In February it was reported that the Bell County Sheriff's Office had allegedly faked test results from its training program on a wide scale. TCLEOSE's own inspectors hadn't caught the discrepancy and the agency only took action after receiving an independent report.
The previous month, a former deputy constable from Bexar County Precinct Four was extradited from New Hampshire, charged with "allegedly reporting state mandated training credit for individuals who did not attend the training." The episode received little publicity: A San Antonio TV station covered it but the Express-News did not. WOAI reported that, Parrish "allegedly charged for the courses, and pocketed the cash, while working as a reserve deputy constable with the Precinct 4 Constable's office."
Then last month, reported the Corsicana Sun (March 28) Freestone County Sheriff Thomas Don Anderson and a captain in their department face charges after they allegedly "routinely submitted falsified documents to TCLEOSE claiming that Deputies received law enforcement training when they actually had not attended the training." Said the Sun:
Sheriff Anderson was elected in the 2012 general election and took office in January of 2013, after the previous sheriff, Ralph Billings, retired. At the time of the offenses alleged in the indictments, Anderson was the department's Training Coordinator responsible for the administration of all training at the Freestone County Sheriff’s Office and Travis Robertson was the primary instructor for most of the training given by the Freestone County Sheriff’s Office.See a TCLEOSE press release about the Freestone County officials who will be prosecute by the Travis County Public Integrity Unit in Austin.
Just as disturbing, though unrelated to training, in March Starr County Sheriff's Capt. Romeo Javier “Compadre Nacho” Ramirez pled guilty to accepting $30,000 in bribes from the Gulf Cartel in exchange for transmitting sensitive law enforcement information, reported the McAllen Monitor. But there's also a TCLEOSE angle: It turned out he had a prior felony conviction from the '90s that should have barred him from ever receiving a peace officer's license. Notably, this is the same jurisdiction where former Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra was convicted in 2009 of assisting drug traffickers. Ramirez at the time was in charge of running the Starr County Jail. See a copy of his federal indictment (pdf).
Looking at legislation filed related to the agency, no bills pending at the Texas Legislature would address the questions raised by these episodes, though both the House and Senate budgets include six more FTEs (full-time equivalent staff) than the agency had in the last biennium, bringing the total number of employees to 43.6. Perhaps the additional hands on deck will help TCLEOSE get in front of some of these problems.
MORE: A commenter points out that the Panola County Sheriff, a former TABC agent elected last year, was arrested in March for allegedly using money from a confidential informant fund to pay for his attendance at a new sheriffs school after the county refused to pay for the expenditure. Not exactly a TCLEOSE oversight issue, but related enough to mention.
AND MORE/CLARIFICATION: On Tuesday, TCLEOSE executive director Kim Vickers offered clarification regarding two of these cases. Grits commenters had asked why the Freestone Sheriff was indicted but the Bell County Sheriff was not. Vickers said the allegations in Bell County involved administrative violations stemming from the training coordinator allowing officers to do take-home tests instead of proctored exams. In Freestone, though, TCLEOSE has alleged straight up fraud, asserting that the Sheriff added names to lists of trainees who never participated in training at all. That's why the cases were handled differently, he said.
On Capt. Ramirez out of Starr County, the McAllen Monitor reported that TCLEOSE had improperly granted him a license despite a prior felony for which he'd received deferred adjudication. But Ramirez was licensed in 1999, said Vickers, and until 2001 when the law changed, officers could be licensed with a deferred felony conviction on their record. He said he'd seen other instances where he'd scratched his head and wondered how an officer was licensed but in this case there would have been no bar to making Ramirez a peace officer at the time he was commissioned. (Either way, given his guilty plea for taking drug-cartel bribes, his badge-wearing days are now over.)
Vickers also mentioned another case out of Alpine last year where a training coordinator based at Sul Ross University had allegedly assisted officers with exams, resulting in five currently pending felony indictments. He said that episode taught the agency that training coordinators should not also be proctors during testing.