Small Texas Town Axes Police Force After Issuing Over $1 Million In Tickets And Misconduct
A small town in East Texas has terminated its police force after the department issued over $1 million in tickets to its population of 250 residents. Coffee City, Texas, deactivated its police department, and fired the police chief after an investigative report showed that the town had an incredible one police officer for every five residents.
As KHOU 13 reported, those 50 police officers wrote more than 5,000 citations and, according to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, the city was employing five times the police officers that a city its size should. KHOU‘s reporting also uncovered that the officers hired tended to come from other places after they had been fired for misconduct. Personnel files uncovered by the outlet depicted officers reacting in very inappropriate ways on social media. One description in their report reads, “An officer terminated for posting a Facebook message to a citizen (saying) ‘You should kill yourself, do the world a favor,’” the article claims. “An officer was suspended for smashing a window and entering his girlfriend’s home without consent. Two officers were terminated for lying on their job applications.”
As a result of these indiscretions, the city council wasted no time in voting to eliminate the police department and its chief, JohnJay Portillo. Portillo was responsible for hiring over 25 of the city’s officers and in addition to this, Portillo failed to mention a DUI arrest he had in Florida. Portillo also created a controversial warrant division, which established that full-time officers employed by the city didn’t have to live in Coffee City at all. After the Sept 11 vote, Coffee City’s Mayor Jeff Blackstone spoke with KHOU.
“There were things that we weren’t aware of and that really just opened our eyes, you know, there’s major changes that have got to be made and made quickly,” Blackstone explained. “We just felt it was best to basically terminate the program, that way we’re able to go out and find a new chief, let him do the proper evaluations and determine if he wants to re-hire anybody or start from scratch.”
Prior to the meeting, Portillo attempted to e-mail the city a resignation letter, but the city council refused his resignation letter, instead opting to fire him.
Citizens were elated after news of the department’s disbanding and its head officer’s firing. Several community members told KHOU they were relieved like Roseanna Billings.
“Ever since we moved here, it was every day a cop pulling in for one reason or another,” Billings said.
Until the city can name a new chief, calls will be handed by the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office. Blackstone said he is leaving it up to the new chief to decide whether to clean house or leave the current force intact.
Drivers have been petitioning to have their tickets dismissed due to the department’s dissolution. Kolby Horton, who says that he owed $11,000 in tickets, told KETK “I feel like I wouldn’t have won that battle because its me against a whole police department, and they’re more than likely going to believe a whole police department before they believe me.”
However, the city ‘s policy requires citizens to either pay the ticket or go to trial, which requires the officer who issued the ticket to testify in court. This, of course, raises questions about the ethics of having a officer who has been fired giving testimony about the legal validity of a ticket and citizens do not believe that is fair to them.
“How can they [have] a policeman being a witness that they’ve terminated or suspended or whatever you call it, what quality of a witness would that be?” asked local Steve Prather.