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Texas House Committee Probes Pretext Stops And Profiling

A Texas House Committee is looking at the use of pretext stops by DPS troopers. That’s when a trooper uses a minor violation as a pretext when they suspect other criminal activity.


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Screen grab of dashcam video shows Sandra Bland exiting her car during traffic stop
DPS dashcam video
Screenshot from Department of Public Safety dash cam video shows Sandra Bland as she exits her car after DPS officer Brian Encinia has drawn his taser on July 10, 2015. Credit: Texas DPS

After the uproar over a state trooper's treatment of Sandra Bland during a traffic stop in July 2015, a newspaper analysis of traffic stop and search data found that African-American and Hispanic motorists are searched more often when stopped. House County Affairs Committee Chairman Garnet Coleman of Houston says pretext stops are like “stop and frisk” in a car.

“Because you know, as Chris Rock said, ‘I was born a suspect.’ And you know what he was talking about! He’s saying, you know, ‘now I’m a suspect wherever I go!'”

Representative Coleman takes issue with DPS Director Steve McCraw’s assertion that these statistics are skewed because there’s been a trooper surge at the border.

“That does not take away the fact that there’s a disparity in what happens to someone who’s black when they’re stopped by a trooper. Now, c’mon man! I know you went to school, I know you understand statistics. Don’t tell me that particular circumstance is skewing all the numbers in the state of Texas for black people.” (McCraw:) “Cherry-picking data sets to support a narrative is not productive. You have to look at all the evidence.” (Coleman:) “Sir, that’s what you’re doing. That’s what your department has done over the last so many years, that you cherry pick data in such a way that it actually obfuscated the reality.”

But McCraw agrees racial profiling is unproductive.

“What helps us to mitigate racial profiling in the Department of Public Safety clearly is focusing on a different type of profiling, and that’s behavior.”

Representative Coleman says he was disrespected by a law enforcement officer during a 2015 traffic stop for speeding. But police say the video shows an encounter much different than what the lawmaker described.