AUSTIN, Texas- Three-dozen state trooper recruits have suffered concussions since 1997 in the same boxing training program that led to a recent trainee's death, and another has been paralyzed since he was punched 17 years ago, newspapers reported Saturday.
The Texas Public Safety Commission is now calling for an independent investigation of the training program, DPS director Col. Tommy Davis confirmed through a spokesman Friday.
The commission agreed to the review more than a month after recruit Jimmy Ray Carty Jr. died of head trauma, the Austin American-Statesman reported in Saturday's editions. Witnesses said Carty had been knocked to the ground at least twice by blows to the head.
DPS records show that three dozen other recruits have suffered concussions from the boxing matches over the last decade, the Dallas Morning News reported Saturday.
DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange said that amounts to about 2.3 percent of DPS recruits. The department has graduated around 1,500 recruits since 1996.
If properly managed, full-contact fighting drills can be useful, said Dan Carlson, acting director of the Institute for Law Enforcement Administration in Plano, a law-enforcement education center.
"You want to create a sense of muscle memory so if you are confronted, you can reflexively call upon some things to overcome the resistance," said Carlson, a retired commander of training for the New York State Police.
Lt. Joery Smittick, commander of cadet training at the San Antonio Police Department, said: "We don't want their first fist fight to be in the street and not know how to react."
In the 1988 case, Joel Lopez Cordova, a former Marine who now uses wheelchair, suffered a severe brain injury when he was punched in the head during the training and had to spend two years in a rehabilitation hospital, the Morning News reported.
The family settled a lawsuit against a boxing gear manufacturer, but Cordova's brother Daniel Cordova said DPS accepted no blame for his brother's injuries. He said the department blamed the manufacturer and a merchant that sold the equipment.
"I felt like they covered it up, the story changed so many times," he told the Morning News.
Officials with DPS declined to comment on Cordova's case.