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ASK A COP — Can police officers ask for a social security number?

Earl from Port Arthur asks: I need clarification about an incident that occurred between my son and a police officer during a traffic stop. My son was stopped for speeding, but during the stop the police officer asked my son for his social security number. My son was appalled and questioned the officer’s need to knowing what his social security number was. We are law-abiding citizens and never want to disrespect ANY law enforcement officer or cause any undue stress upon a police officer. But in the time where people’s identity are stolen, my son and I believe it is a stretch to ask someone for their social security number because he had already given the officer his driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration. Did the officer step over the line asking my son for his social security number or is this a normal practice for law enforcement officers?

Answer: WOW, what a difference a day makes. Earl, this was a normal practice at the Port Arthur Police Department 13 years or so ago. There was actually a section on our citation where the officer on a hand written citation would ask ANY person being cited for their social security number. Asking citizens for their social security number was the core of many, many and I mean many unpleasant verbal exchanges I endured on traffic stops. I rejoiced when we removed the social security number item from our citation.

I understand the times we are living in with identity theft at an all-time high, and the effort of keeping your social security number guarded is our highest priority. Now with all that said, I can NOT put fault on the officer for asking for your son’s social security number for additional identification during his official investigation. For law enforcement, requesting your social security number is all about the proper identification of whom we have stopped. We care less what your FICA credit score is or what debt you have outstanding. Still today when additional identification is needed, we may ask for the last four numbers of your social security number for additional identification purposes only.

Jimmy from Nederland Asks: Some time ago I sent you an email asking about child booster seats. I really need clarification on the law because my granddaughter wants to be like her friends and get out of her booster seat. I don’t want to risk her life or break a law. You have previously written a child must be 8 years old or 4’9″ tall. Not many 8 year olds are that tall, even so, should it be 8 years old and 4’9″ tall? My granddaughter is taller than most girls in her class at school (age 8-1/2) but she is only 4’5.” Can she sit without a booster based on what you have put in your column previously? Help me settle my nerves.

Answer: I apologize for the untimely response to your email, I’m not quite sure what happened to your question but we are communicating now. I take great pride in answering all of my questions received through emails, phone calls, mail, in person and The Breeze radio station is what makes this “Ask A Cop” column continue. The state of Texas has joined the ranks with the national standard requiring a child be EITHER 8 years of age or 4 feet 9 inches tall before they can sit in a motor vehicle WITHOUT a booster seat.

Height is a tall standard and rarely will you find a child under the age of 8 years old and 4 feet 9 inches tall. The only person with a child under 8 years old that’s taller than 4 feet 9 inches would be Shaq (Smile)! Jimmy, your granddaughter is 8 1/2 years old so she is NOT required to sit in a booster seat by her age. Keep in mind, as a parent or guardian you have the last say when the child comes out of the booster seat after they are 8 years of age. If the seat belt doesn’t fit them correctly because of their stature, it’s all about their safety not fashion or peers.

Franklin from Groves asks: Now that it’s summertime and school is closed, if the lights are on in the school zone during school zone time, are we required by law to abide by the flashing lights and speed limit when there’s no school in session?

Answer: This is a question that I’m bombarded with all the time regarding the flashing school zone lights out in a school zone and flashing school zone lights during summertime. Every school zone that’s equipped with warning school zone flasher lights WILL ALSO have the posted times of the school zone on the sign as well. The state of Texas requires the times be posted notifying ALL motorists the times that the school zone is active, because just as sure as we live, the school zone flashers will malfunction.

There have been times that the school zone lights are flashing at 6 p.m., but the times of the school zone ended at 4 p.m. Are you to abide the flashing school zone lights when the posted time ended at 4 p.m.? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I’ve observed school zone lights flashing on the weekends, so with that said the posted sign trumps the flashing light. Pay attention to the sign. You are NOT bound by law to observe the school zone while lights are flashing during the summertime when there’s no school in session. Keep in mind that the yellow flashing lights are a warning system and not the law. The black and white posted signs are the LAW.

Join Me, Officer Rickey Antoine for Ask A Cop live on KSAP 96.9 FM The Breeze every Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. as we discuss in detail the newly released “Ask A Cop” article. You can also tune in via internet at ksapthebreeze.org. Call in your question live at 409-982-0247. Remember to email your questions to rantoine@portarthurpd.com, leave a voicemal at409-983-8673 or mail them to: Ofc. Rickey Antoine, 645 4th Street, Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you happen to see me in public, you can always approach and “Ask A Cop!”