As a part of ongoing transparency efforts, the Sherman Police Department has released reports on racial profiling and it’s use of force in policing.
The two reports, which were introduced by Police Chief Zachary Flores last month in a Facebook video, are among three investigations that were recently released by the department about the operations within the department.
"Use of force is something that is typically not brought to the attention of the public," Flores said. "What we want to do is show not only are we looking at those, but provide information concerning what we do.
"This also provides our staff very granular information on trends that may be, or anything we may need to address."
The report covered the calendar year of 2019 and found 50 reported uses of force, ranging from verbal and physical touch to deadly force use.
The report noted four times when "soft hands" were used as a form of force. Soft hands is the term used any time an officer must come into physical contact with someone, whether it be moving someone’s arm behind their back to helping move someone.
A use of force report is not required to be filed for soft hands, but it could have been included in an incident report that included other uses of force.
Likewise, the report also included one use of verbal force. This is yelling something like, "Stop." In this case, verbal force is used more often as a first resort and not included in information reports.
"The lowest level possible we can use is telling someone what to do. ’We are the police, turn around,’" Flores said. "If that doesn’t happen, it steps up to the next phase."
The report found five instances where hard hands — including strikes — were used in 2019. Oleoresin capsicum spray, also known as pepper spray, was used a total of three times and a Taser was utilized four times.
The report found that no uses of deadly force by firearm or vehicle were used by SPD in 2019, and the report included data on accidents that involved fleet vehicles and pursuits, of which the department had seven of each.
For the purposes of the report, an accident as any time a fleet vehicle comes in contact with another vehicle or object, but this does not mean there was an injury or damage.
The report found that six of the seven pursuits that officers engaged in were against policy. However, Flores noted that there are times and legitimate situations in which an officer could go against policy.
"There may be a situation where we have a pursuit and an officer has to drive on the wrong side of the road," Flores said. " That is not within our policy, but sometimes the situations dictate that."
SPD policy also calls for pursuits only be engaged when there is a legitimate belief that the suspect is intoxicated or fleeing a violent felony.
"Those are the only reasons you should be pursing someone. If an officer were to get into a pursuit for something outside of that, then they are outside of policy," he said. "Now, it may have been worthy, and it may have been a valid reason. But, it is still not within policy."
The report found that all uses of force by the department were within policy and training guidelines for the year.
"Our use of force was within policy and law, and that is ultimately what we want to see," Flores said. "We also want to see that there is nothing out of balance between racial lines, so what we can look at is consistency between all of the criteria listed there."
Like the use of force report, the independently-conducted racial profiling report found no situations where racial profiling was used by SPD officers. The report focused its investigation into traffic stops during 2019.
"What it says is that we don’t do it," Flores said. "We don’t have any instances we have found where an officer used a person’s race to assert their authority as an officer."
The profiling report found that 9,390 traffic stops were conducted with 5,291 men and 4,099 women being pulled over. Of those, whites represented the majority with 6,073. By comparison, 1,465 of the individuals pulled over were Black and 1,610 were Latino or Hispanic.
Of the incidents, only 434 searches were conducted and 252 times contraband was discovered.
When broken down, the report found that whites made up 65 percent of the contacts and make up 60 percent of households in the city with vehicle access. By comparison 16 percent of the contacts were with Black people with 14 percent of city households with vehicle access. Hispanics by comparison made up 17 percent and 19 percent, respectively.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.