Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States and the urban core of Southeast Texas with more than 2.2 million people in its core and another 4 million in the surrounding region giving police departments great responsibility to maintain safety and order among its diverse population. Unfortunately, policing has taken a turn for the worse, at least if you read police brutality headlines and tap into the lack of community trust making the job more difficult. Police policies have been created regarding the use of force, and racial profiling, seemingly two violations of civil rights that go hand-in-hand in traffic stops that go sideways. The Houston Police Department was among the top 20 Texas law enforcement agencies that used force the most often during traffic stops in 2018, according to new statewide data.
Racially-motivated traffic stops and the use of excessive force are violations of civil rights laws that are in place to protect citizens against arbitrary and negative action from law enforcement officers. Officers are allowed the “use of force” including hands, batons, tasers, or other weapons when necessary, and in accordance with officer training and department policy, to remove the threat of violence by subduing criminals. Officers must exercise balanced judgment when choosing a force option, and keep in mind the suspect’s 4th Amendment rights during traffic stop searches. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 2.132(b)(6) prohibits racial profiling and the Houston Police Department complies with this law.
De-escalation May Reduce Use of Force During Traffic Stops.
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement requires de-escalation training. To counter the data suggesting that traffic stops are escalated to the point of police use of force, the Houston Police Department should utilize de-escalation tactics. The Department of Justice defines “de-escalation” as “the strategic slowing down of an incident in a manner that allows officers more time, distance, space and tactical flexibility during dynamic situations on the street.” Training methods for police officers include:
1) Listen respectfully. Don’t argue or interrupt. People calm down when they feel they are being listened to and taken seriously.
2) Crowd control. Don’t allow an audience to gather. If two people are having an argument, isolate them from friends or family members to reduce aggressive behavior.
3) Courteous example. Use courteous, professional language to uphold the idea that talk must be calm and respectful.
4) Body language. Be aware not to use intimidating body movements.
5) Control encounter. Reduce offensive speech, cursing, and yelling by explaining that acceptable language would more likely get the point across.
6) Don’t publicly humiliate anyone—especially when others are watching. Be respectful of embarrassing questions and pat downs.
7) Don’t waste time and energy trying to convince a citizen that he’s wrong and you’re right. Do what you need to do without becoming defensive.
8) Remember that repeating possible actions like a “broken record” is a useful way to achieve two goals—conveying the message that you’re in charge while keeping the lid on a potential conflict.
There are various federal and state laws that insure remedy to individuals who have suffered the negative effects of police brutality. If you feel you have been a victim of excessive force or bias-based profiling by a police officer in Houston Texas, you should seek professional legal help to file a claim and have them review your case to see if you can sue for damages. Damages may include hospital/medical expenses; past and future permanent disability payments; emotional distress including depression and anxiety; loss of enjoyment of life; physical pain and suffering; and loss of love and companionship due to a death or serious injury caused by actions of police brutality.
The Blizzard Law Group, PLLC
5020 Montrose Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77006