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  • Writer's pictureBrian Foley

Houston Criminal Defense Attorneys - Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 2.13 - Railroad Police

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney - Brian Foley - Board Certified in Criminal Law


What is a railroad peace officer? I remember reading this code section as a new attorney and thinking, "Man I haven't ever seen one of these . . . would they drive a train with red and blue lights on it?"


The history of law enforcement in Texas during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was marked by the presence of two distinct groups of officers: Texas Railroad peace officers and Pinkerton men. Both of these groups played important roles in maintaining order and enforcing the law in a rapidly growing and often chaotic state.


Texas Railroad peace officers were hired by the state's various railroads to protect their property and enforce laws along the tracks. These officers were given broad powers to make arrests, carry weapons, and detain suspected criminals. Many Texas Railroad peace officers were former lawmen or soldiers, and they quickly established a reputation for being tough and effective.



The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was a private security firm that was founded in the 1850s. The Pinkerton men were hired by businesses, individuals, and governments to investigate crimes and provide security. In Texas, Pinkerton men were often hired to protect large estates, escort valuable shipments, and investigate train robberies. They were also employed to help quell labor unrest, and Pinkerton men were sometimes used to spy on union organizers and workers.


a railroad peace officer may make arrests and exercise all authority given peace officers under this code when necessary to prevent or abate the commission of an offense involving injury to passengers and employees of the railroad or damage to railroad property or to protect railroad property or property in the custody or control of the railroad.

Both Texas Railroad peace officers and Pinkerton men faced challenges in their work. Railroad peace officers were often targeted by outlaws and bandits, and many were killed in the line of duty. Pinkerton men, meanwhile, faced criticism for their heavy-handed tactics and the perception that they were hired to undermine the rights of workers and labor unions.


Despite these challenges, both groups played important roles in maintaining order and enforcing the law in Texas during a time of rapid growth and change. Today, their legacy is remembered as a crucial part of the state's history, and their contributions to law enforcement are still acknowledged and respected.


Art. 2.121. RAILROAD PEACE OFFICERS. (a) The director of the Department of Public Safety may appoint up to 250 railroad peace officers who are employed by a railroad company to aid law enforcement agencies in the protection of railroad property and the protection of the persons and property of railroad passengers and employees. (b) Except as provided by Subsection (c) of this article, a railroad peace officer may make arrests and exercise all authority given peace officers under this code when necessary to prevent or abate the commission of an offense involving injury to passengers and employees of the railroad or damage to railroad property or to protect railroad property or property in the custody or control of the railroad. (c) A railroad peace officer may not issue a traffic citation for a violation of Chapter 521, Transportation Code, or Subtitle C, Title 7, Transportation Code. (d) A railroad peace officer is not entitled to state benefits normally provided by the state to a peace officer. (e) A person may not serve as a railroad peace officer for a railroad company unless: (1) the Texas Railroad Association submits the person's application for appointment and certification as a railroad peace officer to the director of the Department of Public Safety and to the executive director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement; (2) the director of the department issues the person a certificate of authority to act as a railroad peace officer; and (3) the executive director of the commission determines that the person meets minimum standards required of peace officers by the commission relating to competence, reliability, education, training, morality, and physical and mental health and issues the person a license as a railroad peace officer; and (4) the person has met all standards for certification as a peace officer by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. (f) For good cause, the director of the department may revoke a certificate of authority issued under this article and the executive director of the commission may revoke a license issued under this article. Termination of employment with a railroad company, or the revocation of a railroad peace officer license, shall constitute an automatic revocation of a certificate of authority to act as a railroad peace officer. (g) A railroad company is liable for any act or omission by a person serving as a railroad peace officer for the company that is within the person's scope of employment. Neither the state nor any political subdivision or agency of the state shall be liable for any act or omission by a person appointed as a railroad peace officer. All expenses incurred by the granting or revocation of a certificate of authority to act as a railroad peace officer shall be paid by the employing railroad company. (h) A railroad peace officer who is a member of a railroad craft may not perform the duties of a member of any other railroad craft during a strike or labor dispute. (i) The director of the department and the executive director of the commission shall have the authority to promulgate rules necessary for the effective administration and performance of the duties and responsibilities delegated to them by this article. Added by Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 531, Sec. 1, eff. June 12, 1985. Subsec. (c) amended by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 62, Sec. 3.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1999.


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