Just-elected Sheriff Eddie Lange first reported the problem to TCLEOSE last fall, but from the beginning investigating officer Mike Hobbs was "suspicious of his motives" and "his actions." Lange had allegedly promised Kneese a position as Jail Administrator and Kneese, anticipating Lange would become Sheriff and need the training hours for his license, allowed Lange to take the training materials home for credit. But Lange's role allegedly extended beyond that of a supposed whistleblower.
Upon interrogation, Lt. Kneese admitted to not holding classroom trainings as he'd reported to TCLEOSE but initially refused to give a written statement, instead requesting a lawyer. After consulting with Lange, who was then a county commissioner but at the time was running for Sheriff, Kneese came back later with a typed statement in which he took full blame and insisted Lange "did not know that being given a packet to learn core courses was illegal." However, wrote Hobbs, "it was clear to me that it was not a truthful statement but one that had been well thought out and prepared by either a legal team or someone other than Kneese." He also expressed the belief that Lange "is not being honest with me during this investigation. It is clear to me that he his coaching" Lt. Kneese, said the report. "It is clear to me at this point that Eddie Lang (sic) contacted TCLEOSE knowig that we would find issues with the training and that if we found issues we would have to investigate." Wrote Hobbs, "It is likely that Lang (sic) and Kneese were working together." He surmised that Lange, "became afraid of his campaign being affected" and "let Kneese take the fall for the entire incident." Kneese has since surrendered his peace officer's license.
The reasons behind the revocation of training authority are flat-out startling, particularly the allegations of faked course examinations:
Almost all the examinations and evaluations were typed on the same computer and were all exactly the same. In almost every case I found a typo on the examinations and evaluations and all of them had the same typo. That means every student would have had to type the same typo. This is highly unlikely and with Kneese admitting to teaching courses by packets it is clear that the test and evaluations are made up on his computer and completed by him all at one time.That's the sort of thing that could get somebody indicted - you'd think the local TV news coverage might have mentioned it! People were getting credit for physical fitness training by signing workout logs in the gym. Indeed, the scope of training-related misconduct was so great that TCLEOSE decided to limit its investigation so the results wouldn't impact the training hours of "every Jailer and every Peace Officer working for Bell County." Again from Hobbs' report:
As I continued my investigation I realized that every Jailer and every Peace Officer working for Bell County could be affected by this illegal training and could end up losing hours.If this were to occur then the most likely scenario would be that none of them would have time to catch up on hours. After discussing this with Deputy Director John Helenburg it was decided that we would focus only on Intermediate Courses and two other courses that Bell County reported to us. Those courses are 3512 Health and Safety, and 6012 Health and Physical.So TCLEOSE is protecting the probably improper training hours of most of the Bell Sheriff's uniformed staff through essentially a "don't ask, don't tell" approach. If they dug deeper, it's possible few if any jailers or deputies or jailers would have sufficient training hours to justify their licensure. That decision seems problematic, though as a practical matter it's understandable as an alternative to, say, shutting down the jail while everyone retakes all the training they missed. If all or most of the training was faulty, how could the department ever make it all up? What a mess. Grits won't be surprised if defense counsel down the line begin challenging the legal status of Bell County Sheriff's deputies based on failure to meet state training requirements.
One wonders, would TCLEOSE have ever discovered this if Lange hadn't contacted them? Are there other agencies doing the same thing, and if so, could TCLEOSE even tell? ¿Quien sabe?