Houston's highest paid cop has also been disciplined by the police department more often than just about anyone - 32 times over the course of his career, reported Steve McVicker in the Houston Chronicle ("Highest-paid HPD officer also racks up reprimands," April 30).
Senior Houston Police Officer William Lindsey, Jr. made more than $170,000 last year as a police officer, most of it from overtime clocked with that city's DUI unit. But in the past, HPD's internal affairs unit sustained complaints against Lindsey for "falsifying time sheets to reflect overtime he didn't work," as well as turning off his radio during the workday and failing to turn in marijuana seized from a suspect. Reported McVicker:
Only 13 of HPD's 4,760 officers have been involved in more than 23 complaints resulting in "sustained" allegations, according to department records through 2004.They almost certainly do - I've not done the research for Houston, but under Austin PDs interpretation of the same civil service rules, information about fuly 2/3 of sustained complaints against officers remain secret. (That's a big reason why I support Prop 1 on Austin's May 13 ballot - it opens up records about the other 2/3 to public scrutiny, just like at hundreds of other Texas law enforcement agencies.) So there's a very good chance Lindsey had more complaints sustained than 32 - perhaps quite a few more.
Internal affairs sustains an allegation after investigating and finding merit in complaints that come from the public and from within the department. The chief then decides discipline.
The complaints against Lindsey include verbally abusing citizens, falsifying time sheets to reflect overtime he didn't work and refusing to report for duty, according to documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle through the Texas Open Records Act. His punishment has ranged from being ordered to undergo counseling to being suspended for 15 days without pay. In nine of the complaints, Lindsey's discipline included unpaid leave.
But since the Texas attorney general ruled in 2000 that law enforcement agencies do not have to publicly reveal disciplinary action against an officer that resulted only in a written or oral reprimand, the number of sustained allegations against Lindsey could total more than 32.
It was interesting to me that the only law enforcement officers the paper could find who thought 32 sustained complaints was over the top wouldn't speak on the record - that blue wall of silence, it appears, is still working overtime. Reported McVicker:
several law enforcement officials contacted by the paper expressed surprise that a police officer with Lindsey's record was able to keep his job.That tells you how strong is the taboo among officers against criticizing one another - why be embarrassed about appearing critical of this guy? Only 13 officers out of nearly 5,000 in Houston have more than 23 sustained complaints - the number of officers conistently causing problems, as in many departments, really is relatively small. The bigger problem is that good cops won't muster the courage to speak out when their compromised brethren misbehave, and police administrators are hamstrung by state law when they go to discipline the worst offenders.
"I'm shocked," said the head of an internal affairs division for one Texas law enforcement agency, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisals by his employer. "If the internal affairs file of an officer has 32 sustained cases, something's wrong with (that department's) system if he's still employed."
Other law enforcement officials who expressed similar sentiments also asked not to be named.
I'd hope somebody from HPD Internal Affairs is triplechecking Officer Lindsey's overtime sheets from last year to ensure they're on the up and up, since he has a confirmed record of fudging them in the past.
Thanks to Bill for the email tip.