A San Marcos Police Department terminated for not being truthful on two occasions and a use-of-force violation remains back on the force, but is effectively unable to perform police duties after a decision by Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe.This is the inevitable result when police chiefs are denuded of power to fire bad cops by civil service laws and arbitration requirements. This arbitrator reinstated a cop the District Attorney says so lacks credibility he can't testify in criminal cases any longer.
Officer Paul Stephens was indefinitely suspended last October over an incident where he used a baton against a woman who was not resisting and was not a physical threat, and for later making a false statement about the encounter in his report. However, an independent arbitrator ruled in June that the charges of charges of dishonesty and excessive force could not be substantiated, and Police Chief Howard Williams was bound by law to re-instate him.
But a June memo from Tibbe to Williams says that due to Stephens’ “history for dishonesty,” her office will be unable to call Stephens as a witness in any case and cannot prosecute any case in which he is an investigating officer. Stephens’ credibility problems could endanger cases when they go to trial, Tibbe argued, because her office is bound to disclose his history to defense attorneys.
Williams, who said today that he agrees with Tibbe’s decision, said that this means Stephens will remain on the force but can’t enforce the law or make arrests.
“She can’t put him on the stand,” Williams said. “A defense attorney would tear him up.”
How much sense does it make for San Marcos to continue to pay a police officer who can't enforce criminal laws? But the arbitrator says he can't be terminated. So what's he supposed to do with his time every day? (A commenter at the Statesman suggested he "should be on permanent assignment to the Hays County animal shelter as the sole individual who cleans out the kennels.") As I wrote earlier about this case, this incident shows how "in Texas civil service cities, in most instances it's nearly impossible to fire bad cops no matter how badly they screw up. This guy's a statewide poster boy for that fact."