Sunday, April 14, 2013

TCLEOSE licensed felon who allegedly took cartel bribes, LE agencies faked training

If you've never heard of the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, with its awkward acronym TCLEOSE, you couldn't be blamed. They're the licensing agency in Texas for state and local cops and enforce police training criteria, but their activities rarely enter the public eye. Lately, though, the agency's oversight or lack thereof has been getting more attention.

Bell County
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.

Bexar County
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."

Freestone County
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.

Starr County
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).

* * *

The training episodes follow a common theme: Training was reported that officers never received. Intentional fraud like that would be hard to catch via after-the-fact auditing procedures, particularly at smaller agencies. In some ways, such oversight lapses are understandable. Delivery of training is highly decentralized, there are more than 2,600 law enforcement agencies in the state of Texas, and TCLEOSE doesn't remotely have the staff or resources to provide comprehensive oversight. The failure to catch Ramirez's felony conviction in his background check, though, is harder to justify.

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.


Anonymous said...

Freestone County sheriff was charged. Why has Bell County escaped discipline?

Anonymous said...

I agree. Why others and not Bell County?

Anonymous said...

I think the Panola County sheriff was also recently charged.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Grits - do you know of why Bell County Sheriff would be treated differently than others? Would he be somehow be "connected" to TCLOSE officials? Doesn't make any sense to me why he would be exempted from discipline if true. Thank you.

Atticus said...

TCLEOSE and CLEAT are full of too many rogue cops to do their job properly and should be investigated by the Feds, since the Texas Legislature doesn't have the balls to do it.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ 8:26 et. al: FWIW, the incoming Bell County Sheriff was the one who reported the falsification, but the TCLEOSE investigator believed that this was a CYA move, distrusted the Sheriff's motives for reporting, and suggested that he did so to distance himself from culpability while throwing one of his key lieutenants under the bus. See this past Grits discussion of the case. TCLEOSE revoked the department's training authority for two years but nobody has indicted anyone yet. Even if the new Sheriff who reported the incident faced no criminal charges, though, I don't really understand why the department's training coordinator hasn't.

Anonymous said...

Uhhh, it's the "Corsicana Daily Sun' to you, thank you very much.

Except it doesn't print every day.

Double Fake Corsicana Fruitcake

Anonymous said...

Corruption in Law Enforcement? Say it isn't so..

john said...

As we understand it, the Sections of the TX Transportation Code like 201 or whatever that show registration--and therefore licensing, inspections, yadda--are only for State & municipality-owned vehicles is simply not taught. That way the copper is under the same "common knowledge" as We The Manipulated People to believe we are liable for commercial signs, rules, regs and policies--as if we're all commercially licensed. The Legislature aided our pillage (per insurance lobbying?) by creating 200 "Moving Violations"--hidden in the Admin Code (Titl.27, Chap.15) where it should be only for gov employees--to allow very vague and easily re-interpretive mis-application to all weary travelers. Then the courts simply pretend the cops don't interpret. The cops then have no idea they've been set up, and will gladly take you to jail for a Class C Misdemeanor non-jailable offense, where overnight you're find no one to do their magistrative duty--as in Section 543, et al., relative to TCCP 14.06 & 15.07.
Just pay at the window, serf.

Anonymous said...

Wait for it..... Harris County, Harris County?