COLLEGE STATION, Texas —
As the national discussion continues revolving around race relations and policing standards, College Station police chief Billy Couch wants the community to know that the College Station Police Department is listening, and is working with local Black community leaders in order to strengthen community relationships.
In a letter to the community, Chief Couch addresses questions he’s received regarding department policies and procedures when it comes to unbiased policing, body-worn cameras, professional standards, and use of force. Below is a summary of his response.
CSPD is trained to avoid biased-based policing and discrimination, and will not take any actions based on racial profiling, ethnic background, national origin, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, or cultural group. Employees who engage in this type of conduct are investigated and held accountable, which could include termination.
CSPD has worn body cameras since 2014, meant to provide transparency for the daily activities of police officers. Cameras are supposed to be activated during traffic stops, pursuits, person and vehicle searches, physical and verbal confrontations, use-of-force incidents, when getting statements from victims and witnesses, when giving Miranda Rights, interrogations, and other law enforcement contacts.
Recruiting and Training
CSPD strives to mirror the diversity of the city demographics, but acknowledges that they do fall short and minority employees are underrepresented. They encourage minorities to consider policing as a possible career path. Regarding hiring and training, College Station police officers go through a rigorous exam, physical test, a background investigation, board interviews, polygraph exam, psychological evaluation, and an interview with the police chief. Afterward, new officers complete a 17-week police academy. After finishing at the police academy, they participate in 20-weeks of field training where they are paired with officers who have been cleared to train them appropriately on practices and principals.
CSPD emphasizes that they focus on de-escalation and crisis intervention, and that their policy is to respect and value human life.
Use of Force
Chief Couch says that his police department averages 100,000 citizen contacts a year, and out of these, about 100 of them lead to use-of-force.
The level of force used by College Station police officers is determined on the individual police officer’s evaluation of the situation based on the circumstances and information the officer knows at the time. It’s based on “what a reasonably prudent officer would use under the same or similar situations, rather than the perfect vision of hindsight”.
Officers receive yearly training on Use of Force Policy and the authority to use this force under the Texas Penal Code. Occasionally they receive more training involving communication, de-escalation, and the use of proper techniques.