Friday, February 20, 2009

Ogden: DPS must do more about officer misconduct

There's an odd zeitgeist developing at the Texas capitol making me think the Lege may be more interested in preventing and investigating police misconduct than at any time in recent memory. I was already surprised when Governor Perry's homeland security chief this week backed Sen. John Carona's idea to create a law enforcement integrity unit at DPS.

Then at a Senate Finance Committee hearing yesterday, Chairman Steve Ogden raised questions with Department of Public Safety bigwigs about threats to "the reputation and integrity of this department." (See the video, beginning at 2:17:30.)

Pointing out that the agency has proposed no "exceptional" budget items aimed at reducing misconduct and corruption, Ogden opined that "Nothing could be more damaging to the DPS than to have some sort of scandal or criminal conduct inside the DPS that basically destroyed the DPS and erodes the public confidence in this agency."

Ogden continued, "From time to time, issues come before all of us about a trooper that's selling drivers licenses, a trooper that's falsifying tickets, a trooper that's smuggling drugs. We never know what happens. It seems like it becomes an issue of whether the local DA is going to prosecute or not and half the time the DA doesn't, y'all are investigating, and really what I hear is, 'We can't do anything but fire the guy.'"

Ogden wanted to know, "What are you specifically doing to guarantee the integrity of your department and to ensure that the bad apples are weeded out?"

DPS has 3,800 commissioned officers at the agency, the chairman was told, but Internal Affairs is only staffed with one captain and five investigators - not nearly enough to cover the entire state. DPS plans to expand Internal Affairs "drastically," probably renaming it the Office of Professional Responsibility, Inspector General or something else. DPS told the committee they would like to expand IAD staff and place investigators around the state instead of only in Austin, but the agency requested no new money to support such a plan.

DPS' board chair admitted internal oversight presently is "weak, at best." Ogden asked DPS to bring him a new budget item reflecting what the agency would need "to guarantee ... the professionalism and integrity of this agency. I know it's not going to be free."

I'm pleased and surprised to hear Republican leaders like Steve Ogden and John Carona expressing such serious concerns about police misconduct. That issue hasn't gained much traction at the Lege in recent years, and if anything serious is going to happen on the subject, it will definitely require bipartisan support.


Don said...

It's not so much the blatantly illegal things they do, it's the "subtly" illegal things and unethical things. Inventing probable cause on the way to the stopped car, falsifying reports and warrants requests by using fill in the blank forms, misleading or outright lying about a person's rights in regard to search, PC, FST's, falsifying breath tests, bluffing, threatening to "get the drug dog", need I go on? Like grits, I'm glad to see someone, especially a Republican, who is at least aware. But there are too many R's, so I don't expect much to come of it. Incidentally, my screen won't pick up the results of the Sharon Keller poll. Can you fill us in?

Anonymous said...

Rev Charles:

This is encouraging. I don't know Ogden, but I have visited in Corona's office and I think talked with him. He was very helpful on whatever issue it was I was championing at the time. I miss those days in Austin.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

On the poll, Don, so far 52% say Keller should be impeached. 20% say she should be disbarred.

Anonymous said...

Quite amusing when a legislator introduces law aimed at others without taking sight on their own.

I suspect ghost voting is or should be a crime that is committed by some legislators, but goes unchecked. It should be a crime for one legislator to cast a vote for an absent legislator.

Anonymous said...

it's not putting on a badge
that makes them want to act like punks;
it's being punks
that makes them want to put on a badge....

TxBluesMan said...

Grits, a question.

Obviously you support going after police officers. How do you feel about going after those who file false complaints against officers?

I think that if we would see more prosecutions for the obviously false, politically motivated complaints against falsely accused officers, that some of the problem would take care of itself.

Maybe we should have a special unit to help smaller departments file on those irresponsible people that make false complaints on upstanding officers.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Obviously you support going after police officers ..."

Bluesy, I'm tired of you misstating my position on this so either quote the things I say you disagree with specifically or stop pretending I said things I didn't. I've supported investigating CORRUPT police officers, and there are too many instances where corruption has demonstrably occurred to claim it's not a serious problem.

Charges against cops without absolutely indisputable evidence go nowhere, and most complaints against cops are dismissed an never even investigated seriously, so your complaints don't ring true.

IMO you want to prosecute people who accuse officers essentially to intimidate people from filing complaints. Otherwise, it's hard to see how you could say that strategy would make "the problem ... take care of itself." After all, there would still be corrupt cops, but clearly you see "the problem" as the accusations, not the actual corruption. That's where you and I differ.

Anonymous said...

Tx probably did not give enough thought to his comment before making it. Maybe he had just finished a large lunch of enchiladas, beans and rice, with a couple of Negra Modelos.

I'm sure he knows that most complaints against a peace officer are "investigated" by that officer's colleagues in the same law enforcement agency. That could be why so many of them are tossed without the investigated officer suffering any consequences for his act. I assume these same people would be the ones to investigate the citizen complainants, unless Tx has in mind another layer of bureacracy to do that job. Such a civilian review board, maybe, Tx?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who makes a false criminal complaint against anyone should be prosecuted.

Police cameras assist in this endeavor. However some departments do not require them to be recording during all "business encounters" (i.e. they are not getting coffee, or they are not having a conversation with the average citizen asking about the weather).

If police agencies require patrol officers to record encounters (i.e. exploratory, or enforcement related) then prosecuting corrupt police officers (at least at the street level) would be easier and prosecuting false complainers would be equally as simple. Just pull the video.


Anonymous said...

Is this public integrity unit going to investigate corruption in it's own department or within any agency? I can see your police labor unions objecting to an "outside" agency investigating officers from a different department. This was seen when a bill was introduced to expand the authority for TCLEOSE investigators. I don't know for sure, but if I recall correctly the police labor unions aided in the death of this bill for fear of officers being subjected to an outside "internal affairs" entity that was not under local government control. I agree that a public integrity unit is overdue.