HAMLIN, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Town of Hamlin seems to be divided following a simple traffic stop between Hamlin Police Department officer Joseph Benevides and local businessman Tucker Teague. Benevides’ mother and wife addressed city council about the incident during a public meeting last week. Now, that businessman gives his two cents.
As the account goes, Teague was pulled over for a minor infraction and admitted he reached out to a couple of councilmembers to complain. But, he said his infraction was not the reason, rather he had received multiple complaints from his employees at Teague Cattle that they had been subject to increased traffic stops recently.
“I never asked for the officer to be fired. I called the city councilmen and I asked them why my employees were being pulled over so much,” Teague told KTAB/KRBC.
Officer Benevides was never the subject of his complaint, Teagues said, and any threats of termination were not made at his behest. Instead, he expressed how disheartened he was to see the town so divided and choosing sides, adding he feels the entire situation was blown way out of proportion.
“There’s this rumor that I am above the law. I’m not above the law,” announced Teague. “If I did something wrong, pull me over, give me a ticket, take me to jail… I don’t want to do anything but make the town better, and this officer makes the town better. We just need to focus on what’s important.”
Teages told KTAB/KRBC his real issue is with the STEP program the city is enrolled in. STEP (Selective Traffic Enforcement Program) is a statewide offering by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Cities that opt in are able to give off duty officers overtime in which they monitor roadways and are paid by the state. During that time, they are required by state law to conduct 2-and-a-half warranted traffic stops per hour.
The program is intended to increase public knowledge of traffic laws and cut down on infractions by increasing enforcement at no cost to the city. The truth lies in the numbers.
Hamlin opted into STEP in October of 2022. At that time, police reports showed a sharp increase in warnings issued for minor violations. However, citations have remained the same and even decreased at times, as the program intended.
KTAB/KRBC also spoke with Hamlin Mayor Curtis Collins, who said no formal complaints have been lodged with the city or police department, but he’s noticed a rise in complaints online. The city council will be discussing whether or not to remain in the program at the next scheduled meeting on Monday, October 16.
As far as the drama at hand, Teague said he hopes to see a return to normalcy in Hamlin, urging his fellow residents to stop fighting in the comment section and communicate.
“I think the people of Hamlin need to stop fighting. It’s not about that. The bigger picture is that we’ve got a great community. This is a great place to live and the community can have concerns without it being a big fight,” added Teague.
If the Town of Hamlin does decide to opt out of STEP, Mayor Collins said the participating officers could lose out on as much as $100 per week in overtime pay.