Shoreacres is a small city on the coast of Galveston Bay, nestled between La Porte on the north and Seabrook on the south. I happen to be a resident of the city and follow the community bulletin board.
On Friday afternoon, March 5th, the following was posted by council member Woodruff:
Beware of an aggressive speed trap on the north feeder of Hwy 146 between Wharton-Weems and Fairmont. The posted speed for the feeder road is 35 mph.
If you get pulled over, my suggestion is to call a friend and have them listening to the traffic stop over the cell phone in case you need a witness. I suggest this because of my experience last night:
On March 4th, 2010 at appx. 3:30pm I was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. I am a 38 yr old female, have no previous arrest record and no outstanding warrants. My registration, insurance and license all bear the correct local address. The Officers entered ticketing information into an electronic handheld device. Officer Briscoe told me to sign in the box. The problem though is that the box said “speeding” and had an “x” and a line for me to sign. There was no specification of the charges or a statement that signing was not an admission of guilt. I requested a print out (I could not scroll upwards to read it electronically) . Officer Briscoe refused and told me if I didn’t sign he’d “throw my ass in jail”. Officer Jones had joined Officer Briscoe during the conversation. The threat was repeated and I started to become nervous at the hostility. I signed my signature with a notation “under duress” and the Officer’s last names.
Jones asked Briscoe if I’d signed it and Briscoe read off my notations. Rage lit up in Jones’ eyes and I began dialing 911 on my phone. Briscoe reached through the window and knocked the phone out of my hand as the car door was opened and I was yanked out, slammed against the hood and handcuffed tightly behind my back. I attempted to scream for help to nearby residences to no avail. I was then placed in the squad car while Officer Jones called a wrecker for my SUV. All in all a frightening experience.
When my friend bonded me out a few hours later the only charge against me was the speeding, which is not an arrestable offense. The citation print out given to me when released from jail (this was the first time I’d been told what I had been arrested for and I had not been advised of my rights at anytime) had three inaccuracies: the model of my car, the posted speed of the road and my signature & notation had been deleted and replaced with “insalter”.
The aggression of the Officers was not required and tampering with the citation (which I would consider evidence) makes me consider what other circumstances do these Officers abuse their position of trust & authority. It is my guess that most people cave to the intimidation when there are kids at home or they are on their way to work.
At the La Porte jail Officer Copely allowed me to make a call arranging for my dog’s feeding that night since arraignments had been completed for the day. My friend called Shoreacres P.D. who told her that a La Porte officer had called him asking if he knew me (he responded he did); he also told her it was possible to just put a cash bond down to have me released…waiting for arraignment was not necessary.
La Porte has received a federal grant for a Step program. While there are no quotas it is my understanding that a certain number of violations have to be cited to retain the funding.
I have filed a complaint with La Porte PD Internal Affairs and the ACLU.
If you are being pulled over in La Porte consider making a call on your cell phone and leaving the line open during the traffic stop. Officer Jones is a motorcycle officer and Officer Briscoe was in a squad car.
It is my sincere hope no one else goes through this experience.
You may wonder why I’m putting this story out there. Several reasons come to mind. First, Ms. Woodruff is an elected city official in Harris County and that is the thrust of my work here. Second, I have seen that speed trap and it serves no safety function whatsoever. It is purely a revenue enhancement for the City of La Porte. Third, the allegation that a police officer or officers can tamper with electronic records is unsettling. Think through the consequences of that if it is true. Fourth, we conservatives often turn a blind eye to accounts of police abuse because of our “law and order” mentality, which creates a perception that we condone this behavior.
I have attempted to get the La Porte police side of the story without success. I’ve left messages with the Public Information/Internal Affairs Officer John Krueger and the Mayor of La Porte, Republican Barry Beasley. If I ultimately receive a response, I will update this.
UPDATE 3/8 5:50 pm: I spoke to Mayor Beasley this evening prior to the regularly scheduled City Council meeting. There has been a complaint filed, it is being investigated, any information about prior complaints relating to these two officers must be obtained through an Open Records request, and the Mayor has a meeting scheduled with Councilmember Woodruff this Thursday.
I would like to thank Mayor Beasley for responding to my inquiry and I will follow up on this complaint.
UPDATE 2, 3/9 9:15 am: Det. Krueger, the LPPD Internal Affairs Officer returned my call. Ms. Woodruff filed her complaint on 3/5/10. LPPD policy gives Det. Krueger 30 working days to complete his investigation, which by my calculations would be April 19th. He can, however, request an extension from the Chief of Police if needed. He stated that because of the numerous allegations in the complaint, including the potential of altering electronic records, that there might be a need to ask for an extension.
I asked about Open Records Requests for any previous complaints filed against the officers involved and he told me that the City would fight their release as standard procedure. Which means that I probably will not ask because I’d rather spend the money elsewhere but maybe one of those big city newspapers will take this up. Altering electronic records is scary, if that is possible.