Sunday, July 10, 2011

Public records on non-civil service cities like Dallas make police misconduct coverage easier

Dallas Chief David Brown has made no bones about firing officers found to have engaged in serious misconduct, as evidenced by these latest examples as reported in the Dallas News:
A Dallas police officer with a troubled disciplinary history was arrested Wednesday and accused of stealing a gun from a motorist, authorities say.
Officer Lavar Horne faces a charge of theft by a public servant and tampering with evidence. Both are third-degree felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Police Chief David Brown fired Horne and two other officers Wednesday during disciplinary hearings. One officer fought with a hospital employee and wrote about it on Facebook, and the other fought with the owner and a bouncer at a Greenville bar, police officials said.

With these firings, 24 officers have been terminated through the department’s internal affairs disciplinary process since Brown assumed command of the department more than a year ago.

Brown did not respond to a request for comment. Horne’s attorney declined to comment.

Authorities say Horne conducted a traffic stop on April 28 during which he searched a vehicle and seized a handgun and marijuana. He allowed the occupants of the vehicle to leave without arresting them.

Horne, who was assigned to northeast patrol at the time, did not take the gun and the marijuana to the property room at the end of his shift as required, police officials said. Later, a man in the vehicle contacted a supervisor at Horne’s patrol station and told them that Horne had taken the gun.

Horne told the supervisor that he didn’t have the gun but later told police commanders that he had forgotten he had it in his bag. He told investigators that he threw the marijuana away, police said.

Investigators also found that he turned off his digital video recorder during the traffic stop. They also discovered that he had turned off his in-car computer and didn’t notify police dispatchers that he’d stopped a vehicle.
Some of the best police beat coverage in the state happens behind the paywall at the Dallas News, mainly for two reasons: 1) They've got a great stable of experienced reporters, including Tanya Eiserer who wrote this piece, and 2) Dallas never opted into the state civil service code (Local Government Code Chapter 143), so reporters have far greater access to police records under the Public Information Act, especially records about police misconduct allegations, which would be secret in civil-service cities like Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Plano, or any of the other 70 or so cities opted into Chapter 143.

El Paso is the second largest city after Dallas which never opted into the civil service code. In practice, that makes those two police agencies open records oases compared to most other large to mid-size police departments in the state.

9 comments:

Hook Em Horns said...

Dallas seems to have a grip on the best way to handle rogue cops...FIRE THEM!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, they will easily find a job somewhere else. I moved to another state and had the opportunity to review some records from the police officer licensing agency. In this state, when an officer is fired a report is submitted to the licensing agency which seems to frequeently revoke the officer's license. That doesn't happen in Texas. So, these officers just go to work for another agency and continue the same behavior. It think it was one of the Dallas TV stations that did a story several years ago on these gypsy cops. TCLEOSE needs to be given more power to investigate, discipline, and revoke licenses. Anytime an officer is fired or resigns under investigation, the law should require that agency to submit a full report to TCLEOSE and TCLEOSE should be required to hold a hearing to determine if the officer should keep his or her license.

Arce said...

Is there any way to adopt civil service and still have open records regarding discipline? I am generally a fan of civil service for officers, especially sheriff's deputies, so that good deputies are not subject to whim replacement when a new sheriff is elected. So is there a solution that allows both good practices to occur.

College Cop said...

-"Unfortunately, they will easily find a job somewhere else. I moved to another state and had the opportunity to review some records from the police officer licensing agency. In this state, when an officer is fired a report is submitted to the licensing agency which seems to frequeently revoke the officer's license. That doesn't happen in Texas. So, these officers just go to work for another agency and continue the same behavior. It think it was one of the Dallas TV stations that did a story several years ago on these gypsy cops. TCLEOSE needs to be given more power to investigate, discipline, and revoke licenses. Anytime an officer is fired or resigns under investigation, the law should require that agency to submit a full report to TCLEOSE and TCLEOSE should be required to hold a hearing to determine if the officer should keep his or her license."-

TCLEOSE does recieve such information, and does revoke licenses. They publish the information every quarter. It's on the front page of their website.

http://www.tcleose.state.tx.us/publications/close_up/CloseUp-2011c.pdf

gravyrug said...

Problems firing bad cops is not unique to TX. My father in law was a chief in MS, and complained to us several times about not being able to fire cops he thought were actually dangerous, because of the civil service contracts.

Like Arce, I'm not completely against civil service, or unions in general, but I think the unions should be more on board with cleaning up their membership, rather than protecting them without question.

The Comedian said...

Police corruption will be an even greater problem in the future as the Mexican drug cartels slowly move into the U.S.

IMO, the U.S. will look like Mexico in about 20 years or so if the current "War on Drugs" continues. There's too much money to be made and too many people can be bought off or scared into silence by the cartels.

Face it, drug trafficking on the current scale cannot exist unless some of the cops, prosecutors and judges are bought and paid for by the cartels.

I understand the thin blue line and cops covering for other cops. The problem is that any cop who covers for a dirty cop automatically becomes dirty him or herself.

"Whatever happened to the American dream? It came true - you're looking at it." - The Comedian

rodsmith said...

oh i agree comedian! we have satellites in orbit that can read the date on a dime your holding in your hand. but can't find tons of drugs coming into the country

come on!

Anonymous said...

Why are cops capable of turning off the cameras to begin with? Those should be on from the moment the recording media is put in, until the second it is taken out (baring a battery disconnect).

Time and again shows that a crooked cop will turn that thing off. Why do we allow that to happen? one thing that might be interesting is gps cell service. when a car's camera is turned off, a gps device is triggered in the car for the entire time a camera is offline. Then make it trigger an alert to dispatch, and phones for the head of department.

The tech is trivial, as it is already in real world use.

rodsmith said...

i agree we have reached the point tech wise that each patrol car should have 24/7 video coverage via a non-changeable recorder!

of course i think it's reached the point we need to do the same with every govt offical as well when in session! LOL