Snapshot from the 2015 arrest of Sandra Bland for a traffic violation
Riesel, Texas – Chief Danny Krumnow is often mistaken for a person of Hispanic extraction, a misconception he denies.
He uses that to point out his dissatisfaction with certain amendments to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and some elements of the Government Code resulting from the blowback to a very proactive posture on the pursuit of evidence in roadside stops.
In a terrible 2015 incident, Chicago native Sandra Bland stopped for a Texas State Trooper at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University, and when the man demanded she extinguish her cigarette, the situation rapidly deteriorated from chilly to outright nasty.
She wound up in the Waller County Jail where she committed suicide by hanging herself with a garbage sack; the trooper lost his job.
Her family settled a federal civil rights suit in part by negotiating a new way to handle suspicion of cops’ racially profiling motorists and reaching a modification in the way persons who are placed on suicide watch are handled if placed in jail.
According to Krumnow, the new system is far less than perfect, because it removes the discretionary power of a policeman to deal with each situation as it occurs.
Our visit took us way down the road in exploring the complexities of just how cops try to keep the highway traffic safe and moving in the right direction to get freight and passengers.
There is a key element in Krumnow’s way of doing business in this sliver of a town located on a busy stretch of State Highway Six between two dual lane ribbons of blacktop studded with diesel filling stations, convenience stores and pit stops for a fast and steady stream of traffic between Houston, Waco, and the DFW metromess.
“When I hire an officer, the first thing I ask him is, ‘What do you think your job is?’ Most of them say it’s to enforce the law. I tell them that’s not right. I tell them their job is to keep the peace. If you keep the peace, you don’t have to enforce the law.”
The new law requires a report of whether the peace officer knew the race or ethnicity of the person stopped before their detention and whether the peace officer used physical force that resulted in bodily injury, as defined by the Penal Code.
Sandra Bland may be heard on the dash cam video of her arrest saying that the Trooper is trying to break her wrist. He insists she stop resisting.
Part of the Texas Government Code has been amended. If a person must be put in custodial detention and placed behind bars, care must be taken if within the jurisdiction there is a treatment center should there be evidence that the reason for the need for incarceration is substance abuse related. A need for suicide watch is to be carefully evaluated and balanced with the need for hospitalization.
The bottom line is, he and a lot of traffic cops are in diametric opposition to the record keeping aspects of the Sandra Bland Act. If the Legislature should take up the issue in the future, he says he’s ready to testify as to its deficiencies and the difficulties it poses for men and women in his position.
The bottom line is the racial profiling requirements of the Sandra Bland Act will lead to a more heightened degree of tension in a situation that is already unbearably tense.
Warning tickets are going to be a thing of the past. In cases of professional drivers who hold a Commercial Driver License, the warning tickets will count against their safety record. The cameras come on thirty seconds before the speed cop flips on his red and blue blinkers.
Bad scene at the buffalo waller, to say the least.
Diesel Chief of Police Dan Krumnow says people often mistake him as a person of Hispanic extraction. He insists he has no idea what race people he pulls over may be. “Other” is not a choice in the database.