Lockhart PD reports on racial profiling
By LPR Staff
Racial profiling was a hot topic at the regular meeting of the Lockhart City Council on Tuesday evening.
Texas law requires law enforcement agencies to make an annual presentation regarding the ethnic makeup of persons contacted by the police during any given calendar year. However, the buzzword title of the report gave
some citizens pause and led to the suggestions that the Lockhart Police Department is too racist, or not racist enough.
“Profiling is a fact of life,” said area resident Constance Grieger. “Everyone does it, and it can be a tool. The purpose of the profiling becomes the issue, and how it’s being used. What we have to ask when we’re talking about profiling is whether it’s for the greater good of the community.”
Grieger, half of an interracially married couple with five children, told the council that she and her son, the darkest-skinned members of her family, were stopped while driving more often than her Caucasian husband and their daughters, who are lighter-skinned.
Statistically, however, the department’s figures reflected that more than half the contacts made by the Lockhart Police Department in 2008 were contacts with Caucasian drivers while only around 10 percent were African-American.
“Almost across the board, our statistics have gone down,” LPD Chief Mike Lummus said. “But our contacts have gone up since 2007. What this means, I think, is that we’re doing a good job of not profiling.”
Lummus also reported the department had changed policies with regards to vehicle and property searches, and that consensual searches now require a supervisor on the scene, and the written consent of the driver.
“This is something that police departments across the state have taken action on, because it’s something that the Legislature was looking at,” he said. “Whenever we get the attention of the legislature, we have to stop and examine what we’re doing, because if we’re not doing things correctly, it’s possible that police departments could lose a valuable tool.”
Lummus said as a result of the policy, the number of consent searches had dropped considerably, almost 50 percent during the last year.
He also said the department is using methods other than arrest and incarceration whenever they can.
“We are trying desperately to keep from filling up that jail with misdemeanor offenders,” he said. “If we went by the exact letter of the law, we’d have no problem filling that jail and two more.”
Those efforts, Lummus said, center toward writing citations for minor offenses, including small drug offenses, rather than making arrests.
“If someone has one marijuana cigarette in the car, it’s not worth it to the citizens to take them to jail and pay for them to sit for three days,” he said. “We write them a ticket and go on, and then if they fail to pay their ticket or do the right thing, we can deal with them then.”
All told, the council expressed pleasure with the department’s reporting for 2008.
In brief council news:
The council approved a resolution allowing the Southwest Museum of Clocks and Watches to repair an antique clock from the Dr. Eugene Clark Library, and to display the clock in the museum for at least six months after its repair.
They approved a rezoning request for a property on North Commerce Street.
The group nominated Dave Moore to fill a vacant seat on the Caldwell County Appraisal District board of directors.
The Lockhart City Council meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Glosserman Conference Room of Lockhart City Hall.