LUBBOCK, Texas — The Texas Department of Public Safety recently suspended an Austin trooper for violating policy during a traffic stop. Clateachia Stewart spoke with KXAN about the incident. She said it was around 11:00 p.m. when saw the police lights on behind her, so she took the closest exit and pulled into a well-lit parking lot. Trooper Zachary Maini told her to get out of the car and proceeded to tase her. Luckily, Stewart recorded the encounter.
After seeing the video, DPS released the following statement:
“On August 28, 2022, just before 11 p.m., Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper Zachary Maini initiated a traffic stop in Travis County. A review of the video of Trooper Maini’s interaction with the driver raises serious concerns that Trooper Maini acted unprofessionally and in violation of DPS policy. This matter has been referred to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Trooper Maini is suspended pending the outcome of that investigation by OIG.”
As a Texas resident, it’s important to know your rights and what to do in high-stress situations similar to Stewart’s.
When you see the flashing lights behind you, Lubbock Police Department Lieutenant, Brady Cross, said the first thing you need to do is turn on your hazard lights as a sign of acknowledging the officer.
“As soon as you can safely you pull over to the right, as far as you can,” Cross said. “Depending on the traffic and time of day, it may change. You may feel more safe moving on out of traffic, and the officers appreciate that.”
DPS Sergeant Johnny Bures said it’s ok to take your time, just signal to the officer and slow down.
“You don’t want to stop in a place that’s got a lot of congestion and a lot of traffic gonna like I-35 in Austin,” Bures said.
The officer can approach you from either side of your car. Be sure to keep your hands visible on the wheel. They will ask for your driver’s license and car insurance information. If you forget those items, have your driver’s license or social security number memorized, and they can search for your information in their system that way as well.
“Let the officer know before you go searching for anything, or reaching or lunging for anything,” Bures said. “Just let the officer know, ‘hey, I need to look for my driver’s license, and it should be over here in the console or in my bag,’ and that’ll help the officer out too.”
Lt. Cross estimates 90% of LPD’s patrol cars are marked, and if you are being pulled over, it is very likely it will be by a marked car.
“Overhead lights, visible emergency red and blue lights,” Cross said. “Our units have black and white colored markings and on the side and say police.”
Cross said LPD patrol vehicles can be any of the following makes:
- Chevrolet Tahoe
- Ford Explorer
- Ford Crown Victoria
- Dodge Durango
- Chevrolet Silverado
- Motorcycle (officers have updated neon yellow uniforms so they are easily visible)
If you fear the person pulling you over isn’t an officer, you can call 911 and they will transfer you to the right department.
“Pull into a safe lot and call 911,” Bures said. “Just say ‘hey, look, I’m being stopped, here’s what the vehicle looks like, and here’s where I’m at.”
Bures recommends remaining calm.
“Easier for us is easier for you also, you know, the per person that’s getting stopped,” Bures said. “We get up there and you know, if we are calm and you’re calm, then it will flow smoothly. Then you get back on the road, and there are no problems.”
In 2018, Senate Bill (SB) 30, also known as The Community Safety Education Act, was enacted with the goal of defining the behavior and expectations of citizens and law enforcement during traffic interactions. School districts and charter schools must provide instruction to students in grades 9-12 on proper interaction with peace officers during traffic stops and other in-person encounters. There is an educational video called “FLASHING LIGHTS” that can be viewed here.
If you are passing somebody else getting pulled over, follow the Move Over Law. When approaching emergency vehicles, tow trucks, and Texas Department of Transportation vehicles stopped with flashing lights, change lanes or slow to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. There is more information on this law on the TxDOT website.