A new state law went into effect last month requiring public high schools, new drivers and police officers to receive training in how to act during police interactions.
Senate Bill 30, which was proposed shortly after the controversial death of Sandra Bland, is designed to aid the growing tension between law enforcement and civilians.
“This is not the silver bullet that will impact the entire relationship between law enforcement and citizens,” state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, one of the measure’s authors, told the Texas Tribune after the proposal of the bill. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”
Sam Houston State University is responsible for training officers, but the new legislature is said to have a minimal impact on the university’s teachings.
“It’s still too early for us to plan exactly what we’re going to do,” Dean of the College of Criminal Justice Phillip Lyons said. “Our response to this is likely to be very minimal.”
State driving education programs are set to add police interaction into their curriculum in order to educate young adult drivers on how to behave during a traffic stop. The new instruction for law enforcement is mainly oriented towards wide-level officers, which SHSU does not provide training for. The training requirements stated in Senate Bill 30 are mainly met at police academies.
“The University Police Department will not play a role in this initiative other than the training requirements for our officers,” Director of Emergency Management David Yebra said. “The remainder of requirements of Senate Bill 30 are pre-licensing requirements. We are not involved in licensing drivers and the pre-licensing training requirements.”
Although Senate Bill 30 does not aim to educate college students, UPD is already involved in outreach programs with students and the community. Officers are engaged with fellow Bearkats in a number of different forums, from formal training to one-on-one engagements when out on vehicle or foot patrol.
“I think in general it’s a good idea for people to be aware of what to expect at a traffic stop and what their rights are,” Lyons said. “It also never hurts to remind the police of that as well.”
Police interaction courses will become a part of the high school curriculum next fall. Even though students at SHSU will not be required to take any specific interaction courses, the Criminal Justice department is listening to the voice of the student body.
“Our usual approach is we always try and respond to student needs, and if there is a desire from a part of students to learn more about this [interacting with police], then regardless of the legislation we would step up and do that,” Lyons said. “The legislation doesn’t really target our students, but as with anything else, if there’s a student need we’ll help them anyway we can to meet that.