Police

CSPD’s FARO technology processes scenes faster

In this episode of College Station Innovation, Officer Mike Fisher demonstrates the College Station Police Department’s portable FARO 3D scanner, which helps investigators recreate accidents and crime scenes. Fisher said the technology captures accurate measurements, documents scenes, and gets roads back open about 50% faster than the older techniques.

– Public Communications Office


Hands-free device ordinance to be enforced soon

Sign reads "Prohibited: Cell phone use hands-free only. Violators subject to fine."

Sign reads "Prohibited: Cell phone use hands-free only. Violators subject to fine."

By Officer Tristen Lopez, CSPD Public Information Officer

This week, more than 30 signs will be installed around College Station that label the city as having a hands-free ordinance in effect as it relates to drivers and their wireless communications device of choice.

The idea is that fewer distractions will result in fewer crashes, injuries and deaths.

The hands-free requirement applies to anyone using a cell phone while operating a vehicle or riding a bicycle on a public roadway in College Station, which includes typing, sending or reading texts, or making a call. Under the ordinance, even using GPS while driving requires the device to be attached to a mount.

You may pick up your device while driving only if:

  • You are at a complete stop.
  • It is an emergency.
  • You are selecting music on your device. (state requirement)

The ordinance was approved by the College Station City Council in late February and was set to be enforced in March, but the health and budgetary impacts of COVID-19 delayed the city from moving forward until now.

Once all signs have been installed, the College Station Police Department will allow a 30-day warning period before having the option of issuing citations for violators. Fine amounts range from $25-$500.

If a hands-free ordinance in College Station sounds familiar, you’re right: The city originally began enforcing a similar ordinance in January 2017, but by September of that same year, the state passed its own law that pre-empted some of the city’s provisions and led to the city council repealing ours.

Please don’t drive distracted — #JustDrive.

 


About the Blogger

Tristen Lopez is in his 11th year with the College Station Police Department.


 

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Police chief addresses CSPD’s policies, use of force 

By Billy Couch, College Station Police Chief

The national discussion about race relations and policing has touched every corner of our country, including College Station. It’s essential that we understand the perspectives of all members of our community.

As a department, the College Station Police Department has initiated open dialogue with local black leaders about productive ways to strengthen our community relationships. These open and transparent conversations are the foundation of how trust is established.

Accountability is essential, not just to the police profession, but for being accountable to the community we serve. CSPD’s mission is “To Protect and Serve with Excellence.”  The members of our organization are committed to that mission and strive to serve all with dignity and respect.

In recent weeks, we received several questions about the department’s policies and procedures regarding unbiased policing, body-worn cameras, professional standards, and the use of force.

Allow me to address each of those areas.

Unbiased Policing

CSPD thoroughly trains its personnel to avoid bias-based policing and discriminatory activities. Our officers focus on behavior and specific suspect information when we take police action. We won’t take action based on race (racial profiling), ethnic background, national origin, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, or cultural group.

CSPD aggressively investigates instances of bias-based policing. Employees engaging in such conduct will be held accountable with appropriate disciplinary action, including termination.

Body-Worn Cameras

We have used body-worn cameras since 2014 and issue them to all sworn officers who routinely interact with the public. Along with in-car video and audio recorders, the cameras are essential law enforcement tools. These tools help with the effective prosecution of criminal cases and provide a layer of transparency for the daily activities of a police officer.

The cameras must be activated when it’s practical and safe during traffic stops, pursuits, person and vehicle searches, physical and verbal confrontations, use-of-force incidents, obtaining statements from victims and witnesses, the advising of Miranda rights, interrogations, and other legitimate law enforcement contacts.

Complaints

CSPD documents and investigates all complaints, regardless of whether the source comes from inside or outside the police department. That includes anonymous complaints. Our policy protects the community, our personnel, and the department while identifying and correcting inappropriate behavior or policy issues.

In cases where a pending offense is being considered by the courts, we refer those complainants with case-specific concerns to the appropriate court. If additional concerns exist outside of the offense the court is considering, we’ll investigate those concerns to reach a resolution.

If you are aware of a CSPD employee’s misconduct, we encourage you to file a complaint with the police department at any time:

  • Appear in person at the Police Department.
  • Call Internal Affairs at 979-764-3651 during business hours.
  • Call 979-764-3600 and ask to speak with a supervisor.
  • Email: iaunit@cstx.gov.
  • Mail: CSPD Internal Affairs, P.O. Box 9960, College Station, TX 77842.

Complaints are thoroughly explored by an assigned investigator, reviewed by the chain of command, and then sent to a chief for final disposition. When the investigation is complete, we notify the complainant. If necessary, and depending on the circumstances, we discipline the officer or provide additional training.

For more information, go to cstx.gov/police. Compliments and Complaints pamphlets are available in the department lobby and College Station City Hall.

Recruiting and Training

CSPD seeks to recruit and hire good people who possess a servant’s heart and dedicate themselves to continuous improvement. We want our personnel to serve with compassion, respect, and kindness. We are fully committed to character-based hiring and enlisting employees who will adhere to the highest level of professional service and standards.

Our organization strives to mirror the diversity of our city demographics. The police department is underrepresented by minority employees, and we don’t reflect the demographics we want to achieve. In spite of targeted recruiting efforts, we fall short.

We implore our citizens to encourage minority citizens to consider the police department as viable career choice. We ask that they inspire our youth to learn more about policing and consider it a noble profession where serving others can be a fulfilling career.

Our meticulous hiring process includes a rigorous exam, physical test, extensive board interviews, thorough background investigation, polygraph exam, psychological evaluation, and an interview with a chief. When the process is complete, new officers attend a basic, 17-week police academy.

After graduation, officers participate in a field training program. We pair them with field training officers who have been selected and trained to ensure they pass on the appropriate practices and principles. The new officers then endure an additional 20 weeks of field training and first-hand observation.

We emphasize providing state-of-the-art training with a focus on de-escalation techniques and crisis intervention. Our overriding policy is to respect and value human life.

Use of Force

Each year, we average about 100,000 citizen contacts. Those contact lead to the use force about 100 times.

An officer’s determination for using force and the level of force used is based upon the officer’s evaluation of the situation in light of the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time the force is applied. The determination is based upon what a reasonably prudent officer would use under the same or similar situations, rather than the perfect vision of hindsight.

Due to the consequential nature of using any degree of force — including deadly force — our officers receive annual training on our Use of Force Policy and the authority to use force under the Texas Penal Code. Employees receive legal updates on the use of force as changes occur.

Periodically, we provide additional training to reinforce the importance of effective communication, de-escalation and to strengthen our use of proper techniques.

Some residents have asked us about specific use-of-force policy recommendations, as presented by 8cantwait.org. Here’s how CSPD policies specifically apply to those eight proposals:

1. Require officers to report unnecessary force used by fellow police officers.

CSPD employees who know about a potential violation of the law, regulation, or policy are required to report it through their chain of command, the city’s human resources director, or our ethics hotline (877-874-8416) or cstx.alertline.com. They must also immediately notify their supervisor of any on-duty injury.

The policy further requires personnel to report uses of force in our Internal Affairs (I.A.) system. Each incident is individually reviewed for policy compliance by the supervisory chain of command — and by I.A., if necessary.  Employees must answer all questions related to the matter. Lying, omitting crucial details, or refusing to cooperate with an I.A. investigation ultimately could be grounds for termination.

2. Restrict higher levels of force to be used only in extreme situations.

CSPD requires the use of de-escalation techniques and other alternatives when possible, safe, and appropriate before using force or using higher levels of force. When de-escalation techniques are not effective or appropriate, officers will employ less-lethal force to control a non-compliant or actively resistant person.

An officer is authorized to use approved less-lethal force techniques and department-issued equipment to protect the officer or others from immediate physical harm, to restrain or subdue someone resisting or evading arrest, or to bring an unlawful situation safely and effectively under control. Officers may use deadly force when it is objectively reasonable under the totality of the circumstances. Use of deadly force is justified in defense of human life — including the officer’s life — from what is reasonably believed to be an immediate threat of death or serious injury.

Officers may also use such force to prevent a subject from fleeing when they committed — or intend to commit — a felony involving serious injury or death. The officer must reasonably believe there is an immediate risk of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or others if the subject is not immediately apprehended.

3. Ban shooting at moving vehicles.

CSPD policy prohibits shooting at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is threatening the officer or someone else with deadly force by means other than the vehicle, or the vehicle is operated in a manner deliberately intended to strike an officer or another person.  Other reasonable defenses will first be used, such as getting out of the vehicle’s path.

4. Require officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force.

Any force our officers use must be objectively reasonable and necessary to effectively accomplish lawful objectives while protecting the public and our officers’ lives. Officers will always try to minimize pain and injury that may result from the use of force.

While on duty, they will assist citizens as needed when it doesn’t conflict with law enforcement principles or violate laws or department policies.

5. Force officers to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before using deadly force.

Officers should consider force-mitigating circumstances when dealing with someone who is injured or receiving medical care. That may include the level and immediacy of the threat or danger, the person’s ability to carry it out, and alternative methods of force. Deadly force shouldn’t be used against those whose actions threaten only themselves or property.

6. Require officers to give a verbal warning before shooting.

When it is safe and practical, our officers are trained to provide warnings before using force. Before taking action, officers will identify themselves by displaying their badge and identification card — unless it’s impractical or when their identity is apparent.

7. Require officers to de-escalate situations before they turn extreme or deadly.

CSPD requires the use of de-escalation techniques and other alternatives when possible, safe, and appropriate before resorting to higher levels of force. Whenever possible, officers will allow individuals time and opportunity to comply with verbal commands unless a delay compromises safety or could result in evidence destruction, the suspect’s escape, or the commission of a crime.

8. Ban chokeholds and strangleholds.

CSPD policies and practices prohibit neck restraints, Lateral Vascular Neck Restraints (LVNR), or similar weaponless control techniques that can cause serious injury or death. LVNR is a choke, sleeper, or other hold intended to disrupt the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, which can lead to a temporary unconsciousness.

Final Thoughts

As always, the College Station Police Department deeply appreciates your support and will never take it for granted.

As a nationally accredited law enforcement agency for almost 30 years, we adhere to the best practices and highest standards in our industry. That means we continually review our policies and practices to ensure our officers conduct themselves with the highest level of professionalism and integrity.

We are entirely and unequivocally committed to protecting, serving, and proactively engaging with everyone in our community. If you see ways we can do better, please let me know.

I’m always ready to listen and learn.

 


About the Blogger

A 23-year veteran of the College Station Police Department, Billy Couch was named police chief in May after seven years as an assistant chief. He previously served as a patrol lieutenant, patrol/traffic sergeant, SWAT team member, narcotics investigator, and patrol officer. Couch earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M, a master’s from Sam Houston State, and graduated from the FBI’s National Academy.


 

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Don’t let drunken driving ruin your Super Bowl

By Jason Summers, CSPD Officer

For football fans, Super Bowl Sunday is the most anticipated day of the year. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most dangerous days for motorists.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, about 31 percent of traffic fatalities on a typical day involves a drunk driver. On Super Bowl Sunday, that awful number spikes to 43 percent.

The College Station Police Department will deploy extra officers in the peak hours before, during, and after Sunday’s game to proactively identify and apprehend drivers who are a danger.

If you see someone driving erratically, note the vehicle description, take down the license plate number, and call 911. Don’t try to stop the vehicle.

Enjoy the game and the fun festivities that surround it, but be the day’s most valuable player by drinking in moderation and designating a driver. Don’t let anyone else drive drunk, either.

We’re all on the same team when it comes to preventing drunken driving.

 


About the Blogger

Officer Jason Summers is completing his 16th year with the College Station Police Department.


 

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Pedestrian safety is a responsibility we share

By Officer Tristen Lopez, CSPD Public Information Officer

As College Station’s streets have become increasingly congested, crashes involving pedestrians and motor vehicles have resulted in scores of injuries and several tragic fatalities. It’s an all-too-familiar scene, not just here, but across the country.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian fatalities have surged by 46 percent since 2009. While other types of traffic fatalities declined, the national pedestrian death toll spiked to around 6,000 in from 2016-2018 — the highest levels in almost 30 years. Our state suffered the third most pedestrian deaths in the nation in 2018.

In College Station, the number of vehicle crashes involving pedestrians has tripled since 2010, when we only had 14. From 2010-2013, we averaged about 19 pedestrian crashes per year, but from 2014-18 that average skyrocketed to just over 35. We’ve already had 20 such crashes in 2019, as well as our 11th pedestrian fatality since 2010.

Since 2010, College Station has had 273 vehicle crashes with pedestrians. Relatively few have occurred on the Texas A&M campus, with the vast majority happening on nearby city streets.

Nationally, more than 75 percent of pedestrian crashes happen at night, with most occurring on city streets and frontage roads. Only about 18 percent happen at intersections, which means people are crossing busy streets at other points without using designated crosswalks.

The pedestrian-related crashes we see in College Station are typically caused by failure to yield, distractions, speeding, population growth, and alcohol and drugs.

1. Failure to Yield

The most common cause of pedestrian crashes in College Station is a failure to yield by either the motorist or the pedestrian. On the A&M campus, vehicles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at all times. Off-campus, vehicles must yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk or one close enough to the road to be in danger.

Cars or trucks emerging from an alley, building, private road, or driveway must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians approaching on a sidewalk.

Pedestrians have a responsibility, too. They can’t suddenly leave the curb and enter a crosswalk in the path of a moving vehicle that’s unable to yield. Pedestrians must also yield the right-of-way when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

At an intersection with a traffic control device, pedestrians may only cross between two adjacent intersections in a marked crosswalk and may only cross an intersection diagonally if authorized by a control device.

2. Population Growth

College Station has added about 30,000 residents since 2010. That means we have thousands of more cars — and pedestrians — on our roadways. The rapid growth is expected to continue.

3. Distractions

Distracted driving is a well-documented problem, but distracted walking can be just as hazardous. The likely source of these distractions? Smartphones, of course. The number of smartphone users in the United States skyrocketed from about 62.6 million in 2010 to an estimated 266 million this year.

We see an increasing number of oblivious pedestrians with their eyes glued to their cell phones, some multiplying the danger by using headphones or earbuds. These types of distractions may be the most significant factor behind the recent rise in pedestrian crashes.

4. Alcohol and Drugs

We can never underestimate the impact of alcohol and illicit drugs. Alcohol and drugs impair judgment, decision-making, and reaction time. Most people recognize that it’s dangerous to drink and drive, but walking while drunk can be equally risky. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reports that a third of pedestrian fatalities involve a walker whose blood alcohol level exceeds the legal driving limit.

6. Speeding

A recent study by the American Automobile Association shows the risk to pedestrians climbs substantially when vehicle speed rises by even a small amount. About half of pedestrians die when the vehicle is going 42 mph, three-quarters perish when the car or truck is traveling 50 mph, and 90 percent die when vehicles reach 58 mph.

Now that we have a good understanding of what can cause pedestrian crashes, how do we prevent them? Here are some excellent tips for pedestrians and drivers alike, courtesy of the NHTSA:


PEDESTRIANS


  • Be predictable.
  • Follow the rules of the road and obey signs and signals.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
  • Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
  • Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible. That’s where drivers expect pedestrians.
  • Look for cars in all directions – including those turning left or right.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
  • Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure they see you.
  • Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways, or backing up in parking lots.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and judgment.

DRIVERS


  • Look out for pedestrians everywhere at all times.
  • Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back to allow other motorists to see the crossing pedestrians, too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can’t see.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around people on the street.
  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present.
  • Be extra cautious when backing up – pedestrians can move into your path.

Pedestrian safety is a responsibility shared by drivers and walkers. By making wise decisions and paying attention, we can significantly reduce the number of pedestrian-vehicle crashes on our streets.

 


About the Blogger

Tristen Lopez is in his 10th year with the College Station Police Department.


 

If you found value in this blog post, please share it with your social network and friends!

 


How to thwart crime and stay safe this school year

By Officer Tristen C. Lopez, College Station Police Department

With classes starting at Texas A&M and Blinn College next week, it’s an ideal time to review some common sense ways for students to stay safe and avert crime.

Secure your property

Regardless of the location of your neighborhood or apartment complex, never leave your keys in your car — or even a nearby car — and make sure always to lock your car doors. If possible, don’t leave valuables — especially guns — in your car. If that’s not an option, hide them.

More than 90% of car burglaries don’t involve forced entry. Be sure you always lock the doors to your residence, too.

Did you just buy a brand-new 80-inch television to enjoy Aggie football games? Don’t leave the box by your curb to advertise your shiny new possession to anyone who drives past. Break up the box and put it in your trash container or a bag, or at least put it out the morning of your scheduled bulk trash pick-up.

Buzzed driving = drunken driving

About every 20 minutes in Texas, someone is hurt or killed in a crash involving alcohol. You already know that .08% blood-alcohol content is the legal limit in Texas, but you’re also intoxicated if you feel the effects of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana.

An arrest for driving while intoxicated can cost you a whopping $17,000, so always designate a driver, call a taxi or ride-hailing service (Uber/Lyft), or use Carpool.

Party and study drugs

You risk arrest for driving under the influence of any drug or substance, not just alcohol.

Marijuana use remains illegal in Texas. It will get you arrested and is a felony if you have more than four ounces. That also goes for possession of marijuana concentrates such as THC oil, hash, wax, or shatter.

Obviously, you should avoid all illegal drugs and take appropriate precautions with prescription drugs. If you share prescribed drugs or take those that are meant for someone else, you’re breaking the law.

Minors and alcohol

You must be at least 21 years old to drink alcohol in Texas legally, and we strictly enforce the law in College Station. If you’re under 21, the easiest way to get caught is to possess alcohol at Northgate, a tailgate, or at a loud neighborhood or apartment party.

Getting a fake ID isn’t worth it, either. You risk getting a costly ticket or even an arrest for possessing a fake or altered ID, or one that isn’t yours. Lying to a police officer about your name or date of birth, or running away, typically results in an automatic arrest. Don’t turn a ticket into an arrest!

Whether you are of legal age or not, don’t supply alcohol to minors. You risk arrest if you allow your under-21 friends even to take a sip of your alcoholic beverage.

Disorderly conduct

An unreasonable level of noise (more than 85 decibels on public property, or when someone complains about it) usually results in a ticket. That means you need to stay in control of your parties.

Fighting usually results in a misdemeanor arrest, and public urination is illegal under city ordinance.

Hazing

Hazing is against most colleges’ codes of conduct — and it’s illegal.

Hazing is any intentional, knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off the campus that endangers a student’s mental or physical health or safety as part of membership in an organization.

Hazing includes any activity involving consumption of a food, liquid, alcoholic beverage, liquor, drug, or other substance that subjects the student to an unreasonable risk of harm or that adversely affects the student’s mental or physical health or safety.

Part of college life is enjoying yourself and having fun with your friends. The best way to do that is to take proper precautions and avoiding unnecessary risks.

Here’s to a great school year!

 


About the Blogger

Tristen Lopez is in his 10th year with the College Station Police Department.


 

If you found value in this blog post, please share it with your social network and friends!