only required to complete a racial profiling report for any traffic stops made, but also to modify their citations to meet additional legal requirements. The district may soon have to purchase dash cameras and potentially body cameras for Sulphur Springs ISD police officers.
Racial Profiling Report
In past years, Sulphur Springs ISD Police Department has been exempt because the school district doesn’t in the ordinary course of business routinely make traffic stops. Officers are stationed at their assigned schools most of the time.
“At this point in time, the way the law has changed, we are now required to do a full racial profiling report, whether we write one citation or we write a hundred citations,” Sulphur Springs ISD Police Chief Glynda Chester said when presenting the annual report to SSISD Board of Trustees at their regular February meeting.
The campus police department also had to modify their citations to include a means for people to file a complaint if a person, in the event a stopped motorist believes they’ve been racially profiled. A website where the complaint can be made had to be included on the ticket, Chester explained.
Overall, SSISD police wrote 10 citations, six to females and four to males. Four of the drivers were Black, four Hispanic or Latino and two White. The 10 individuals’ races were not known prior to the stops, however, the report states.
Two of the traffic stops for were for violations of the law, which would be no driver’s license or insurance, and eight were for moving traffic violations, things like speeding. All 10 traffic stops were made on city streets.
“That would be like our stops for speeding, or citizens running the red lights on a school bus when the bus was loading or unloading,” Chester said.
No searches were conducted, no contraband located, no physical force was used and no arrests resulted from the traffic stops by Sulphur Springs ISD police, Chester reported.
Four of the individuals stopped were issued written warnings and six were issued citations.
Trustee Jason Dietze asked about the jurisdiction within which school police may make traffic stops.
Chester noted SSISD police may make traffic stops may be made anywhere in the city or county within the school district. She said the city police chief said he’d like for SSISD police to take care of some of the school zones. Chester said doing so all the time would pull officers away from their designated campuses, which are officers’ main priority.
The police chief said SSISD police are mainly needed before and after school, when buses are loading and unloading. Officers often follow buses, watching to be sure motorist are abiding the law, stopping when the bus lights come on signaling them to stop for students getting on and off the bus. Often, just having officers present during those times serves as a deterrent for motorists to slow down and pay attention for the safety of students.
“Of course compliance is what we want so children are not hurt,” Chester concluded.
When talking with the city prosecutor for the citations, Jim McLeroy said he wants dash and body cam footage from stops forwarded to the city for prosecution of most school police traffic stops.
“Before he will prosecutor most of our stops, citations like stopping citizens from passing school buses with their lights on, he is requiring us to have dash cams. He wants dash cams. We might be able to get away with body cams for a while, but he really wants both and we don’t have any of those,” Chester said.
“I really hate it that we’ve got people passing school buses and we’ve got the chance of one of our students, our kids, getting hurt. Until we’re able to get those body cams and dash cams, it’s going to be hard for him to prosecute those citations,” she said.
However, with more people asking to see the videos of the alleged offenses, the dash and body camera video has become a necessary part of the process.
“Is that a state requirement or just something he wants personally?” Trustee John Prickette asked.
“It’s not a state requirement. It’s something he personally requires because he can prosecute the case if he’s got a video, he can show, ‘Yes, you ran those lights. Yes, went past that bus and you didn’t stop,” Chester replied.
When asked if the dash cam requirement would be for all school buses or officers’ vehicles, Glynda clarified the dash cam requirement for the city would be for officers’ vehicles only.
Chester noted the dash cameras automatically turn on when the officer flips on the lights on the police car. The cameras are designed in a such as way that they can go back about 3 minute, Chester expalined.
“It shows the full stop. It shows them passing the school bus. When you’re out visiting with that citizen you not only have your dash cam in your car but you also have you body cam on, which protects us and the citizens. It makes us do our jobs better and we catch anything the citizens might [dispute] in court,” Chester said.
When school board President Robbin Vaughn asked the average cost for dash cameras, Chester admitted she hasn’t yet had an opportunity to check into that. However, based on her prior knowledge, they “aren’t cheap.” She said had just talked with McLeroy earlier in the day and didn’t have time to prepare to look into that before the meeting. However, she wanted to make the board aware of the prosecutor’s requirement as soon as possible. She said she could get some quotes for the school board to present at a future meeting.
She was asked to get some figures so that district could try to work the cost into next year’s budget.