Austin: Where Crossing the Street Can Get You Cuffed and Detained

The above video shows Austin Police arresting jogger Amand Jo Stephen for jaywalking. It has been viewed more than 350,000 times since it was uploaded to YouTube last Thursday.

A 25-year-old jogger was arrested in an Austin Police sting on jaywalkers. Image: KXAN Austin
25-year-old jogger Amanda Jo Stephen was arrested in an Austin Police sting on jaywalkers. Image: KXAN Austin

Stephen, 25, was arrested after she failed to produce identification, police say. She was handcuffed and pushed into a police car screaming, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

The incident is raising questions about the Austin police’s ongoing pedestrian “sting.” A local news station reported Friday that the crackdown was planned to continue for weeks, despite the outcry over Stephen’s treatment.

“As a student and a mother, I feel like there are a lot of other issues in West Campus the police could be dealing with as opposed to jaywalking,” local Allie Westbrook told the news station.

Austin police chief Art Acevedo scored another PR coup by saying that Stephen’s treatment was no big deal because, unlike in other cities, his cops don’t sexually assault detainees.

Meanwhile, police in other cities are taking a more productive approach to traffic enforcement. Miami cops recently conducted an operation in which they handed out 73 summonses to drivers failing to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at a single intersection.

  • Rob

    Until every dangerous driver has been ticketed and/or arrested, police should leave pedestrians alone. Driver v. pedestrian accidents are outrageously asymmetrical.

    Pedestrians occasionally jaywalk to get where they are going, and this has been classified as a crime in some places. Meanwhile, cars cross sidewalks BY DESIGN at every driveway.

    BTW, this video of Austin police aggressively manhandling Amand Jo Stephen is reminiscent of the incident that launched Antonio Buehler’s police video activism:

  • Wow. What a travesty. Jaywalking as a term is so pejorative it should be banned. People in a city need to cross the flippin’ street, and not at the mercy of “Level of Service” for motorists.

    Back about four years ago I was offered a job at UT Austin and we spent a few days house hunting down there, as I was pretty serious about the move. First thing that really rattled my cage was the awful traffic in Austin. Given that my main commuter vehicle is a bicycle, I was not impressed with Austin’s traffic situation and urban sprawl. Homes near campus, i.e., five to seven miles riding distance or less, were few and quite pricey. Plus, the property taxes were sky high.

    My wife, staying at a B&B near the campus, decided to walk to the Whole Foods store to get a feel for what life would be like living in Austin, once you got outside the quiet little enclave where we were staying. A couple blocks from where she crossed the street, a pedestrian was hit and killed. My wife heard the sirens, and we read about it later.

    Not idyllic. Great campus, great academic department, but you have to want to live there, too.

  • Is it illegal in Texas to jog/walk/leave the house without carrying identification?

  • allisondan

    It is not illegal anywhere to walk without identification. We still live in a free country, Austin police behavior to the contrary. The ACLU guide Know Your Rights: What to Do If You’re Stopped by Police, Immigration Agents, or the FBI is useful reading.

  • I guess it is illegal to “refuse to identify yourself” when asked by police. That’s what they say.

  • allisondan

    It is illegal to refuse to identify yourself, if asked, but you do not need to produce identification. If the post is correct that she “was arrested after she failed to produce identification”, the police violated her civil rights and her arrest is invalid. Of course the desired harassment of pedestrians has already been accomplished.

  • Here is another reference, based on the so-called Terry Stop (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 1968), and Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, Humbolt County

    http://www.policeone.com/columnists/lom/articles/120321-Stop-Identify-Can-an-officer-arrest-a-suspect-for-failing-to-provide-ID/

    I guess my question would be did the jogger refuse to identify herself, or refuse to provide ID if she did not have it? Fortunately, this happened in Austin, and I am sure there is a good ACLU chapter down there. Thankfully.

    Khal Spencer
    Card-carrying ACLU member

  • I don’t advocate carrying ID just to please some overzealous cops. But its not a bad idea to carry ID for your own good if you are out running, biking, etc. just in case you have an accident and someone needs to know who you are.

    Several years ago, a fellow cyclist at LANL was hit from behind on a 55 mph Dept. of Energy highway when a motorist drifted off the road (motorist eventually pled guilty to careless driving, in case one is wondering). The problem was the cyclist didn’t have any ID on him. It took us almost an hour after I got to the accident scene (I’m chair of the Laboratory traffic safety committee) to figure out who he was, based on the bicycle description and a semiconscious half-name he told to one of the first responders before he was put on a medical evacuation helicopter to the Albuquerque ICU. We managed to contact his wife but it wasn’t easy.

    Cyclist is OK, too. Amazing story. He had a big Camelbak on his back full of water for an endurance ride. It acted like a giant air bag when it exploded, and it saved his life. I should tell the cyclist that he should sell that story to Camelback.

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