Monday, August 18, 2008

TCLEOSE needs more power to investigate police corruption

The Sunset Commission and the Texas Legislature should take to heart two recommendations from the agency staff report (pdf) the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) to improve police accountability and oversight statewide.

First, TCLEOSE asked for its investigators' authority to be expanded (p. 84):
Peace officers of TCLEOSE are empowered to investigate and enforce violations of the Occupations Code 1701, but no other provisions of the Penal Code, which includes such violations as official misconduct, and impersonating a peace officer. ...

Limiting TCLEOSE investigators to violations of 1701 means that, when TCLEOSE investigators discover penal code violations, violations of the Private Security Act 1702, or any other violations of the law other than violation of 1701, TCLEOSE investigators must solicit and obtain timely cooperation from a fully empowered peace officer. Many peace officers find these requests from TCLEOSE troublesome because they have their own priorities and demands, and some do not like the idea of investigating fellow officers. Regardless of the reasons, TCLEOSE investigations and investigators are left with the task of convincing other officers of the importance of investigating their own profession.
It's surely absurd that investigators at the state peace officers' licensing agency cannot look into criminal allegations themselves but must rely on "convincing other officers of the importance of investigating their own profession." Indeed, it's precisely because local cops "do not like the idea of investigating fellow officers," which after all is a pretty common phenomenon, that TCLEOSE investigators should be empowered more broadly.

Similarly, I was encouraged by TCLEOSE's suggestion that the Legislature should create an "integrity unit" to investigate police misconduct in Texas (p. 87):
Because the State of Texas licenses peace officers and jailers, many Texans are of the impression that the state investigates complaints of integrity and alleged wrongdoing. When they look at the state government, they often call, write, or e-mail TCLEOSE with their allegations. If it is an allegation for which we have jurisdiction, i.e., for potential violations of the OC Section 1701, then we investigate, determine the validity, and provide feedback to the complainant. If we do not have jurisdiction, we refer the matter to other agencies such as a local district attorney, a sheriff’s department, a local police department, the DPS rangers, etc. Unfortunately, we find that many of the complainants have already spoken to local authorities and were dissatisfied or found themselves ignored. Perhaps Texas should have an “umbrella” integrity unit at the state level to investigate allegations of police corruption.
I think both these suggestions are good ideas. In an era when revelations about police corruption related to drug crime and Mexican cartels have become a weekly occurrence in Texas, it's time for the state to address the problem of police corruption more directly. Not only would doing so reduce crime overall, if Texas doesn't take this steer by the horns IMO it will be impossible to ever seriously threaten the operation of multinational drug cartels. I recently saw a new law review article making the same point about corruption while arguing for prosecution of so-called police "testilying," arguing that:
the collateral benefits of such increased policing of the police far outweigh the drawbacks. In fact, increased policing of the police would not only have the collateral consequence of reducing crime across the board. It would also benefit the police themselves by leading to safer and better policing.
Let's hope the the Legislature accepts these two TCLEOSE recommendations and beefs up the agency's authority to investigate police corruption in 2009. One imagines the police unions will fight the idea (as they have in the past), but it's really in their interest to clean up the profession - the vast majority of good officers out there don't benefit from protecting bad cops.

11 comments:

Paul-UK said...

Interesting to note this article. When the Independant Police Complaints Commission was set up over here in the UK a significant part of the investigaions in which actions were taken was for police NOT doing thier jobs.

http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/

Anonymous said...

Yes, TCLEOSE definitely needs to investigate misconduct. I was recently the victim of an assault by a DA's office investigator and was then charged with assaulting him and he filed a false affidavit. The DA knew about it because he was a witness the inicident. I suspect he probably told the investigator to falsify the affidavit and file the bogus charge. Since the DA is the investigator's boss who do I complain to?

Don Dickson said...

TCLEOSE might become a useful place for officers' complaints about their own supervisors to get the attention they deserve. At DPS, such complaints are routinely ignored or referred to "mediation" where an officer gets surrounded by a "mediator" and his entire chain of command and is given an opportunity to discuss "his problem."

TxBluesMan said...

Probably surprising no one, I think the police unions are correct...

Anonymous said...

This is off the subject, but I would respectfully ask this question. A friend of mine is a state trooper, and at various times he has mentioned that he works quite a bit of overtime, but is given comp time instead. He has at other times mentioned that he lost comp time because the duty station was short handed, and he could not take off. Does this mean that he worked for free and is this legal for the state to do? The trooper does not complain because that is the way it is, but it does not seem fair. Any help out there? Thanks.

Atticus said...

TCLEOSE failed miserably in advising the Tulia S/O and other agencies by giving a clean report on Tom Coleman. And yet they seemingly have no accountability. Who supervises TCLEOSE might be the better question.

Don Dickson said...

To 8/19 Anon....yes, that happens with great regularity at the understaffed DPS. I spoke with a Trooper last week who lost almost two weeks of paid time off because for five months in a row he requested the opportunity to use it, and was denied.

When that poor fellow was working a 12-hour shift to have even ONE person guarding the Governor's Mansion, I tried very hard to make sure the public didn't think he was getting paid time-and-a-half. In fact, he was probably literally a volunteer.

Anonymous said...

don dickson - Thank you for the response. Is there anything that Texas citizens can do to correct this problem? Would it do any good to petition a state legislator? We Texans want qualified folks to continue to aspire to be State Troopers don't we? Thank you.

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Anonymous said...

I also have a huge problem with the TCLOSE. I contacted them, concerning the suspicious death of my son, Joshua, who was found dead in Amsler Park/McGregor, Tx on Feb. 16, 2006.
McGregor PD did not investigate, telling me, "We don't begin an investigation until something suspicious is found."
The PD would not answer my pertinent questions, except one, and even then, I rec'd 2 different answers from 2 different chiefs.
I have reached out to every local/state/federal entity to get justice for my son, but because I am 99% certain that the police murdered my son, I can't get any responses.
www.americaiswatching.org (Joshua Robinson) Attached documents, including a petition.

Anonymous said...

Are some police officers involved in car insurance fraud? This happened to me, but course the police won't help! I am shocked how corrupt is the police force at the San Antonio and its areas,
unbelievable, I heard stories of how been victimized, abused and intimidated by police officers. My question is time to all get together and find help.