Constable Mark Herman of Precinct 4 in Harris County, Texas, found himself the subject of a traffic stop by a Harris County Sheriff's deputy. In a video of the May 8 encounter, a traffic light is seen to turn red, but three vehicles proceed to turn left even after the light changed color. The last vehicle to turn left was being driven by Constable Herman, who was in uniform. In Texas, constables are elected to office, while deputies are appointed by county sheriffs. Herman was driving a black truck.
The video recorded him descending from the truck and then walking toward the patrol car. It is then that the deputy’s body camera recorded the conversation between the two officers. Herman told the deputy: "I'm trying to work."
Here follows an excerpt:
Deputy: I'm sorry what did you say, constable?
Herman: I said are you going to get out and approach my car or are we going to sit here all day?
Deputy: Well, I'm trying to safely conduct my traffic stop, sir. I'm going to run your plate, make sure your vehicle is not stolen. You know all that standard patrol procedures, right, constable?
Herman: No, I didn't know there was a standard, but I guess there is.
When Constable Herman said he had activated his strobe lights and was trying to work, the Harris County deputy continues with his procedure:
Deputy: I need your license please, and your proof of insurance.
Herman: Are you serious?
Deputy: You just ran a red light right in front of me! Herman: I didn't run a red light.
Deputy: It's on camera.
Herman: If I did, I certainly didn't mean to.
In the end, the deputy released the Constable with a warning, which is within the deputy's discretionary authority. When the deputy returned Herman's license, Herman could be heard on the video asking for a deputy from his office to come to the traffic stop on his police radio.
In a later statement, Herman said that he had been focused on a vehicle in front of him and thus did not realize he had run a red light until he viewed the video. Herman did not say why he was focused on the vehicle in front of him. He said that he has learned from the experience and will continue to fight crime in Precinct 4.
When Constable Herman contacted the sheriff's office and asked if the deputy wanted to issue a citation, the constable was told "no," and that the deputy had cleared the stop warning. The constable instead decided to issue himself a citation for running the red light. He later pled no contest and paid a fine.
In a statement, according to ABC 13 News, Herman declared that he did not want to be known as “the Constable who got away with running a red light... As constable I am not above the law and should be held accountable," he wrote in a statement.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.