Police stops in Texas have proved controversial in recent years. In a high profile case, Sandra Bland, an African American woman, took her life after a routine traffic stop with a state trooper led to an argument.
The Sandra Bland case and other controversies led to a new law in Texas that will provide training to High school students, new drivers and police officers in how to act during police interactions.
The curriculum will not be ready until next September, reported the Texas Tribune.
However, the Texas Department of Public Safety has already established recommended actions to safeguard drivers during traffic stops in its latest version of the Texas Driver Handbook, which was released last month.
The recommendations are intended to prevent the kind of escalation during a minor traffic stop seen in 2015 when Sandra Bland was arrested.
Former Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia stopped the 28-year-old woman in Prairie View in 2015. She failed to signal a lane change.
What should have been a routine traffic citation quickly escalated into a dispute. A conversation with the officer became confrontational and Bland was arrested for assaulting a public servant.
Bland was found dead in her Waller County Jail cell three days after the arrest. The death sparked a national outcry about the conditions in jails across the country. Bland’s death was later ruled a suicide by hanging. Legislation this year in Texas aimed to change the powers of police during traffic stops, but major parts of the legislation were gutted.
The Texas Department of Public Safety suggests the following actions in its new handbook. Drivers stopped by police should:
- Slow down and move their vehicles safely to the right side of the road;
- Park vehicle as far to the right of the main traffic lane as possible. Aim to park on the right shoulder. If that’s not possible, park on a nearby well-lit side street or a parking lot away from high volumes of traffic;
- Ensure your vehicle is in a parking position. Set the emergency brake and turn the engine off. Put your hazard warning lights on;
- Use your interior lights, if the traffic stop is at night;
- Remain in your car but lower the driver’s window if you feel safe to do so;
- Keep both of your hands clearly in sight on the steering wheel;
- Always wait for the police officer to give you instructions and don’t get out of the car unless asked to do so;
- Before you reach into your glove box or under your seat to retrieve documents like your proof of insurance or driver’s license, tell the officer where they are located and follow the officer’s directions;
- If you are asked to get out of your car, exit the vehicle and check for passing vehicles;
- Tell passengers to remain in the car or truck unless other instructions are given by the police officer; and, at the conclusion of the stop, give appropriate signals and safely return to the correct lane of traffic when released by the law enforcement officer.
Traffic stops can be stressful situations. The new training will inform citizens of their rights in traffic stops. You should be aware that if an officer fails to follow proper procedure or there is no legitimate cause for a stop, this evidence is not admissible in court. Please consult an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer.