San Antonio Police Department Conducting "Virtual Ride-Alongs," Shaming People Before They're Even Convicted

The idea of a “virtual ride-along” that is designed to give citizens a first hand view of what police work is like”—and to clarify the sorts of misunderstandings spawned by endless Law & Order reruns—isn’t a new one. We first wrote about the phenomenon in 2013, when a number of Texas police departments had their officers live-tweet their experience of responding to calls and carrying out their duties.

There Is Video of Sgt. James Brown’s Final Moments in an El Paso Jail

In July 2012, a 26-year-old African American Army combat veteran stationed at Fort Bliss turned himself in for a two-day sentence for DWI. His name was Sgt. James Brown. He walked into the El Paso County Jail of his own volition, and was carried out, unconscious.

At the time of Brown’s death, the jail gave a statement that read, “James Brown turned himself in for a DWI Commitment. While in custody, he required medical treatment and was transported to University Medical Center where he later died. Pursuant to state statutes and regulation, the case is under investigation by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, and under review by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Results from the autopsy, including toxicology, are pending.”

This week, KFOX in El Paso obtained video of twenty of the final minutes of Brown’s life. They’re graphic and difficult to watch—please be cautioned before clicking the link—but they reveal some of the spin involved in the statement from the jail. Namely, that while the broad strokes are true—Brown did require medical treatment while in custody, and he was transported to the University Medical Center, where he was declared dead—the way those facts obfuscate the details is shocking.

One in Twenty DPS Officers Is Female and Other Staggering Texas Law Enforcement Statistics

Police forces often are not as diverse, in terms of gender and race, as the populations they serve—a fact that’s been highlighted when tensions between law enforcement and civilians arise. In Ferguson, Missouri, for example, the fact that the police force in the largely African-American community was 94 percent white generated headlines in the wake of a white officer shooting a black teenager. So how does Texas’s law enforcement measure up?

Texas's Problem With Truancy Is Getting Some Well-Deserved Attention

The problem with how Texas handles truancy isn’t a new one. But it’s getting some well-deserved attention. Yesterday, Buzzfeed published a strong investigative piece that explores the way truancy laws work in Texas, and the story comes at a time when discussing the problem is absolutely vital—while the Legislature is in session and considering a change to the incredibly punitive law through which Texas criminal courts prosecute teenagers for missing school. 

Facebook Is Not Letting the Story of the Vet Who Killed a Cat With a Bow and Arrow Go

By now, you’ve probably heard of Kristen Lindsey. She’s the veterinarian from Brenham who’s given more bad press to the state than Blue Bell after she posted a picture on Facebook of herself, smiling and holding an arrow with a dead cat on the end of it:

 

The Department of Criminal Justice Moved a Transgender Inmate to a Safekeeping Unit

On March 30, Passion Star, a transgender inmate being held in male prison facilities, won a years-long legal battle with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. After several complaints against other inmates and prison guards of continued rape, harassment, and assault, TDCJ announced it would place Star (whose legal name is Zollicoffer) into a “safekeeping” unit, as requested by an emergency motion filed in early March that’s meant to protect Star from more harm.

The latest, successful motion was preceded by other complaints by Star. A previous lawsuit against sixteen defendants filed in late 2014 by Lambda Legal, the national equal rights organization that took on Star’s case, lists several instances of rape and assault by other inmates and details how Star says guards in her prison unit failed to protect her and would sometimes punish her for refusing to leave her cell out of fear for her safety.

Police Officer Lets a Rock-Paper-Scissors Game Determine Whether an Underage Drinking Suspect Will Get in Trouble

It’s been a curious past week for police misconduct: a Houston Police Department “officer of the year” recipient was arrested by federal agents after being linked to the Zetas drug cartel, while El Paso police officers were reprimanded for using department equipment to make a music video. And it’s still getting weirder. 

El Paso Police Are in Trouble for Making a Super Cool Music Video

These days, it seems like your avenues of self-expression are limited, if you’re a law enforcement officer. You’re not allowed to pose for photos with Snoop Dogg, and—as a handful of El Paso police officers learned—you can’t even shoot a music video for your favorite Canadian rock song. At least not using department equipment and uniforms.

Firefighter Hazing, Police Abuse, and Officer Indictments in Texas

One of the harder-to-stomach stories of the past week has been the account of what happened in Ellis County’s volunteer fire department. According to an affidavit, eight firefighters were arrested after what’s been described as a “hazing activity” from January came to light: 

Authorities say a rite of passage at a Waxahachie fire station crossed the line, leading to felony sex charges against five volunteer firefighters.

The firemen were arrested Monday on accusations that they used a sausage to sexually assault a man at the station in January, officials said. A woman is also accused of recording the deed on a cellphone.

The alleged attack occurred Jan. 20 at the Emergency Service District 6 Volunteer Fire Department in Waxahachie, Texas Rangers spokesman Lonny Haschel said. The victim reported the incident to authorities last week.

The City of Brazoria Exempted Its Police Interrogation Room From Smoking Ban

Smoking bans have become less controversial as more of them have been enacted around the state (and, indeed, around the world). And bans in government buildings are especially hard to argue with: those spaces belong to everyone, and “Keep your government out of my government buildings” isn’t the catchiest slogan.

Still, one Texas town has successfully kept one room out of the ban: the police interrogation room. As the Houston Chronicle reports, in Brazoria, the police chief managed to get the city council to agree to overturn the law restricting smoking in the room

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