Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bell County Sheriff Office allegedly faked training results, TCLEOSE oversight failed to catch it

An investigative report by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE), which regulates peace officers' licensure and training, alleges that the Bell County Sheriff's Lt. Danny Kneese, the department's training coordinator, provided training for deputies and even officers from other agencies by letting them take materials home instead of sitting in a classroom, then faked test results that were sent to TCLEOSE. A local TV station reported that the agency "revoked the Bell County Sheriff's Department’s training license for two years," but looking at the full report (pdf), that's just the tip of the iceberg.

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?


Anonymous said...

It would be nice if TCLEOSE would go after officers for lying under oath. But, then that would make the DA's mad and, well, you know,....politics.

Robert Langham said...

The rules are just for the little people.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, before I add FAKE law enforcement training to the PNG FAKE-ASS Listing, I just have one Q.

Does this FAKE training equate to a Falsified Peace Officer Licenses ring requiring a mandatory Federal investigation from the top down going back as far as possible? Any internal investigation would invite more cover-ups. Thanks.

Skifool said...

Sounds like a real cluster ----. I can think of some criminal allegations that would fit, including perjury, tampering, fraud.

I am sure the DA does not want to touch it -- maybe he will call in a special prosecutor (AG's office to the rescue, again) to do an investigation. Or maybe the DPS would want that job. The leg. is in session, maybe they can start a round of hearings and handle it.

This is what defense attorneys are for, to brazenly go where elected officials are afraid to venture!

Anonymous said...

So a NAACP client is arrested and investigated by someone who is not a real police officer because he is not properly licensed?

Anonymous said...

I don't know how Lange didn't know all this was going on? Wasn't he the commissioner? My understanding is the commissioners court is to oversee the sheriff Department. Was the commissioners court in on all this also? Bell County will see this is swept under the rug like everything else.

Anonymous said...

It's a sad day in America when our authorities have to lie to gain control. No Eddy Lange has never been a police officer. I went to school with him and he never finished high school because he couldn't stay out of trouble. T-CLEOSE I understand is overwhelmed with work and not enough staff. The local feds around here are not much better. The FBI needs to investigate the county, the police departments, the county commissioners all but one now being auctioneers and auction off confiscated and stole merchandise of their own precinct. The buying and selling of property cars which require a document are altered here and the officials just forge the names of others or the deceased. Why can't someone stand up and involve the FBI because the DA's office is just as crooked if not more so. The Texas Rangers do not dare cross anyone so who is in charge of our county. I praise T-CLEOSE for attempting to stop Bell County's corruption with the sheriff's department. But what kind of sheriff do we have that is not trained to use a firearm? Mayberry RFD!

Anonymous said...

The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes longer. Henry H. Kissinger. GTR. Hollywood, Fl.

Anonymous said...

And he got the job anyways