An investigation into allegations against a Texas DPS trooper made by Sherita Dixon-Cole after a DWI arrest last Sunday were quickly dispelled early Wednesday. The department released almost two hours of body camera footage that showed the entire arrest, field sobriety test and booking at the Wayne McCollum Detention Center in Waxahachie.
The Daily Light reached out to the Waxahachie and Red Oak Police Departments to provide insight into what takes place during a traffic stop for driving while intoxicated or under the influence.
The initial stop of Cole took place at 1:32 a.m. Wednesday after a DPS trooper observed a Chevrolet Malibu traveling south on Interstate Highway 35E near U.S Highway 287 for a traffic violation.
Red Oak Police officer Matthew Pettit said before starting a traffic stop officers look at a variety of different factors of a driver’s behavior.
“The things that we look for are common traffic offenses like equipment issues to driving behavior. There are certain things that an intoxicated driver does more then a regular driver does," Pettit said. "A few things to name are stopping way before an intersection, disregarding traffic control devices, and failure to maintain lane.”
Petti noted all of these factors are put together to determine whether it is just a traffic violation or the person is possibly intoxicated.
In the body camera footage, the trooper asks Cole why she didn’t stop right away when he activated his emergency lights.
“I am trying to figure out where I am going and getting directions,” Cole said.
The trooper tells Cole that he takes priority and she should have pulled over instead of driving for another "three or four miles." The video shows the trooper asks Cole several questions. He enquires about where she is coming from, what she has been doing, how much alcohol she consumed, and where she was going.
Cole stated she had one drink at about 11 p.m. and had been in Dallas with friends, and was on her way to see her fiancé in Waxahachie.
Waxahachie Police Chief Wade Goolsby stated the answers help an officer determine the mental state of the driver. He noted officers look at the visual clues the driver displays like slurred speech and bloodshot eyes.
After asking for the license, the trooper shines a light in the backseat of the vehicle asking, “when did you go to the grocery store?” Cole responded, “Like 7’o clock today.” She adds, “I didn’t have time to get it (the groceries) out. I had to go out.”
Eight minutes into the traffic stop, the trooper sees several alcohol containers in the back seat. Cole tells the trooper she brought the alcohol from her house. A few minutes later the trooper asks her to step out of the vehicle.
Once out of the vehicle, the trooper asks Cole how much alcohol she had in her one drink. She holds up her thumb and index finger and states, “It was a glass this tall. It was weak.”
The trooper then tells Cole he is going to administer various field-sobriety tests. She responds by stating “OK.”
The trooper asked Cole to touch the blue penlight he held in front of her face with the right and then left index fingers. He then asked her to keep her head still, feet together, arms at her side, and to only track the blue penlight with her eyes.
In the video, Cole can be seen moving her head.
The final two test was the walk-and-turn test and sanding on one leg. In the walk-and-turn test, Cole was asked to take nine heel-to-toe steps, turn and then repeat. She was asked to keep her arms at her side.
The one-leg-stand test involved Cole holding one leg six inches in the air and counting until she was told to stop.
In each instance, the trooper explained what was involved and Cole acknowledged she understood the instructions.
Red Oak Police Lt. Joe Langham stated these are standardized field-sobriety tests, which means every agency does the test the same way. He noted that some of the tests used vary depending on the person. If a person is 65 years or older, officers cannot administer the one-leg-stand test.
Pettit added officers go through an eight-hour class in the academy and then Red Oak requires officers to go through another eight-hour course. Every two years Red Oak Officers are recertified. Officers have to pass by doing the steps 100-percent correctly.
Waxahachie officers go through containing education classes to keep their knowledge up to date.
Twenty-one minutes into the traffic stop, Cole was arrested.
“You are being arrested for driving while intoxicated,” the trooper said on camera. “I have formed the opinion that you have lost the normal use of your faculties through the interdiction of alcohol into your system.”
Goolsby stated all of the information gathered by the officer would determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe if that person is intoxicated.
“At that point, they will take them to the jail and either administer a breath test or obtain a blood sample so that can be sent off to the lab. If a driver refuses officers obtains a warrant," Goolsby explained.
The trooper then called for a wrecker to pick up the vehicle and inventoried its contents. A cup containing alcohol was found in the front cup holder.
During the process, Cole asked to contact her parents or to speak with her fiancée. The trooper stated he would let her call her fiancée. Minutes later the fiancée arrived on scene and Cole spoke with him directly.
Pettit added from the start of the traffic stop to completing paperwork takes around six to eight hours to complete.