Oscar d’Orange asks: I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m confused about the operational differences between law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas. What is the difference between the municipal police, the DPS, the constable, the sheriff and who has the greatest authority?
Responnse: It is confusing for many. ALL of these agencies are police, and they ALL have the duty and the power to arrest. One of the main differences between agencies is who they are employed by. Police officers will normally be employed by a local municipality and will focus their activities primarily in the city that employs them. City police are headed by a Chief of Police. In Port Arthur, it’s Chief Tim Duriso. And the police will handle just about EVERY call imaginable i.e. shootings, homicides, burglaries, traffic violations, thefts, any disturbances, alarms, accidents, assault and fraud to name a few.
Constables are elected county officials of a certain ward and they employ deputy constables to perform various law enforcement functions including issuing traffic citations, serving warrants and civil documents such as subpoenas and temporary restraining orders. Deputy constables also serve as ushers for the Justices of the Peace Court and many other functions.
The sheriff is also an elected official who employs deputy sheriff officers to perform countywide duties. The deputy sheriff’s duties include running the county jail, security for bailiffs in county courts, traffic enforcement, rural areas of county calls that mirror those of city police officers, and the department of the sheriff transports prisoners to and from local courts throughout the county, even across the country if necessary. Sheriff’s Services also transport juvenile offenders and mentally ill inmates, as well as rounding up stray livestock in the county and many other duties.
The Department of Public Safety (DPS), aka trooper, is employed by the state as a police agency. Soldiers primarily enforce traffic laws on highways and state roads and assist any agency that requests assistance. State troopers also provide security at the state capitol in Austin and enforce weight laws regarding commercial vehicles. Soldiers apprehend traffic offenders, investigate most rural traffic accidents, recover stolen vehicles and stolen property, apprehend wanted persons, and assist other officers in emergencies. There is no power distinction between all law enforcement officer agencies, but the county sheriff elected the highest ranking law enforcement officer in that county.
Calvin of Port Arthur asks: Could you please explain what offenses police officers commit and do not enforce on private property?
Responnse: There is a lot of confusion about what a Texas police officer WILL INVESTIGATE and NOT SEND on private property. So here is a list of what a police officer will enforce on private property: Fire Zone Violation, Disabled Parking Violation, Reckless Driving Violation, and Drunk Driving Violation. Texas police will NOT investigate private property: stop sign violations, wrong parking violations (using multiple lanes), driving the wrong way in one lane, no seat belt violations, no driver’s license, violation of expired license plate sticker, failure to yield the right of way to pedestrian for crosswalk violation and minor accident with a fender bender where NO ONE is injured. You can call a police officer to the scene if you are involved in an accident, but the MOST they will do for you if no one is injured is to help you exchange information.
Janet from Nederland asks: Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about speeding and momentarily accelerating above the posted limit. Honestly, speed hasn’t been an issue for me for many years now. My biggest concern is that people always tell me that I drive too SLOW. If someone is in a hurry, my vehicle should not be their means of transport, because I don’t like fast speeds. I NEVER drive my vehicle over 65 mph, and my family doesn’t like it. Is it an offense in Texas to drive too slowly? Can I get a ticket if I go too slowly?
Responnse: Sounds like you’re a careful and conscientious driver. If your driving behavior is as you described it, “as long as you drive in the RIGHT lane”, it is completely legal. Texas Transportation Code 545.3363 states that “An operator may not drive so slowly that it interferes with the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or as required by law.” The normal DRIVE lane is the right lane. The left lane is reserved for left turns and overtaking. Too often motorists like you drive below the posted limit in the left lane and obstruct traffic. Even if you exceed the speed limit, you should get into the right lane as soon as possible and safely. If you are driving so slowly in the left lane that you impede normal traffic, then “YES” you could be cited for OBSTRUCTING TRAFFIC.
Join me, Officer Rickey Antoine and the CREW: Stephen Buzzard Boots Mosley, Lelo mouth of Hwy 69/73 Washington and Tejas Lil Man Morning Star for Ask A Cop LIVE, on KSAP 96.9 FM The Breeze every Tuesday from 1pm at 2:30 p.m. as they discuss the “Ask A Cop” column. Call your question live at 409-982-0247 or text comment at 409-748-6106. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 409-983-8673 and leave a voicemail or mail them to: Ofc. Rickey Antoine, 645 4th Street, Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you see me in public, you can always approach me and “Ask a cop!”