Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Will DPS get a "law enforcement integrity unit"?

State Sen. John Carona has thrown down the gauntlet on law enforcement malfeasance, filing SB 388 which would establish a new "integrity unit" at the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate police corruption.

I've been complaining about Gov. Perry's pork-barrel border security program, mostly because it failed to do exactly what Sen. Carona aims to accomplish with SB 388: Focus first on reducing police corruption instead of throwing good money after bad, including sometimes giving it to people who are themselves working for the drug cartels.

One also notes the popularizing and broadening of the term "integrity unit," which to my knowledge finds its origins in Dallas County DA Craig Watkins' "Conviction Integrity Unit," before the Court of Criminal Appeals created its own "Integrity Unit" as essentially a study group. Now we see a third, still different manifestation of the term. Apparently "integrity" is lacking at many different points throughout the system for this term to catch on so readily in so many different venues.

What exactly the new unit would do, though, and how investigations would be initiated, remains a bit of a mystery to me. The unit would "assist" prosecutors and other agencies in investigation and prosecution of police corruption and serve as a "clearinghouse," but would not (as far as I can tell) inititiate investigations itself. (See the bill language.)

Nor is there a specific prosecution arm - no new unit at the Attorney General, for example - to whom investigators might even take cases. As the legislation is written, the unit would be relegated to assisting agencies when asked, which seems to ignore the fact that agencies which most need investigating might never solicit their services.

Still, this is a much needed and welcome development for which Sen. Carona deserves much credit. I don't see a lot of people from either party stepping up to take on law enforcement corruption head on. I'm hopeful that, if his proposal makes it through, lawmakers will give the new unit enough teeth to make it worthwhile.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rather than call it "police corruption", why don't they call it "criminal justice corruption". Don't leave out prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers and judges who are corrupt.

Oh well, I guess it's the popo in general the legislature has a disdain for anyway.

Anonymous said...

More financial burden on taxpayers.

Public corruption investigations are what the Rangers and Special Crimes Unit do. And don't forget the FBI.

No, a DPS law enforcement integrity unit is not needed. The Rangers and SCU do not have to be solicited or invited to investigate public corruption. That's their job.

Anonymous said...

"Focus first on reducing police corruption instead of throwing good money after bad, including sometimes giving it to people who are themselves working for the drug cartels."


So according to your statement, should we give DPS more money to fund a law enforcment integrity unit when one of their own, who was recently arrested, was working for an organized drug group?



Texas DPS Trooper Arrested with Suitcases of Cocaine
Nov 25, 2008 Public Corruption, Smugglers Brew



BROWNSVILLE, Texas - A state trooper has been charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine after police said they saw him accept two suitcases full of the drug in a parking lot.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement that Department of Public Safety Trooper Jesus Rafael Larrazolo, 35, made his first appearance in federal court Monday. DPS spokeswoman Lisa Block said Larrazolo resigned shortly after his arrest Friday.

Brownsville police and agents from the FBI’s Special Investigations Unit saw Larrazolo pull into a Best Buy parking lot next to another vehicle, then take two suitcases from it. Larrazolo was dressed in street clothes, but identified himself as a trooper when police approached. He was carrying a gun.

There were 26 kilograms of cocaine in the suitcases. According to court records, Larrazolo told a Texas Ranger after his arrest that he had been forced by threats to pick up the drugs.

Block said Larrazolo joined the department in October 2002 and was working as a commercial vehicle enforcement officer in Cameron County. The FBI is investigating the case.

It was not immediately clear from court records if Larrazolo had an attorney.

kaptinemo said...

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Indeed; who shall 'guard the guardians' when the temptation of drug prohibition-sired corruption is so great anyone could be turned with sufficient pressures (as in 'plata o plomo').

If anyone thinks that the present system can be maintained with only a "leetle more tweakin'" or a few 'integrity boards' here or there will end the corruption, they should lay off the booze, it destroys brain cells. So long as some drugs remains illegal, the incentive for corruption will exist. Always has, always will.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Aw, man ... these responses from police were as predictable as the sunrise. Y'all aren't even trying to come up with new arguments. Let's take them in order.

To 11:15 - Please cite a single example demonstrating the Lege has "disdain" for police. The fact is the Lege panders to the "popo," to use your phrase, and anyone who claims differently a) isn't paying attention and b) has never looked at the state civil service code for police, where, for example, departments are DISALLOWED from considering past misconduct when deciding promotions, among many other provisions that protect bad cops. The Lege has passed many laws that protect bad cops and contributed significantly to the corruption problem - it's outright silly to claim otherwise.

RE: "More financial burden on taxpayers." This will cost far less than Gov. Perry's border grant boondoggle and will do more to solve the problem. This by far is a much more cost efficient strategy than current strategies.

There's more work than the FBI can do, and the Rangers are not the right entity to hold other law enforcement accountable - they're too cozy with local agencies for a variety of historical reasons and neither they nor Special Crimes are specifically focused on this problem.

To 11:39, you misunderstand me entirely. I'm saying resources should go FIRST to investigating corruption. Just because DPS had a corrupt trooper doesn't mean that resources devoted toward investigating corruption won't be beneficial. My point was that the Governor put the cart before the horse, throwing money at agencies without first spending resources to make sure they weren't in cahoots with the bad guys.

Y'all are pretty defensive on this subject - perhaps even protesting just a tad too much, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Grits,

I'm not defensive. All, not just the popo, corrupt officials should be prosecuted. I want it cleaned up too but this integrity unit is not the answer!

An integrity unit will not solve the problem and certainly if investigations are by invitation only. Local prosecutors egos won't allow them to invite the AG's office in either.

Do you know how many licensed peace officers there are in the state? Check with TCLEOSE and see how many licenes are revoked quarterly because of criminal charges and then check and see how many of these cases were prosecuted locally. How many people do you suppose the legislature will propose to staff this unit?

The problem as I see it is with many of the local prosecuting attorneys who are often unwilling to prosecute these individuals, whether they be popo, jailers, probations officers, defense and prosecuting attorneys and judges.

Another problem is agency administrators allow the employee to resign and then send a falsified F5 to TCLEOSE as to why the officer left. These officers are known as "gypsy cops", bouncing from one agency to another.

I'm not affiliated with a civil service organization and I believe if you will check, the vast majority of licensed personnel in the state are not covered by civil service because of local population.

You if anybody should know the legislature makes laws, especially in the area of economic benefits, that accomodate the popo in the larger Texas cities and counties. They show there disdain by not including all of us. They keep putting mandates on us without funding, often times as the results of the acts of the minority in our profession.

Friend, you change the attitude in the prosecutors office and you will see a change.

Matthew said...

I think that there does need to be a type of police agency oversight. However I am not so sure that it should be DPS.

Although the Texas Rangers have their uses, they normally do not willingly delve into the realm of civil rights violations unless it involves an officer involved shooting. So Texas Rangers do not routinely investigate the beating of a prisoner or suspect.

Texas Ranger investigations are usually prompted by a request by a local law enforcement agency. Most of the investigations I've seen were requested due to local officials requesting the investigation to remove any appearance of a conflict of interest in a certain situation. They also assist with homicides and major crimes especially in rural areas where the local law enforcement may be ill equipped for advanced investigations.

The Texas Rangers ARE NOT a law enforcement oversight department.

So one must be created. That way local officials will have a go to agency when they need an internal investigation that for whatever reason they are not able to perform themselves.

Most law enforcement administrators want to run a clean shop but often lack the resources to clean up some of their bad apples.

I sure hope Texas comes up with something.

Anonymous said...

Prosecutors have badges, too, why couldn't this unit also investigate DAs if it's for "law enforcement integrity"?

Anonymous said...

Is the "Integrity Unit" not like the lawyers, who police themselves, they find nothing is wrong and no wrongs have been committed by those crooked lawyers who do not care if they protect clients, only what money.

This would be another waste of money,DPS should not be making laws,their job is to follow laws and I have read the list of bills they want submitted; these bills only want to take away more of our freedoms and should be put in"file 13".

There are many crooked police officers and DPS troopers, but some of the really try to be fair and one cannot lump them all into one package. The Criminal Justice System needs a thorough house cleaning starting at the tops of every agency, including Rissie Owens, she has no idea what goes on and the BPP answers to no one.
Ever think how many people are still in prison who have been paroled and the rules not followed? There are many!! Until this area is cleaned up, the "criminal justice system" will continue to stink!!

Anonymous said...

I have an idea; put people who do not work in law in any form, you may remember, as in "The Constitution of the United States" and "The Bill of Rights" both were written and upheld by people who were not lawyers, but farmers, and people who did not know the laws but only cared what happened to the country and to the people who lived in this great country and let those people decide if there is corruption in the criminal justice system. Let those people decide if there is corruption not only in the police force but in judges chambers, district attorneys offices but also in the police, FBI, CIA and other divisions who are supposed to be doing what is right. Somehow, these divisions have lost their way and just like the rest of the government both State and Federal have been overtaken by greed and we the people have been just left out.

Think it over, I know Mr. Henson will voice his opinion and thank the Lord for people like Scott Henson, sticks and stones; you know the old saying that is so true. Thank you, Scott for your honest reporting!!

Anonymous said...

Matthew, who has oversight over the Rangers?

Anonymous said...

I thought the Rangers and FBI investigated police corruption. Does DPS need a new division, or do the Rangers need more funding so they can increase their numbers and effectiveness?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The Rangers are a division of DPS, but IMO for historical reasons they're not independent enough for this task and they have too many other things on their plate. I think a dedicated unit would be more productive if it's given enough authority.

Anonymous said...

Put the criminals in charge of the investigation, make them prove their findings in court, and ensure that nothing can come back on them..

Anonymous said...

Just in case the Rangers' scope of responsibility should increase as a result of this discussion -- which entity investigates the Rangers?

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first comment...there are not enough police to watch everything, thus the adoption of Community Policing, a system which can easily be gamed by unscrupulous participants in both law enforcement and the community who can profit by playing undercover bounty-hunters. Corruption by these folks means innocent people being set up by covert ops and false witnesses. Also, Will the unit keep an eye on probation and local covert ops? How 'bout private security cops with arresting authority, and contracted prison gaurds?

De-privatization would go a long way towards reestablishing accountability, but ultimately, the process themselves must also be improved. such as faulty procedure for suspect id touched on by Grits recently, and non-bogus re-entry programs. But ultimately, shouldn't it be clear that the executive branch cannot be expected to keep the executive branch in check? After all, what was the whole point of division of powers in the constitution? Accountability must come from the outside, and jury trials don't seem to be doing the trick. I would like to see a muticultural citizens law enforcement accountabiliy group involved in the unit with independent funding to insure it's integrity.