Riding the Roads with Texas State Troopers

Intern Jorge Hernandez served with Texas Highway Patrol in Conroe.
Intern Jorge Hernandez served with Texas Highway Patrol in Conroe.

As an intern with the Texas Department of Public Safety, Jorge Hernandez got to ride with state troopers on their daily patrols, which included traffic stops, drug seizures, accident scenes, local agency assistance, warrant service, suspect interviews – and even a SWAT standoff.

“The internship gave me insight into what troopers do on a daily basis,” said Hernandez. “It is not just traffic stops. They can come across anything.”

Hernandez was assigned to the Conroe East DPS Highway Patrol office, which covers a 200 mile region on the east side of Interstate 45 from The Woodlands to the Walker County line. Most of the time, the 10 troopers assigned to the unit patrol county and state roads, working the interstates mainly for interdictions.

Hernandez participated in the SWAT standoff at a local McDonald's.
Hernandez participated in the SWAT standoff at a local McDonald's.
One night, after assisting a woman with mental health issues along the interstate, Hernandez and a state trooper responded to a hostage standoff at a local McDonald’s where a suspect allegedly jumped through a drive-through window during a robbery attempt and was holding employees hostage. For four hours, Hernandez was among teams from DPS, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Oak Ridge and Conroe Police Departments, and Conroe Independent School District before the SWAT team stormed in, only to find the suspect had escaped.

”Regardless of what’s going on, there is a great sense of brotherhood,” said Hernandez. “You pull over if an officer needs help. You have each other’s back. You have to be able to work with federal, local, county and state agencies.”

Hernandez learned how to process fatal accident scenes.
Hernandez learned how to process fatal accident scenes.
During every step along the way, Hernandez said there was a lot to learn. He studied the various techniques that troopers used to approach traffic stops safely and got to see narcotics and paraphernalia firsthand. He watched the process used during the investigation of fatal accidents, including collecting information and statements, tracking the victim, and documenting the scene.

Hernandez also participated in a raid and an interview by a Texas Ranger with a suspect in a case involving aggravated sexual assault of a child. Fluent in Spanish and knowing French, Hernandez was assigned to listen to chatter by the residents of the home. He briefly served as an interpreter in the case as he listened to the chatter of the suspect until an official translator arrived.

In addition to patrol duties, Hernandez also worked twice a week at the DPS Driver License Division in Conroe, helping to guide those coming in for driver licenses. While his main assignment was crowd control, Hernandez became very adept at answering questions on costs, documents required, renewals or how to apply for a Texas license for first time applicants. He was also introduced to the Driver’s License Fraud Unit, a system that tracks license suspension, fines, missed court appearances and fraud cases. He learned that a six point facial recognition program is used for people trying to obtain licenses using different identities.

Photo of tanker rollover with large tow truck on scene to upright it.
This tanker rollover closed a highway exit ramp for nine hours.
During the three month internship, Hernandez was on scene for two fatal motor vehicle accidents and the rollover of an oil tanker. He saw his first dead bodies there, but quickly learned he could not take it to heart.

“It was graphic, but even now it doesn’t bother me,” Hernandez said. “It is one of the things that come with the job. I know I will see it hundreds of times over my career.”

The rollover closed the highway exit ramp for nine hours and required the off-loading of the hazardous material before three tow trucks were used to right the vehicle.

Texas Highway Patrol Division patch.During his time on patrol, he also got to experience drug and DWI arrests. It was the first time he had seen methamphetamines, along with the syringes and arm bands used to shoot it. He also learned how troopers detect drunk drivers by observing body movement, nervousness, stuttering and other clues and how to capture it all on video.

Hernandez said all his experiences reinforced his desire to become a Texas trooper. He is currently in the application process, hoping to go to the academy in January. He will graduate in December.

“I think the internship was a major part of my degree,” said Hernandez. “It gave me actual experience before I even graduated college. I gained a lot of knowledge and I know what to expect.”

For the DPS, the internship provides an opportunity to vet candidates better than through an application process.

“It gives us a chance to review the person and to see if they would be a good candidate for a state trooper,” said Sgt. Terry Barnhill (BS ’00) of Highway Patrol in Conroe. “It gives us the basis to see how he interacts and what kind of person he is.”

Sgt. Barnhill gave Hernandez high marks.

“He did an outstanding job. He had a positive attitude and came to work ready every day,” Sgt. Barnhill said. “If he keeps the same attitude, I believe he will be a great asset to the department. We are hoping to get him in the next academy class. “

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