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May 01, 2006
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Texas: Highest-paid HPD officer also racks up reprimands

Copyright 2006 The Houston Chronicle Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved

The complaints range from verbal abuse to filing false time sheets
 
By STEVE MCVICKER, MATT STILES, and ANITA HASSAN
The Houston Chronicle
 
HOUSTON, Texas — The Houston Police Department officer who pulls down more pay than anyone in the department outside of the chief is also one of the most reprimanded officers on the force.

Last year, senior officer William Lindsey Jr. grossed more than $170,000 - over $100,000 of it in overtime - as a member of the HPD's drunken driving task force.

However, in his 27-year career, the department's internal affairs division has upheld at least 32 allegations against Lindsey arising out of 23 separate complaints. Only 13 of HPD's 4,760 officers have been involved in more than 23 complaints resulting in "sustained" allegations, according to department records through 2004.

Internal affairs sustains an allegation after investigating and finding merit in complaints that come from the public and from within the department. The chief then decides discipline.

The complaints against Lindsey include verbally abusing citizens, falsifying time sheets to reflect overtime he didn't work and refusing to report for duty, according to documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle through the Texas Open Records Act. His punishment has ranged from being ordered to undergo counseling to being suspended for 15 days without pay. In nine of the complaints, Lindsey's discipline included unpaid leave.

But since the Texas attorney general ruled in 2000 that law enforcement agencies do not have to publicly reveal disciplinary action against an officer that resulted only in a written or oral reprimand, the number of sustained allegations against Lindsey could total more than 32.

`I'm shocked'

As a matter of policy, HPD keeps tabs on officers who repeatedly are the focus of internal affairs investigations.

"At some point their name is flagged and we do follow-up, which involves putting them in this monitoring program that we have - with the intent that they either shape up or ship out," said Lt. Robert Manzo, an HPD spokesman.

But several law enforcement officials contacted by the paper expressed surprise that a police officer with Lindsey's record was able to keep his job.

"I'm shocked," said the head of an internal affairs division for one Texas law enforcement agency, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisals by his employer. "If the internal affairs file of an officer has 32 sustained cases, something's wrong with (that department's) system if he's still employed."

Other law enforcement officials who expressed similar sentiments also asked not to be named.

Lindsey, 50, did not respond to messages seeking his comment.

Lindsey's police career began in 1977 after he graduated from Florida State University with a degree in criminology and enrolled in the HPD academy. He was assigned to the southwest patrol division. He also has worked in the jail, the westside command station and the traffic and accident division, where he is currently assigned.

HPD records show that Lindsey has consistently scored well on employee evaluations, although he occasionally received lower grades for cooperation and loyalty. His personnel file also contains numerous letters of commendation from citizens expressing their appreciation for his response to incidents such as burglaries and robberies.

For example, in September 1982, Houston resident Linda Gruskiewicz wrote that, after her apartment was burglarized, Lindsey and another officer "were at my apartment within 15 minutes. They were courteous, took the time to explain the procedures to me, and suggested ways to prevent a future break-in."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Vaden, who used to prosecute DWI cases for Harris County, remembers Lindsey as a dependable witness.

"Lindsey could be one of the better witnesses," Vaden said. "I knew he had some disciplinary issues in the past, but it never to my knowledge posed any problems with him testifying."

But the records also point to a darker side.

List of complaints

HPD records show that:

In November 1981, a man involved in a disturbance objected to Lindsey's language and filed a complaint against him. It was sustained and Lindsey was ordered to undergo counseling.

In October 1983, Lindsey received his first suspension for not turning in as evidence marijuana found on two suspects arrested for public intoxication. Then-Police Chief Lee P. Brown ordered him to serve a one-day suspension without pay.

In September 1987, Brown again suspended Lindsey for one day after the officer "turned off his radio and failed to maintain communications or answer calls," the records show.

In November 1991, Lindsey was suspended for 10 days after his firearm discharged while he was chasing on foot a vehicle occupied by several men who had been involved in a fight.

In April 1999, Lindsey received a one-day suspension for dragging an uncooperative DWI prisoner who was handcuffed and whom Lindsey was attempting to videotape.

In September 2002, a Hedwig Village police officer intervened in an argument between Lindsey and a citizen when the Hedwig Village officer realized the situation was "getting out of control," according to the HPD report. The case was eventually resolved with Lindsey receiving a written reprimand. However, according to Cory LaMarsh, who filed the complaint, the HPD report is incomplete, and Lindsey deserved harsher punishment. LaMarsh, 40, says he was working a construction job near the Galleria when he and Lindsey exchanged heated words after the officer accused LaMarsh of jaywalking.

"It got really wild, and he handcuffed me and threw me up against the car," said LaMarsh, who now lives in Arkansas. He added that during the incident, Lindsey threatened to run over him.

"He said, `Boy, next time I'll kill you,' " LaMarsh said.

Most severe punishment

LaMarsh, who has misdemeanor convictions for DWI, theft by check and possession of a prohibited weapon, filed a complaint with HPD but says he later dropped the case at his employer's request.

LaMarsh's allegations notwithstanding, Lindsey received his most severe punishment in April 1990 when then-Chief Elizabeth Watson suspended him for 15 days without pay for submitting several false overtime pay requests.

According to Watson's report, "Lindsey submitted at least four separate overtime request forms for payment ... (for) overtime hours not actually worked by (Lindsey), and for which he was not lawfully entitled."

The memorandum said Lindsey's action could have resulted in criminal charges. The internal affairs division official, who asked not to be named, questions why no charges were ever filed.

"That's a third-degree felony crime, to falsify a government document or record under Texas law. And time sheets are government records," said the law enforcement official.

HPD spokesman Manzo says the case was referred to a grand jury. No charges were filed.

Attorneys' allegations

The sustained complaint of overtime fraud against Lindsey from 1990 is noteworthy because recent accusations by DWI defense attorneys that Lindsey and other DWI task force members manipulate the HPD overtime system by tag-teaming onto one another's cases. Each of the officers involved in a case is then subpoenaed to testify during the trial, thereby accumulating more overtime hours, the defense lawyers say.

City pay records show that eight DWI task force officers were paid a total of $317,000 in overtime in 2005. In 2004, Lindsey made more than $85,000 in overtime.

Full story: Texas: Highest-paid HPD officer also racks up reprimands






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