Beyond Bars: Police Department Tour

Jessica Cuevas

There was no better way to kick off our newest LEAP Program, Beyond Bars, than with a back-stage tour of the Huntsville Police Department led by Corporal David Warner. Starting us off was Lieutenant Curt Landrum, who told us the stories behind the artifacts, photos, and mementos that can be found in the waiting area. These included photos of all the chiefs, equipment from back in the day, and the “honorary” shovel used for the groundbreaking.

We also learned more about the building itself, and the interesting features of the structure. These included but were not limited to bullet-resistant glass, interview rooms, a gym, a locker room and showers, and a relay room. All of these have proven to be helpful and beneficial for various reasons such as security, privacy, and in the case of an emergency or a court hearing for those that drive in for a shift accommodation.

We had the opportunity to see the officers’ offices, computer spaces, and interview rooms. In a bullpen area with lots of open space and computers, we met a rookie who was enjoying (or not) filling out paperwork.

The coolest thing in this room was the computer screen that informs everyone where each patrol officer is, whether they are on a call, and if so, how long they have been on the call and the nature of the call. Interestingly, one officer had been called to the State Park to address “six teenagers taunting an alligator,” a crime-in-progress that we did not expect to see.

Before eating dinner, we had the opportunity to see the evidence room, and a joke was made that I would likely fit in one of the evidence lockers because of my small stature, haha.

We also learned a bit of Huntsville trivia. Did you know that on April 15, 2021, one officer gave 99 citations in a single shift? It was the most tickets ever imposed in the City’s history, at least as far as known, and it was done by a motorcycle officer.

As the tour came to an end, we had the opportunity to dine in the Police Department’s lounge area with Corporal Warner, and little did we know of the activity that was awaiting us. On the menu, were delicious tacos al carbon: beef, chicken, pork, or shrimp, and or a choice of vegetarian, cheese, or pork pupusas from the local Salvadorian Restaurant, Carbonero’s.

Corporal Warner provided us with a demonstration of what is done during a sobriety test. In particular, he spun us around and then conducted a “nystagmus” test, which is one of the key indicators of sobriety or the lack thereof. Jazmin Palacios, a Ph.D. student at SHSU, was voluntold to participate, and she not only did this test, but also wore the “drunk goggles” provided while doing a field sobriety test.

Corporal Warner instructed her to take nine steps and walk in a straight line, with each step she took she had to keep her hands by her side and walk heel to toe while counting out loud. It was slightly amusing to watch, but it is less fun when you are the one doing the test! Morgan also got lucky and was asked to do a one-leg test, where she had to count to ten out loud while keeping her leg raised up about an inch from the floor. Somehow, she managed to successfully complete this task.

As the night came to an end, the officer who had been sent to the State Park returned, and inquiring minds wanted to know: what happened to the alligator-taunting teenagers? As it turned out, “there were no alligators, no teenagers, and no witnesses.” Some of us may have been disappointed in the way that turned out.

It was a fun and educational night, everyone had the opportunity to wear the goggles and experience what it is like to be on both sides of the law. Many thanks to Corporal Warner and to the entire police department for helping to keep our community safe.

The LEAP Center would like to thank the Annette Strauss Institute for Public Life and their “Texas Civic Ambassadors Program” for assisting with the costs of the program.

Real Law in a Simulated Context

The LEAP Center typically invites Professor Val Ricks from the South Texas College of Law–Houston to campus in the spring, but we made it a fall event this year. And so it was that, last week, Professor Ricks spoke to 35 SHSU pre-law students who signed up for an educational event–without extra credit, a class assignment, or give-away prizes.

They came because they wanted to learn, and they were willing to do some dense reading beforehand. The reading involved a contract, and this was no accident. Professor Ricks is one of the leading experts in the country on contract law; in fact, some of our alumni who have gone on to law school have informed us that they were assigned his book in their classes!

Professor Ricks began the course by informing us of his goals for this and any class that he teaches: (1) Get the words of the law – law is words, (2) Set the words out in a workable way, (3) Practice applying them, and (4) Consider what is “right” – the law is a moral exercise.

He went about this through the Socratic method since everyone loves being called on and questioned until they cannot answer. At least, we will have to if we plan on practicing the law, especially, in the courtroom. Through his random number generator, he called on those people to answer his questions regarding the G.D. Holdings, INC v H.D.H. Land & Timber, L.P., 407 S.W.3d 856, 2013, after delivering the facts and procedures of this case.

Many of us believed we were prepared but we did not know what to expect, so were we really prepared for Professor Ricks to hit us with questions like, What is the legal issue being addressed? How did you draw this conclusion? What is the ruling of the Court? A few of us addressed this question with the trial court’s ruling which led Professor Ricks to ask us, Where did you read that? Why do you think that is the final ruling? In these instances he let us help each other out when the person he called on was stuck, which we later learned that in an actual law class he would have picked that individual’s brain until they provided the answer he was looking for.

We continued this process as we provided evidence that we thought best fit or would prove the three different clauses of Promissory Estoppel- the legal issue of the case – (a) a promise, (b)foreseeability of reliance by the promissor, and (c) substantial reliance by the promisee to his detriment. It was at this moment, that we felt the high pressure that lawyers feel in a courtroom the most. With us acting as lawyers and Professor Ricks as a judge, who questioned us to help fill in the gaps in the story and understand what we were thinking. This proved to be a lot harder than we thought since proving that a promise, the first part of Promissory Estoppel, had been made was difficult and some of us soon learned that in this context a promise was defined as a commitment.

Following the class, most of us were more certain than ever that we wanted to attend law school. This was a sentiment Professor Ricks encouraged, as we learned when he stayed after to encourage us, answer questions, and take photos.