This picture, posted on Reddit, has started a big discussion online about what police officers can and can't do behind the wheel in Austin.
The officer in the picture is on her phone in her patrol car. From the picture, you can't tell if she's moving or sitting still.
To be transparent, the sources we're using are Austin Police Department's Public Information Office, the City's Hands-Free Ordinance and A.P.D.'s Policy Manual.
First off, the city ordinance said the hands-free rule doesn't apply to authorized emergency personnel using a portable electronic device while acting in an official capacity.
Austin Police Information Officers tell KVUE that based on the picture alone, they can't confirm whether the officer in the picture is using the device in an official capacity. However, the Austin Police Department's policy manual establishes a preference for not using phones while driving.
Section 804.2(d) says that using a device while driving can cause unnecessary distractions and looks bad to the public, so officers are asked to limit use or stop to use them when possible.
While it's not prohibited, it is frowned upon.
It is Verified that if you see an Austin Police officer on the phone behind the wheel, it's not breaking the law, although it might be a violation of A.P.D. policy.
Austin Police keep track of officer-involved accidents. There have been 38 accidents involving distracted officers since January 2015. It should be noted, APD doesn't break down what was distracting the officers.
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