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ASK A COP — Can police officers legally run red lights without cause?

Gary from Nederland asks: Officer Antoine, I’m generally a supporter of law enforcement because I respect and appreciate the job you men in blue do to keep us safe. With that said, I do believe that some police officers abuse their authority, such as intentionally turning on their emergency lights to run a red light at intersections within the city. I’ve seen this on more than a couple occasions, only to notice the police officer later turns off the red and blue lights or simply turns around. Is it illegal for police officers to turn on their red/blue lights just to get through an intersection?

Answer: I’m sure you and many, many other citizens like yourself, whose prayers and support is felt and appreciated by law enforcement officers near and far, all across the state and nation. Gary, one mistake I will not make is trying to guess or assume what another law enforcement officer’s action(s) were, especially if I wasn’t with the officer. You asked about a police officer disregarding red traffic signals by activating emergency lights, then after crossing the intersection, turning off the emergency lights. I wasn’t there, so I can’t actually say why the officer went through the intersection with the lights activated, and soon turned off the emergency lights.

I will tell you, there are times when officers need to expedite their travel time to a call. For example, a burglary or an assault in progress, or maybe even a theft in progress, and in the officer’s opinion, waiting at a red light intersection could hinder in the apprehension of a suspect, stop the furtherance of a crime, prevent injury and ultimately maybe save a life. It also could be an officer trying to get to a scene and was suddenly told they were no longer needed at the scene. So in this case, the officer will turn off his emergency equipment because the scene where he was headed is under control. A couple minutes or seconds could be the difference between any of the above mentioned incidents from occurring.

Police officers may need to get to a location as fast and safe as possible, without notifying the suspect(s) of their presence. That could explain why police officers turn on their emergency lights to go through a red light intersection, then turn them off.

It would be misleading to say this is the case each and every time a police officer uses his emergency lights to go through a red light intersection. With all that has transpired with law enforcement officers today, I’ll opt just see the positive action that the officer was probably en route to an emergency and later discovered they were not needed.

Tracie from Port Arthur Asks: My coworker drives a truck and noticed three children from the neighborhood walking to school, who had inadvertently missed their bus. Because she was going in that general direction she picked them up and drove them to school in the bed of her truck. She was told by a coworker she couldn’t do that, and of course this started a conversation on who’s right. Is it illegal for someone to ride in the bed of a truck?

Answer: It is NOT illegal for someone who’s 18 years of age and above to ride in the bed of a pickup. But, you break the law in Texas if you transport someone who is under the age of 18 in the bed of a truck on the road of Texas. Unless those three children were 18 years old, your coworker, as kind as her act was, broke the law if the children were not at least 18 years of age.

Juan from Port Arthur asks: If I’m going down the street and no longer want the beverage (non alcoholic) I’m drinking, is it against the law to pour it out like at a stop sign or red light? Is pouring liquids like water or soda onto the street considered littering?

Answer: Littering is a serious issue we deal with in Port Arthur, Jefferson County and, heck, the entire state of Texas has an issue with littering. Which brings to mind our state motto “Don’t mess with Texas,” but still over 435 million pieces of visible litter accumulate on Texas roadways each year. Pouring water out of your vehicle is NOT considered littering in Port Arthur, as long as the container it is being poured out of remains in the vehicle or placed in a proper disposal receptacle.

Join Officer Rickey Antoine for “Ask A Cop” on KSAP 96.9 FM every Tuesday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. as he discuss the “Ask A Cop” article. Call in a question at 409-982-0247. Email your questions to Rickey.Antoine@portarthurtx.gov, call 409-983-8673 or mail them to: Ofc. Rickey Antoine, 645 4th Street, Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you happen to see me in public, you can “Ask A Cop!”