KHOU discovered more than half of the cops had been suspended, demoted or fired from their previous jobs.
DATELINE: COFFEE CITY, Texas — There’s not much to Coffee City, Texas. Two liquor stores, a couple of dollar stores, a pizza joint (Mr. Hos’ Pizza) and a motel. But this town, which is three hours north of Houston, has quite a reputation among those who drive through.
“A lot of officers policing a very small number of people,” motorist Jen Hendricks said. “They run back and forth, back and forth,” Bill Knous said. “They’re everywhere, literally everywhere,” Madison, who didn’t provide her last name, said. “Good lord, that’s crazy, that’s crazy,” Robert Whittington said.
“It’s such a small town, why do we need so many?” Dylan Smith said.
Coffee City’s budget shows the town collected more than $1 million in court fines last year. That came from more than 5,100 citations officers wrote, the most in the state for a town its size according to the Texas Office of Court Administration.
But there is more to this story than a small town writing a bunch of speeding tickets. KHOU 11 Investigates discovered Coffee City is a magnet for troubled cops. More than half of the department’s 50 officers had been suspended, demoted, terminated or dishonorably discharged from their previous law enforcement jobs, according to personnel files obtained through open records requests to other law enforcement agencies.
Those prior disciplinary actions range from excessive force, public drunkenness, untruthfulness and association with known criminals. They include:
•An officer terminated for posting a Facebook message to a citizen: “You should kill yourself, do the world a favor.”
•An officer suspended for smashing a window and entering his girlfriend’s home without consent.
•A deputy constable suspended after a burglary victim’s laptop computer was found in his home.
•A deputy constable terminated for tackling a non-resisting citizen to the ground during a traffic stop.
•A deputy sheriff terminated for slapping a handcuffed inmate without provocation.
•Two officers terminated for lying on their job applications.
•The records also reveal at least a dozen Coffee City officers who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Their criminal charges include official oppression, family violence, theft, DWI, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, harassment and endangering a child.
“Looking at the disciplinary records, I mean, I was astounded to think that they’d been hired by another agency,” Greg Fremin, a lecturer at the Sam Houston State University College of Criminal Justice, said. Fremin is a retired Houston Police Department captain. His 34 years of service at HPD included stints as an internal affairs supervisor and division commander for the training division “I’ve never seen anything like that in my professional career, and I’ve seen a lot,” Fremin said.
The guy who does the hiring is JohnJay Portillo. “If you go back and look at the totality of the officers’ stuff, I would say 75% if not more … they’re being retaliated against from their agency. I try to look at the good in everybody and I believe everybody deserves an opportunity.”