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Panel discusses policing - Odessa American: Crime Justice

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Panel discusses policing

Local law enforcement officials participate in JBS event

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Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2016 9:11 am

How people should comport themselves around police officers and sheriff’s deputies was among a few key topics four top Midland/Odessa lawmen addressed during a Tuesday lecture.

Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson, Odessa Police Chief Tim Burton, Midland Police Chief Price Robinson and Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter spoke to more than 20 people for two-and-half hours in an event that was hosted by the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin CEED building.

Moderated by the institute’s Executive Director Robert Brescia, the event, dubbed “Police and Community: We are One,” began with mention of a senate bill by Texas State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) that seeks to change the language in the Texas driver’s handbook and include in an educational curriculum on what motorists should do whenever stopped by an officer.

Donaldson said motorists who get pulled over during traffic stops should comply with whatever an officer orders to avoid any potential conflicts.

Burton explained that there’s a myriad of safety considerations that go through the mind of an officer during a traffic stop and that someone’s behavior with an officer can “evoke a whole lot of possibilities,” and that legislation in this area could lead to unintended consequences.

With legislation you “have to be very careful with what it’s going to do,” Burton said.

Robinson said it’s easy to file a piece of legislation that is unnecessary but acknowledged that he hadn’t read West’s.

But Donaldson was more succinct, if not blunt, in his view about what people should do around a police officer, adding that respect for authority begins at home and that parents bear a responsibility in teaching their children the proper way whenever contacting a member of law enforcement.

“(People should) do whatever the officer says,” Donaldson said. “Then there wouldn’t be a problem and somebody (would not be) dead.”

In the age of social media much information can get lost, and lies get perpetuated, Painter said. He also pointed out that “it’s very sad that there has to be a bill on how to act during a traffic stop.”

As if to drive home what the panelists were trying to convey, a video presentation of how police in Virginia deal with the public was shown. One of the officers on screen reminded viewers “we’re looking for compliance, not conviction.”

The panel was careful not to specify race during a discussion of high-profile police shootings involving black people during the past two years, but a question from the audience asked how officers are protected from accusations of racial profiling.

Donaldson said that whenever an errant motorist is spotted doing something wrong, or an infraction is committed, a sheriff’s deputy goes to stop the vehicle, especially when someone is caught driving around with heavily tinted windows.

“That’s all there is to it,” Donaldson said.

Burton stressed that it’s important for people to comply with what an officer tells the person to do.

Another question asked the panel of law enforcement officials what can citizens do to help members of law enforcement.

Donaldson humorously told the audience that anytime they see an officer or sheriff’s deputy they should tell them “how good of a job they’re doing.”

Painter said they should let those in law enforcement know how much they’re appreciated.

“It’s a more dangerous job now,” Painter said. “And it’s getting more and more complicated.”

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