Editor’s Note: This story was updated to correct misinformation in the COVID-19 section. The Burnet application for vaccine distribution hub status includes both Burnet and Marble Falls.
Racial profiling is not an issue in Burnet County police stops and the Burnet Community Center could become a COVID-19 vaccine hub if approved by the state, Burnet City Council members learned at a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 26.
The state of Texas requires police and law enforcement departments to collect specific data on traffic stops and submit it to state and local governing bodies. The information is used to determine if traffic stops are in line with city and county demographics for race and ethnicity, Chief Sid Fuller reported to the City Council.
In 2020, Burnet police officers made 3,006 traffic stops during which a warning, citation, or ticket was issued. These included traffic stops during which an arrest was made.
“The most telling statistic is this one: Officers must report if they know the race/ethnicity prior to making a stop,” Fuller said.
Based on the data, 96.7 percent of the time, Burnet police officers did not know the race or ethnicity of the people they pulled over for a traffic stop.
The figures further show that the percent of those stops in relation to the driver’s race or ethnicity falls in line with the makeup of the local community, Fuller said.
According to the report, 76.1 percent of all drivers stopped were white, 3.8 percent were Black, and 19 percent were Hispanic. Demographic studies show that 73 percent of Burnet residents are white, 2.2 percent are Black, and 20.8 percent are Hispanic. Asian/Pacific, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern, and other comprise the remaining 4 percent. Burnet County demographics closely mirror those percentages.
The chief also referred to state and national demographics, where the population’s ethnic and racial makeup shifts. About 41 percent of Texas is white, 13 percent is Black, and 40 percent is Hispanic. On the national level, the breakdown is 60 percent white, 13.4 percent Black, and 18.5 percent Hispanic.
Those comparisons are important, Fuller explained, because with U.S. 281, Texas 29, and other major roads flowing through and around Burnet, officers aren’t just pulling over Burnet residents.
No racial profiling complaints were made against officers in 2020, according Fuller’s review of the department’s internal affairs files.
In other business, the city of Burnet partnered with Ascension Seton Highland Lakes along with Burnet County to apply for hub status with the Texas Department of Health Services for hub status. Hubs are being set up around the state to deliver vaccines to as many people as possible in one day. The application includes the city of Marble Falls and Atkins Pharmacy as well. The goal is to get dual sites in Burnet County — one in Burnet and one in Marble Falls.
In preparation for the possibility of becoming a vaccination hub, the city is setting up a scheduling system and has identified the Burnet Community Center at 401 E. Jackson St. as a site.
The city hopes to hear back from the state this week. Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls received hub status as of Jan. 25 but has no vaccines yet. Llano County has also applied for hub status for Llano, Mason, and San Saba counties.
COVID-19 case numbers are on the rise again after a brief drop the week before, Burnet Fire Chief Mark Ingram told the City Council on Tuesday. He plans to inform residents about registering for vaccines via several means, including email, web, newspaper, and radio. The city could even utilize the reverse 9-1-1 system to notify residents about signing up for the vaccine, City Manager David Vaughn said.