EL PASO, Texas - Students, new drivers and police officers will get training on how to handle police interactions.
The Community Safety Education Act or Senate Bill 30, was signed by Governor Greg Abbott in June. It became law this month. It "adds instructional materials to driver’s education courses, high school curriculum and police academies on the state’s expectation regarding the actions of officers and the citizenry during a routine traffic stop."
The State Board of Education will develop instructional materials for high schools students on how they should respond when stopped by law enforcement. The Texas Education Agency will create course materials for driving courses which would then be implemented in drivers ed courses through instructors.
Police officers, including recruits and veterans, would also receive training on what they should expect from drivers during a traffic stop and on proper law enforcement response.
Lawmakers around the country have said deadly encounters between police officers and motorists are prompting them to require driver's education to teach students what to do in a traffic stop.
In a news release, Senator Royce West, who authored the bill said, “We did not feel that we could stand idly by as these tragic incidents that erode public confidence and create distrust for law enforcement continue to occur without making an effort that could ultimately help save lives. What we found in various discussions, was that there exists the momentum to see positive change take place when it comes to law enforcement’s relationship and perception among young people and those in many minority communities.”
ABC-7 last reported in March how some drivers ed instructors were handling the discussion with new drivers. Jaime Canalda, the instructor at Sun City Driving School, told ABC-7 in light of traffic stops gone wrong, there's more of an emphasis on traffic-stop behavior. Canalda teaches students how to react if they're pulled over. If students are nervous, they can ask the police officer to call their parent.
"They hear stories at school, they hear stories in their community and half of those are not true," Canalda said.
The Department of Public Safety's newest handbook includes a section which teaches drivers what to do when stopped by law enforcement. The handbook instructs drivers to:
- Remain in the car, lower the driver’s window if you feel safe to do so. Keep both hands clearly in sight on the steering wheel. Wait for the law enforcement officer to give you instructions. An officer may approach from either side of the vehicle.
- Before reaching into your glove box or under the seat to retrieve your proof of insurance or driver’s license, inform the officer of where the items are located and follow the officer’s directions.
- If asked to exit the vehicle, check for passing vehicles to exit safely.
It also instructs drivers on how to complaints or concerns against police. Stating:
"If you believe an officer has acted inappropriately during a traffic stop or other encounter, you should report that conduct to the officer’s superiors and follow agency guidelines for submitting complaints against officers as soon as possible. Officers will normally provide their names and badge numbers on request, when practical. Due to the overlapping of jurisdictions, drivers should make sure they identify the correct agency as well as any identifying aspects of the officer and law enforcement vehicle."
DPS referred ABC-7 to their newest driver handbook and in a statement said, "the information in this section of the book, beginning on page 68, was compiled through input from a working group of interested stakeholders, including advocacy attorneys, civil liberty organizations, law enforcement and legislative members. These practical suggestions in the handbook will also serve as a base foundation for the educational curriculum that will be developed as a result of Senate Bill 30."
Veronica Barroso, director of West Texas Driving Academy tells ABC-7 she already teaches her students what to do when stopped but says the new law will put new drivers minds at ease.
"You see those things on the news, people fighting with officers, and all the rights that go on. We just feel like we need to introduce it a lot more and enforce it a little bit more, that way the teenagers have that proper awarness," Barroso said.
The Community Safety Act became law in September, it will go into effect in January of 2018.