Reporter Mark David Smith is participating in the Keller Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy, which runs from Jan. 27 - April 14. The CPA is not open to the general public, but students must apply and be approved. Not everything covered in the classroom can be published here.
Nobody likes rush hour gridlock, or getting pulled over for speeding. This week’s CPA brings a friendly reminder about traffic enforcement in Keller and Westlake, as well as the officers’ points of view during traffic stops. In a relatively low-crime area, traffic issues are always a popular subject.
Officers Stephen Grossman and Darrell Potts patrol on motorcycles in Westlake — primarily on Texas 114 and 170 and U.S. 377 —while two other officers patrol traffic in Keller. While patrol officers work in 12-hour shifts, traffic division officers work regular 8-hour shifts Monday-Friday. The shifts are staggered so that at least one officer is patrolling during either rush hour.
“In my opinion, it’s the best job (in the department),” Potts said. “I get paid to ride a motorcycle all day.”
The Keller Police Department is notably open and transparent about its traffic patrol.
The city posts on Twitter and Facebook its traffic enforcement locations each day. The officers aren’t limited to those streets, but that’s where they’ll be most of the time. Patrol officers throughout the city can also pull over drivers for traffic violations. Grossman said the social media posts haven’t resulted in fewer speeding citations.
The department includes in its traffic enforcement policy its standards for pulling over speeders. Drivers going 0-5 mph over the speed limit won’t be pulled over just for speed.
“Some surrounding cities will write for that, though,” Grossman said.
Vehicles doing 6-10 mph over the limit may be pulled over under special circumstances, such as school zones and high-pedestrian areas. Officers can pull over and issue citations for drivers doing 11 mph and higher at their discretion.
Other noteworthy points from the traffic presentation:
Potts said they’ve been “seeing a lot lately that people don’t have proof of insurance on them.” Officers can look it up, but if a computer system is down, the driver without proof can be ticketed, or even towed.
The intersections with the most wrecks in Keller are at North Tarrant Parkway and U.S. 377 and at Keller Smithfield Road and Keller Parkway.
Another traffic issue the officers mentioned involve drivers stopped at a red light in a left-turn-only lane, but when the light turns green for drivers heading straight, they zoom out in front of them and go straight. The officers said this is more common at North Tarrant and U.S. 377.
There’s also the “Move Over Law,” which requires drivers to either move over or slow down 20 mph below the speed limit when a vehicle with flashing lights is pulled over on the shoulder. Potts showed videos of officers on the side of the road nearly get hit by a car not following the “Move Over Law.” As traffic officers in that position often, “we like this law a lot,” Potts said. “I can tell you right now this law gets violated left and right up in Westlake.”
They also discussed crash investigations, which included a lot of formulas I haven’t seen since high school, as well as several photos of the aftermath of high-speed crashes in Keller.
Felony traffic stops
Stopping a vehicle is one of the most dangerous tasks for officers, said Cpl. Buddy Davis. There’s no such thing as a routine stop. Officers have to make critical decisions under high-stress situations while operating a vehicle.
Davis went through the process of pulling over a vehicle, especially those suspected of committing felonies. It’s all about the officer’s safety, and for good reason. Davis told a story — among many — about how he pulled over a man and when he got up to the man’s window, he saw him reaching in the backseat, where a shotgun was within reach. The man was arrested.
Officers only need reasonable suspicion to stop a car, not probably cause, a common misconception, Davis said.
There are only two things drivers can’t get arrested for during a traffic stop: speeding and open container.
On the docket next week: School resource officers and active shooter response.
Mark David Smith, 817-390-7808