DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas County Schools, the agency that runs the school buses transporting students to and from class, wants to create its own police force. The goal of the agency? To crack down on drivers running past stopped buses.
Driving past a bus with its lights flashing and stop-arm extended is a crime. But it’s become such a problem that the county bus system wants new technology and people to crack down on violators.
While motorists and parents say protecting children is paramount, officials with Dallas County Schools have evidence proving that attitude isn’t the case for all drivers.
Video taken during a pilot program shows 10 cars passing a school bus stopped for kids. The bus had its stop-arm extended.
In another video, a car not only doesn’t stop but blasts by at 50 mph.
In an earlier test, the agency reported 769 violations in a single day.
“The biggest risk we have is drivers who don’t stop for buses unloading, stopped with the stop-arm deployed,” explained Dallas County Schools Board President Larry Duncan. “There’s nothing more important than the safety of our kids.”
The issue hits close to home for some North Texans. Last year a car that went around a school bus killed a Kaufman County boy.
Dallas County schools is now installing video cameras to catch violating drivers in the act, identify their license plates, and issue a $300 fine — think of it like a red light camera.
But there’s a catch. In the case of school bus cameras in order to make a fine stick, the recording would have to be reviewed by a licensed police officer. So now the agency wants to create its own police force. If approved and funded, Dallas County Schools hopes to have a police chief and 12 officers, initially.
If successful, Duncan sees responsibilities expanding to criminal issues on buses, and even providing police assistance to smaller member school districts.
“Then it will grow as the need expands,” Duncan said.
Currently DCS has a fleet of 1650 buses. Those vehicles transport 60-percent of the 60,000 students attending school in the Dallas Independent School District.
There are agencies with their own certified police departments — hospitals, for example. In fact, the Dallas ISD has one of the larger police forces in all of Texas. But in order to form a county schools police force the City of Dallas would first need to pass an ordinance creating the civil penalty.
Duncan lobbied for just that on Monday. Drivers who talked to CBS 11 News had mixed feelings about the cameras.
“We’re in such a high-tech environment,” argued Rico Davis, “why don’t the police go there instead of the cameras?”
While Davis prefers having more officers on the streets, Sheila Coleman supports the proposal and said, “That would be a great idea. I would agree with that.”
Coleman told CBS 11 she warns her own children about being careful around school buses, even when the vehicle is stopped and lights are flashing. She tells them to, “Be aware because a lot of these drivers nowadays they don’t really pay attention.”
The Dallas County Schools plan hinges the creation of an ordinance and civil penalty – a topic the council will discuss in May. If it passes, Dallas County Schools may ask the same of the other municipalities that use their services.