The Field Review - Local

How Many Harlingen Police Officers Were Disciplined in 2021?

PLEASE NOTE: Nothing in this publishing or on this website should be taken as legal advice.

How Many Harlingen Police Officers Were Disciplined in 2021?

On May 15, 2022, a request was made to the City of Harlingen to obtain disciplinary records of Harlingen Police employees.

I am in request of the disciplinary files for police officers where said officers received a written disciplinary action or higher, for the 2021 calendar year. Should the employee be covered under civil service provisions then I request the records of those officers which were a suspension or higher. The “disciplinary file,” in this case is the actual written action taken on the officer, the proposed action; the actual action, and any dispute to the action.

Public Information Request C002513-051522

Police Discipline is Generally Public Information in Texas

Many municipal law enforcement officers in Texas are protected by the Municipal Civil Service for Firefighters and Police Officers statute in the Local Government Code under chapter 143. This code identifies what is considered discipline for civil service officers.

In cases in which a police department investigates a police officer’s misconduct and takes disciplinary action against an officer, it is required by section 143.089(a)(2) to place all investigatory records relating to the investigation and disciplinary action, including background documents such as complaints, witness statements, and documents of like nature from individuals who were not in a supervisory capacity, in the police officer’s civil service file maintained under section 143.089(a). Abbott v. City of Corpus Christi, 109 S.W.3d 113, 122 (Tex. App.–Austin 2003, no pet.). All investigatory materials in a case resulting in disciplinary action are “from the employing department” when they are held by or in possession of the department because of its investigation into a police officer’s misconduct, and the department must forward them to the civil service commission for placement in the civil service personnel file. Id. Such records are subject to release under chapter 552 of the Government Code. See Local Gov’t Code § 143.089(f); Open Records Decision No. 562 at 6 (1990).

Texas Attorney General, OR2009-00790

Most Harlingen Police Officers are Protected by Civil Service Rules

In order to become an entry level City of Harlingen Police Officer, one must participate in the civil service requirements outlined by the City. However, not all levels of employment within the City of Harlingen Police Department are covered by civil service.

There are roles that are specifically excluded. An example of this would be the Police Chief or any of the higher level people that are specifically appointed without civil service examination. Those individuals would not be protected by the civil service code and their disciplinary records should include more than suspension or loss of pay type of actions.

City Manager Neglects Duty

After months of not receiving records entitled through the Texas Public Information Act. Yes, an entitlement or a right to records:

Sec. 552.001. POLICY; CONSTRUCTION. (a) Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.

Texas Public Information Act, Section 552.001

The City Manager was communicated about the delay in releasing records. He initially advised there was a new Civil Service Director. We reached out to the Director whom never responded. So we went back to the City Manger per municipal ordinances of the City.

The City Commission of the City of Harlingen, Texas, shall appoint a City Manager, by a minimum of three affirmative votes, on the basis of his executive and administrative qualifications and experience in municipal administration, who shall be the chief administrative officer of the municipal government. He shall direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices, and employees of the City except as otherwise provided by this Charter or by law.

The City Manager shall: See that all laws, the provisions of this Charter, and legislative enactments of the City Commission, subject to enforcement by the City Manager or by officers subject to the City Manager’s direction and supervision, are faithfully executed.

City of Harlingen Ordinance, Article IV, Section 11

The City Manager’s response has been to impeded the legal rights of our request.

Cameron County District Attorney Receives Complaint

Because the City Manager neglected his clear duty and because the records we requested are clearly releasable by law, we filed a complaint with the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office under section 552.3215 of the Texas Open Records Act.

This allows and mandates a response from the District Attorney’s Office to whether a violation occurred and if they will take an action on the violation. This process is a supplement process to any other avenues of redress.

We Do Not Know How Many Harlingen Police Officers Have Been Disciplined in 2021

As you can see, at this point, we are unable to tell who has been disciplined because the City Manager has decided to neglect a duty that is codified in various legislations. Once we receive the records, we will publish what was released.

A Couple of Our Other Reads

You may be interested in reading about the disciplinary actions in 2021, taken by the Brownsville Police Department.

Or you may find our publishing on a defense counsels claims about a Cameron County Texas Ranger, of interest.

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