Texas Teens Can't Graduate High School Until They've Been Told How To Behave Around Cops

from the HOW-NOT-TO-GET-SHOT dept

To graduate from high school in Texas, you must first be able to show you won’t provoke police officers into shooting/tasing/beating you during a traffic stop. That’s according to a new state law that ran through the legislature under the guise of solving police/community relationship problems. (via Popehat)

In the aftermath of several fatal police shootings of unarmed citizens, Texas lawmakers sought to pacify tensions between law enforcement and civilians. The state legislature brought civil rights groups and law enforcement organizations together to develop a solution: the Community Safety Education Act, which was signed into law last year.

The bill requires any student entering ninth grade in the 2018-2019 academic year and thereafter to participate in a class and watch a video instruction on how to interact properly with officers during traffic stops. Without a notation of attendance on their transcripts, seniors cannot receive diplomas.

To “pacify tensions” brought about by cops killing unarmed people, we’re instructing teens to become docile subhumans who should only respond to the presence of law enforcement in the manner law enforcement prefers. That’s the gist of the Community Safety Education Act Instructor’s Guide [PDF], which not only tells people to remain suitably cowed during traffic stops, but also gets the law wrong.

The problems with the instruction manual (and the law… and required course itself…) begin at the beginning, in the “Tips for Educators.” The guide says instructors should remind students of their rights, as well as warn them that exercising them could get them killed.

Students may ask about citizens videotaping traffic stops. It is a citizen’s right to videotape. Drivers and passengers should be aware that unknown items in a citizen’s hand may cause safety concerns for officers.

In short, it’s best not to record a stop for your own personal safety because there’s no telling what a professional highly-trained in law enforcement and force deployment might do if they see something in someone’s hand — even if that something is 1,000,000x more likely to be something everyone carries with them (a cellphone) than a weapon. Most people aren’t going to escalate a traffic stop into a murder one charge. But that’s hardly reassuring to highly-trained law enforcement officers, who are led to believe every interaction with the public carries the potential of death and destruction and respond to every movement like bunnies scattering at the sound of a stepped-on twig.

Since highly-trained law enforcement officers are completely unpredictable, it’s up to Texas’ education system to crank out harmless teen drivers. Hence the stupid law and the stupid course, which comes with graduation strings attached.

The “notes for drivers” says it’s “recommended” officers treat drivers courteously, but there’s certainly no law requiring courteous behavior, much less one that withholds a police academy diploma until would-be officers of the law complete their “Don’t Be An Asshole” course.

The advice given is basically this: do everything a cop tells you unless they tell you to stop doing it or to do something else. The course says students have the right to refuse vehicle searches, but kind of portrays assertions of rights as a way to get arrested.

And the guide gets the law wrong: specifically, Texas’ “failure to identify” statute. Here’s what the guide says:

Although it is lawful for you to remain silent during a traffic stop, you are required by law to truthfully identify yourself when asked to do so by an officer. A driver or passenger can be arrested for giving false identifying information to an officer.

The second part is true. The first part isn’t. That’s OK. Texas law enforcement officers can’t manage to wrap their minds around this law, so it’s unsurprising a teacher’s guide put together by politicians is inaccurate. The law actually says [emphasis added]:

A person commits an offense if he intentionally refuses to give his name, residence address, or date of birth to a peace officer who has lawfully arrested the person and requested the information.

A traffic stop is a detention, not an arrest. It likely makes little difference in the context of a traffic stop, where documents asked for by officers will likely identify the driver with or without their verbal input. But placing this misinformation inside a required course will likely cause students to think this applies everywhere, not just during traffic stops. It doesn’t. An officer needs to arrest a person before they can legally demand identification. And officers can’t use a refusal to provide identification as the basis for an arrest.

Passengers aren’t required to ID themselves. They’re only forbidden from providing false information — the same as the driver. But the teacher’s guide makes the same mistake again in its “Notes for passengers.”

Although it is lawful for you to remain silent during a traffic stop, you are required by law to truthfully identify yourself when asked to do so by an officer.

The law does not require this. It does not require it of drivers, even though proving you can legally operate a vehicle tends to undermine any “remaining silent” about your identity. Passengers, however, have nothing to prove, so this course is telling high school students something that simply isn’t true and will only contribute to Texas law enforcement’s continued abuse of the statute.

It would be bad enough if the mandatory course was limited to “pacifying tensions” by implying unpredictable civilians are what really needs to be fixed. But the course goes even further by getting the law wrong. So, high school students will be forced to attend a pointless course containing misinformation to be considered educated enough to secure a diploma.

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Comments on “Texas Teens Can't Graduate High School Until They've Been Told How To Behave Around Cops”

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88 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Bass-ackwards

I recently read some statistics, .3% to .4% of a populations were members of the police department. These numbers, (not necessarily accurately quoted but close enough for government work) were for major urban areas, at the same time they seem reasonable for non urban, or even rural areas. And they have not been verified by me in any way, but seem believable enough.

The thing is, if true, that means that the state legislature, certain civil rights groups, and law enforcement organizations, think that their .4% trumps our 99.6%, in the concept of who has the power. Or should have. Is it because they have guns, the power of arrest, the inculcated perspective that they will be believed over us criminals? Some other delusion?

Curiously, those civil rights groups that participated in this quagmire might serious rethink their commitment to civil rights, unless those some other groups that were involved are just characterized as civil rights groups (maybe some law enforcement unions who are looking after the civil rights of their membership?).

Where is the law that says law enforcement agents have to know the law in order to enforce the law? Where is the law that says law enforcement agents know what civilian rights are, and that they have to respect not just those rights but the people who have them? Where is the law that says law enforcement agents should learn how earning respect is done by giving respect upon penalty of termination due to lack of public respect?

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Re: Bass-ackwards

It doesn’t matter how few there are, in a police state, the police are all that matters. A cop has jurisdiction over every second of our lives and they will push for microsecond. Then nanosecond. They dictate our education, medical care, what we can and cannot ingest and soon what mathematical formulas we’re allowed to use on our devices. No intrusion will ever be too intrusive. If they can impose a law or mandate a device to limit our private thoughts they will do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Bass-ackwards

I’d hope for that to be the very last option.

Given the pay to play requirement of wide reaching political speech, outright banning discussion of certain politics by safespaces, rigging of the vote, purging of voter registries, stuffing of the courts, frequent and blatant disregard of individual rights, wide-spread never before seen surveillance, police being allowed to kill people in the streets without penalty, and now indoctrination of the innocent, just how many options do you think you have left? Assuming "bend over and take it" isn’t on your list of acceptable options….

Face it, the US that treats everyone as equals, where voting can actually make a difference, and who’s government is accountable to it’s citizens, only exists on paper. In reality it’s no different than any other fascist state.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Probably. But I suspect they keep it to how to achieve and maintain the ‘command presence’ which could be translated into ‘authoritarian, I don’t take no shit from anyone so don’t even try it with me’ which some would characterize as ‘bullying in the first degree’. And they are happy with that, even when it doesn’t seem to help their public perception.

Maybe the police need a good PR firm. One of the problems with that ideas is…would they listen?

Glenn says:

Right...

“Training” for citizens instead of for police–that’ll fix everything. Police “training” involves treating everyone like they’re criminals, which is exactly what they believe–they just haven’t found out yet which laws a person has broken. But given all of the really bad laws on the books, this is mostly true. Legislatures are trying to criminalize behavior that just about everyone engages in at one time or another.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Have a ‘Sad But True’/Insightful vote.

As for the question: On it’s own, nothing beyond maybe a few wrists slapped slightly harder. Removing that as a viable defense would be a good start, but for it to matter you’d also have to have the system(legal and on the police end) change such that there was an interest in handing out actual punishment and getting rid of(rather than merely shuffling around) the supposedly ‘few bad apples’.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Texas: Although it is lawful for you to remain silent during a traffic stop, you are required by law to truthfully identify yourself when asked to do so by an officer.

Cushing: The law does not require this.

The law may not require this. Time and again, we’ve seen that law officers do. If you refuse, you will be arrested.

I understand that the law is supposed to dominate. But no one will make the officers follow this law, so the practice is the rules of the road.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The law is the law, and while police officers will try to stretch the law to their benefit, they must have some other reason to arrest someone in order to get the ID they wanted in the first place. Otherwise it will get tossed, and the made up reason for arrest might also get tossed.

Now there are a lot of reasons to arrest someone, legitimate or not. Then there is the meme that ‘you can beat the charge but you can’t beat the ride’. Until there is sufficient feedback (officers fired and/or arrested and sent to jail for violating the law) this will continue. The problem is how to energize the feedback, without more innocent citizens being killed.

The good cop/bad cop issue still stands. There are good cops out there, but are they good if they allow bad cops to continue their abuse? Yes there is feedback within the force, if good cops speak out they are punished. That will continue until there is some mechanism to protect good cops. That means that the higher ups need to be on the side of good cops. There is a likelihood that some bad cops have risen in rank, and will protect those below them that do not deserve protection.

So what do we do? Fire all higher ranking cops? Fire all cops? Insert people who will tell the rest of us about the bad guys? There is a certain truth about institutional memory. Remembering how to investigate, old style, is important. Remembering how to protect those that don’t conform with ‘our way’ is not. There needs to be a method that returns integrity to the situation. This is complicated by the number of departments across the nation. That integrity needs to be in each and every one of them. Not just one.

Dan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“…they must have some other reason to arrest someone in order to get the ID they wanted in the first place. Otherwise it will get tossed, and the made up reason for arrest might also get tossed.”

Agreed, but only after how much time and money is wasted by both the citizen and the government? The failings of the modern justice system, namely the perverse incentives for a quick guilty plea to get on with one’s life, even in the face of innocence, make this point somewhat moot.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not entirely true, and you undermine your case by engaging in hyperbole like that.

There are good cops out there(offhand I can remember an article not too long ago where a a sheriff I believe actually apologized for a SWAT raid on the wrong house, one where two officers were shot even), the problem is that by the standard of ‘any cop who covers for a bad cop isn’t a good cop’, which I also agree with, the number of ‘good cops’ appears to be in the minority.

They do exist, there’s just far fewer of them than there should be.

David says:

Re: Re:

Doesn’t sound like “obedient” is the correct description since you must not follow instructions like “show me your driver’s license” too fast or you’ll be shot.

It’s more like how to properly deal with feral or rabid animals or kidnappers with nothing to lose.

You need that kind of instruction in the wilderness or you might fall prey to ravaging beasts or desperate criminals.

Or police officers.

Anonymous Coward says:

This law would not exist if police unions were illegal

Public employees should never be allowed to have unions. They are creating laws tailored to only protect the police at the detriment to the rest of us. They already have an unbalanced system where they are believed sometimes even when video contradicts them. If you stop a police dog from killing you, that is somehow now assault on an officer and you will be lucky if you survive the intake process.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Police unions

Considering how Trump is treating federal employees as a general group (e.g. treating them like shit), I can see the function of unions of public employees.

However, there are limits to what unions should be able to do. I suspect we can fairly regulate unions without having to discard them altogether.

Our teachers are desperate for stronger unions, and our police have unions that are way too strong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Police unions

Trump is not treating federal employees like shit. What a bunch of made up crap.

Remember the days when being a Public servant meant not all that good pay. Nothing like the private sector. But you were doing your part. Since the Unions came in, now it’s far better being a GOvernment employee. Benefits up the butt. Governments going bankrupts because they just can’t afford all this crap they handed out, and the taxpayers are now on the hook and screwed. That is the real problem and has nothing to do with Trump.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Police unions

Governments going bankrupts because they just can’t afford all this never-ending warfare.

ftfy

“That is the real problem and has nothing to do with Trump.”

It has everything to do with the GOP economic insanity that does not work. Everyone realizes it does makes things worse but some are too scared to open their mouths.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The California Teachers Association

And still they get paid a pittance comparable to the custodians that maintain the school. Teachers should be paid in the same grade as doctors, lawyers and engineers.

We’re also running out of teachers, with classroom sizes of sixty kids or more.

In the meantime teachers are unable to live on their teaching income in other states hence the massive strikes.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The California Teachers Association

Teachers should be paid in the same grade as doctors,
> lawyers and engineers.

In other words, they should have to compete and excel in their field in order to receive a high salary, rather than have government and union protectionism do it for them.

Works for me.

BTW, California teachers, due to the power of their union, are paid the highest salaries in the nation and you know what we the taxpayer get as a return on that investment? A rating of 47th out of 50 states in quality of education provided.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Highest salaries in the nation"

Went from about mid-range to the highest. $75K as an upper end (starting is around $44K) is still pathetic considering the amount of education required for a public-school teacher. In other states, like Mississippi or Nebraska, teachers are totally screwed. Even Colorado and Arizona is in crisis.

Couldn’t find your 47-out-of-50 ranking for California. Found a questionable #36 by search which still isn’t great. When I was schooled here in California, it was in the top five, and Nevadan’s were doing what they could to get their students taught over here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The California Teachers Association

Rather than simply looking at annual salary and proclaiming it too much, one could gain some insight by normalizing the data to take into consideration how much it takes to live in that particular location.

Being paid the highest salary in the nation means diddly-squat if you also are living in the highest cost of living location.

Why do you seem to just assume that teachers do not compete and excel in their field and are given protection … ummm from what?

Cali is 47th? I doubt that.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The California Teachers Association

We’re also running out of teachers, with classroom sizes of sixty kids or more.

Well, as illegals continue to pour into the country by the hundreds of thousands, it’s no surprise that classroom sizes have ballooned, at least here in Southern California.

But hey, I’m told I’m an insensitive racist if I don’t enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to pay for the education of the entire Western Hemisphere!

So full steam ahead, classroom size be damned!

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 The California Teachers Association

No – I think that was a jab at your use of “illegal” as a noun. Such uses are usually short for “illegal person”, which is a baseless and dangerous concept.

To say that something is illegal is to say that the law requires that that thing not exist.

The only way for a person not to exist is for that person to die.

Unless you’re actually advocating for the death penalty for cases of illegal immigration (in which case you’re an extreme outlier, or at least I hope so), what you probably actually want to have not exist is – not the person who immigrated illegally – but the person’s presence in this country.

The presence is illegal. (And can be destroyed by expelling the person from the country.)

The person is not.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 "Illegals...pour"

I think these are the terms that make it very easy to infer you are influenced by racist feelings btr1701.

Illegality of people is a dangerous notion and one that tends to expand outward. As we speak Trump is pushing policy regarding documented aliens and naturalized citizens, pushing the notion that they should be regarded differently than natural citizens. There’s also interest in challenging the citizenship of those who were born in the US, but by those other than natural citizens. Once me make them illegal, we try to deport or repatriate them elsewhere and when that fails, well, they had this conversation already at Wansee.

But fixating on the illegality of persons in the US also fails to acknowledge problems with the process of legal immigration, which often involves getting into the nation first (illegally) before requesting permanent residence. With the exception of Einstein visas (for smart, talented or super-rich folk) the process in the US takes years, sometimes decades. And most people (by far) are rejected out of hand.

Curiously, ICE and CBP aren’t harassing at all the many Russian and Ukranian illegals here in California, even when they don’t speak a word of English and are part of the local criminal element. So there’s some indication that ICE and CBP are both run with policies that emphasize targeting non-whites. But that has little to do with your racism, btr1701.

The other matter is the term pour which suggests a deluge even though the inflow of migrants into the United States is more like a trickle thanks to our extreme vetting. (Note the decades, above. A lot of that is because the US is super distrustful.)

Now we’re imprisoning people while they wait out their decades (for seeing asylum, mind you. Opportunities to not die or become sex slaves.)

Now we’re arresting people who’s only offense is being in the US illegally (rather than focusing on felons).

And then our agencies and camps are dens of human atrocity.

In order to qualify for the pouring, I’d think we’d be making a dent in, say, the massive refugee crisis from Syria (so far our Syrians refugees are generally good people and thankful for the shit jobs they can get in the US.) Not to mention would be managing the refugees from the Americas, that US foreign policy had a direct hand in creating.

If immigrants were pouring in to our nation, and were getting citizenship and benefits, then we’d actually have something great to say about the United States, given that throughout human history, greatness was often shown through humanitarian, artistic or scientific works. Instead, as a nation three times richer than the rest of the planet combined, the US is very well known for refusing to clean up messes that were ours to begin with.

But instead, you know, prisons, crimes against humanity, cruel and unusual punishment. All that stuff.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Illegals pouring"

Huh, it looks like the illegals are pouring out of California according to recent stats (which is to say the percentage of the population of California that is made up of undocumented persons is in decline).

What’s curious to me is that the US holds 75% of the world’s wealth. You’d think with that, we could totally afford to provide education and food for all of the Americas, and not sweat it, and yet look at you btr1701 begrudging a tiny fraction of them some basic education.

If that’s the case, that we have more money than everyone else combined and can’t afford to spare a few huddled masses yearning to breathe free some basic human provisions that we’ve long determined every human deserves, then that is an indictment of the culture, mores and integral character of the people of the United States. We suck.

bob says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The August 1981 PATCO strike

Federal unions are not allowed to strike, it’s illegal. I don’t know if that was established before or after the air traffic controller strike. Despite that restriction the unions still function just fine. They carry a lot of weight when it comes to the civilian population of a government organization. Sometimes too much in my opinion because They can still interfere with civilians not allowed into the union like scientists and engineers.

One difference between the PATCO strike and your average teacher or police union strike is the impact to the functioning of the country. A teacher strike in one state doesn’t bother the feds. All air traffic controllers across the country striking will be noticed and quickly squashed due to its impact on the economy, safety, and national security of the country.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The August 1981 PATCO strike

Despite that restriction the unions still function just
> fine. They carry a lot of weight when it comes to the
> civilian population of a government organization.

Not hardly. Compare federal law enforcement benefits and pensions to those of just about any big city or state law enforcement.

State and local cops have unions with teeth and they have the bennies to show for it. Federal cops have a union that can whine a lot but has no real power.

I’m not arguing for stronger unions, mind you. I think the taxpayer is much better served with the federal model. But your claim that the federal unions carry a lot of weight is comparatively false.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This law would not exist if police unions were illegal

Ask the 1980s air traffic controllers how far that argument got them.

As far as I know, the right to unionize never came up, only the fact that they weren’t allowed to strike.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_Air_Traffic_Controllers_Organization_(1968)#August_1981_strike

UhhhWhatWasThat says:

Where's the training for the cops to act like... COPS?

That needs to be implemented throughout the country.

I’d say all cops need to be fitted with shock collars.

Every time they start to act like criminals, they get zapped, about 10 times before it settles down again.

We’ll set up the po-po-mon centers across the country, with people hired to watch over the po-pos, Po-po-mon watchers as it were.
Tag-line: “Gotta watch them all!!”

If the po-po take the collar off, they are no longer po-po.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "MOST cops are not murderous psychopaths."

From where I’m standing, there are, in Law Enforcemen:

A few murderous psychopaths

A whole bunch of corrupt power abusers and profiteers

A whole bunch of enablers of the above two groups

A few genuinely honest, well-meaning officers who haven’t yet been forced out by the above groups.

This is all speculation, of course. We don’t really have any viable studies (that I know of) but the bad apples have rotted most of the barrel.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Because clearly That is where the problem is...

Try to address a broken relationship between the public and police, respond by requiring students to take a course that might as well be boiled down to ‘If you see a badge, submit‘, and include a few lies in the process.

Oh yeah, that’s sure to make things much better… for the police. In the short term.

Anonymous Coward says:

I was home sick one day and happened to catch a few minutes of “The View”.. They were discussing cops at the time. One of the hosts said of her HS age child, they want to be rebellious towards cops, call them names, act tough.. And the feckless-cvnt, instead of saying she took the opportunity to teach her kid that cops are people who don’t deserve to be treated with disrespect, said the opposite, that she is worried that one may over-react to this behavior..

If parents won’t tell kids to be respectful, someone has to.

And to paraphrase the late great George Carlin.. Respect is learned at home. If your kid’s a disrespectful little shit, it’s your fault.. not society, not video games, yours.

Anonymous Coward says:

Like wild animals

It is disturbing that people need to be taught how to act around cops like they are some sort of large dangerous predator. Don’t make any sudden movements is literally the exact same advice. Along with running away being a way to get chased so back away slowly and try not to draw their attention.

They aren’t a force of nature they are a part of our society. Which is what makes it so fucked up.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Or another caste

The behavior of law enforcement officers in the United States reminds me of the Freikorps of the Weimar Republic that served as law enforcement after WWI. They were already of an elevated caste in Germany to the local civilians, and culture was still not far removed from feudalism. Germany had a constitution but still was run by aristocracy.

The Freikorps pretty much went around and took what they needed, whether it was food, shelter, bedfellows or even available liquid assets. When there were disagreements regarding parity, they could quickly escalate to violence, and massacre an entire (extended) family if necessary to secure their dominance.

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Respect

I don’t know but I suspect that “most cops don’t deserve respect” is not fair, simply because treating people like shit is an asshole thing to do.

For cops I imagine the hardest part of the cop’s job is working with the public. For the breief period I’ve had to do it I van tell you it sucks.

That isn’t to say that this mandatory “obey without question” class isn’t BS or the reverence for police and acceptance of brutality and corruption should be shrugged off.

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