Monday, April 19, 2021

Sheriff's deputy resigned amidst child molestation charges, murdered three people this weekend, but still technically eligible to work in Texas law enforcement

In many other states, former Travis County Sheriff's Deputy Stephen Broderick would have lost his peace officer's license last year. He was allowed to resign in lieu of being fired amidst child molestation allegations, but like so many others before him, he remained eligible under Texas law to be hired at one of Texas' 2,500+ other law enforcement agencies.

He probably would have, too, if he hadn't allegedly murdered three people in Austin this weekend then gone on the lam. (UPDATE: He has since been arrested.)

His story shows why the Sunset Advisory Commission's report on the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement declared the agency's licensing process "broken." Sunset described a "fragmented, outdated system with poor accountability, lack of statewide standards, and inadequate training." The agency simply has no statutory authority to kick bad cops out of the profession.

Over a five year period, Sunset staff reported, more than 2,800 officers were dishonorably discharged from their agencies; TCOLE decertified only nine of them. More than a quarter of these officers get re-hired.

The reason: current law requires they be dishonorably discharged TWICE before losing their license. There's no good reason why once isn't enough. There's already an appeals process in place if extenuating circumstances exist.

Similarly, TCOLE may only decertify officers for alleged crimes if they're convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor that relates to their job (a nebulous, ill-defined distinction). So sustained allegations of child abuse that don't result in prosecution aren't enough to decertify someone in Texas, even if they're fired or resign over it. Broderick's case makes that clear. Even now that he's murdered three people. TCOLE doesn't have authority to remove his license unless he's convicted.

The TCOLE Sunset legislation so far addresses none of these issues, Grits reported recently. But HB 8 (Pacheco), which is scheduled for a House floor vote on Wednesday, represents the police union's "solution" to the problem.

This bill 1) requires disclosure of police personnel files of fired officers to any new agency that hires them, and 2) makes those records closed to the public.

The assumption appears to be that agencies won't hire officers if they know about misconduct in their past, but both history and data tell us that's not universally true. We've seen plenty of anecdotal examples of bad cops getting hired somewhere else. And as mentioned, Sunset staff reported that more than one in four dishonorably discharged officers get rehired every year. 

Moreover, the closed records provisions in HB 8 are over-broad. Personnel files presently are only confidential at the 73-or-so agencies covered under Ch. 143 of the Local Government Code. At all other 2,500+ agencies, including every county sheriff in the state - personnel files are subject to the Texas Public Information Act. HB 8 should be amended to ensure only records from Ch. 143 agencies are closed; this ostensible reform bill shouldn't become a vehicle to diminish transparency around police misconduct.

HB 8 is a baby step, at best, and may be a step backward if it diminishes transparency around police misconduct. Texas needs to do much more to make police licensing in this state anything more than a fig leaf for police misconduct and ultimately, a bad joke.


Gadfly said...

I've seen a cop with non-fatal, but injurious, shots fired, TWICE, no-billed both times, hired a third time.

Sy Coe said...

Interesting, because if your physician gets deferred adjudication in a plea deal in a domestic violence case to stay out of jail (even if the "victim" had as much culpability for the incident), that physician's license will likely be revoked or restricted, leaving the physician essentially unemployable.

Look, I'm a conservative voter who totally "backs the blue," but I'm sick and tired of bad cops being shuffled around the same way it used to be done with bad teachers and pederasts in the priesthood.

Enough. Give TCOLE the authority it needs to take out the trash. Bad cops are every bit as dangerous as incompetent physicans.

Anonymous said...

no grits, don't let this A hole come after you, it's allegedly murdered 3 peeps

P. Ghosh said...

Bad cop bad cop what you going to do what you going to do when they rehire are you. How many law enforcement agencies are in a comfort zone, everybody covers everybody's back and when they finally get caught it all gets swept under the rug.