508 – Bias-Based Profiling

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I. Purpose

It is the purpose of this policy to affirm the Harris County Sheriff’s Office commitment to bias-free policing in all its encounters between an employee and citizens. Reinforce procedures that serve to assure public confidence and mutual trust through service and enforcing laws in a fair and equitable manner.

II. Definitions

Bias-based Profiling: The selection of persons based solely on a trait common to a group for enforcement action. This includes, but is not limited to: race, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, cultural group, or any other identifiable group.

Enforcement Activities: Activities both on- and off-duty undertaken by HCSO personnel that arise from their authority related to employment, oath of office, state statute, federal law, or county ordinance; activities such as: traffic contacts, field contacts, arrests, investigations, asset seizure and forfeiture, and general law enforcement contact with citizens.

Reasonable Suspicion: A set of explainable facts and circumstances which lead a peace officer, in the light of their experience, to conclude that a person possibly is involved in past, present, or future criminal activity. Reasonable suspicion is the basis of temporary detention in making a “Terry Stop.” [Terry v Ohio 392 U.S. 1 (1968)]

III. Policy

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is committed to unbiased law enforcement practices. This agency does not condone nor tolerate any bias-based or racial profiling in its law enforcement activities. This policy describes procedures that maintain public confidence and mutual trust through fair and equitable law enforcement services.

IV. Procedure

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office encourages its office to proactively patrol their assigned districts to investigate suspicious persons and circumstances, and to actively enforce the motor vehicle laws, while insisting that citizens will only be stopped and detained when reasonable suspicion exists to believe that they have committed, are committing, or are about to commit a violation of the law.

A. Employees will conduct traffic stops in a professional manner.

B. All investigative detentions, vehicle stops, arrest, searches and seizures of property, and forfeiture of assets will be based on reasonable suspicion and probable cause.

C. Employees will not consider a person’s gender, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, ethnicity, national origin, or other personal characteristics or any combination of such characteristics in determining probable cause for an arrest or reasonable suspicion for a stop unless such characteristics are part of a physical description provided by a credible witness and such description in the context of the totality of the circumstances warrant the arrest or stop.

D. When enforcement action is taken as a result of a traffic stop in which a ticket, citation, written or verbal warnings are issued and an arrest is made as a result of those stops, collection of the following information is required: [CCP Article 2.132 b (6)]

1. The race or ethnicity of the individual detained;

2. Whether a search was conducted and, if so, whether the individual detained consented to the search;

3. Whether the peace officer knew the race or ethnicity of the individual detained before detaining that individual;

4. Whether the peace officer used physical force that resulted in bodily injury, as the term is defined by Penal Code Section 1.07 during the stop;

5. The location of the stop; and

6. The reason for the stop.

E. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office requires the collection of data for pedestrian stops, which is defined as an interaction between a peace officer and an individual who is being detained for the purpose of a criminal investigation in which the individual is not under arrest.

1. A pedestrian stop is self-initiated (on view) by the deputy based only upon reasonable suspicion,

2. No offense is clearly evident at the time of the stop.

3. Pedestrian stops do not apply to citizens stopped during a dispatched call or offenses committed in the presence of the deputy.

V. Complaints and Investigations

A. Any citizen who feels they have been stopped, detained, or searched based on bias-based profiling may file a complaint with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Division.

B. Employees will provide public education related to the agency’s compliment and complaint process, including providing the telephone number, mailing address, and e-mail address to make a compliment or complaint with respect to each ticket, citation, or warning issued by a peace officer. [Code of Criminal Procedures Article 2.132 (4)]

Note: The contact information is provided on the citation. If no citation was issued, the citizen must be provided a SBA Card detailing the procedures for filing such complaint.

C. The Internal Affairs Division is responsible for ensuring all complaints of bias-based profiling are appropriately handled and investigated.

D. All complaints of bias-based profiling, upon conclusion, will be forwarded to the Sheriff and will contain findings, suggestions for disciplinary action, or changes in policy, training, or tactics.

VI. Supervisor Responsibilities

A. Traffic enforcement will be accompanied by consistent, ongoing supervisory oversight to ensure officers do not go beyond the parameters of reasonableness in conducting such activities.

B. Watch Commanders will randomly review the mobile video/audio recording tapes of each of their subordinates with the intent to determine compliance with this and other applicable policies. At a minimum, one review per officer per quarter will be conducted.

C. Summary reports on these reviews will be completed on a quarterly basis and submitted to the Division Commander for review. This report will include:

1. An existence or absence of racial or bias-based profiling

2. Examination of the disposition of the traffic stop, including searches resulting from the stop

3. Any violation of department policy or standard operating procedures

4. Information relating to each complaint filed with the agency alleging racial profiling.

VII. Reporting Procedures

A. The Division Commander will produce a quarterly report of the in-car digital video recordings documenting the findings and making recommendations from the review to the Bureau Commander. This report will include but not limited to:

1. Finding of Watch Commanders;

2. Remedial training;

3. Counseling;

4. Referrals to employee assistance program;

5. Citizens’ concerns or complaints; and

6. Referrals to Internal Affairs.

B. Bureau Commanders shall review the quarterly reports and forward to the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

C. A yearly analysis will be conducted by the Crime Analysis Unit to determine compliance and submitted to the Sheriff for his review by January 31 of each year. The analysis will include:

1. An existence or absence of racial or bias-based profiling;

2. An examination of the disposition of traffic stops, including searches resulting from the stop and whether the search was consensual or nonconsensual;

3. Information related to each complaint received by the Internal Affairs Division alleging racial profiling;

4. Disposition of those citizens’ complaints;

5. Breakdown of citations by race or ethnicity; and

6. Any corrective actions taken, to include training.

D. The Sheriff will submit an annual report of the collected data from the previous year to Commissioners Court. This annual report will not include information that is specific to the identity of the deputies or the citizens involved.

E. The Sheriff must submit an annual report of the racial profiling data to the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement (TCOLE). [Texas Code of Criminal Procedures Article 2.132 (6)]

VIII. Training

A. The Professional Development and Standards Bureau will ensure all employees are trained on racial profiling issues as determined appropriate by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE).

B. This required training will include:

1. Annual legal update training;

2. Cultural diversity;

3. De-escalation (ICAT); and

4. Other related training as established by TCOLE.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009  December 27, 2021

November 18, 2009

March 9, 2012

October 9, 2012

February 7, 2021

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