The El Paso Police Department has a pretty sketchy record of self-policing.
This week, the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal published a critical report on the El Paso Police Department’s abuse of overtime.
A group of El Paso, Texas, police officers has continually racked up significant overtime hours, in some cases working more hours per day than considered safe while nearly doubling their salaries.
While on these extra shifts, three officers have crashed cars and one failed to properly search a suspect and was accused of sleeping on the job, according to internal affairs documents and court testimony.
The El Paso Times and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a national nonprofit newsroom, analyzed five years of El Paso Police Department overtime requests and hourly data, obtained through the Texas Public Information Act.
In the thousands of pages of city records, one thing is crystal clear: Officers periodically work dangerously long overtime shifts with few daily limits. A review of the time sheets of the top 10 earners alone shows more than 450 cases in which officers worked at least 16 hours a day.
Researchers say officers never should work more than 12 hours in a day, let alone 16. Lois James, who studies sleep deprivation in policing at Washington State University’s Sleep and Performance Research Center, said such shifts contribute to poor decision-making, greater risk of car accidents and a weakened ability to de-escalate volatile encounters.
Elida S. Perez produced this story as a Reveal Investigative Fellow. The fellowship, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Democracy Fund, provides journalists of color support and training to create investigative reporting projects in partnership with their news outlets.
“Allowing that amount of overtime is pretty irresponsible, and there are really established risks of working more than 12 hours,” she said.
. . .
Officer David Amparan, for example, boosted his $71,000 salary to $130,000 in 2017 with the help of 1,100 overtime hours. Over the last five years, he worked more than 4,200 overtime hours, earning an extra $211,000.
Amparan has been the subject of 16 internal affairs investigations over the last five years, from being caught speeding to pulling pranks on other officers. In three instances, he was investigated for incidents that occurred while he was on overtime.
In a fourth overtime incident, Amparan was accused in court of being asleep at the wheel. In 2014, he was working an overtime shift to help block traffic from entering Interstate 10 during construction. While he was working, a drunk driver, 18-year-old Jan Michael Nieves Delgado, drove through police barricades and killed two highway workers.
. . .
In the 2016 trial, [Nieves Delgado’s] defense attorneys argued that the officers failed to properly block the freeway and that Amparan was asleep.
Tom Gladden, the project engineer for the construction company, testified in court that Amparan was wearing sunglasses at 2:30 a.m.
“I thought it was odd because I don’t wear sunglasses at night,” Gladden said.
And then there’s this story, from KVIA:
The El Paso Police officer accused in a deadly hit-and-run was arrested by sheriff’s deputies at police headquarters after a grand jury returned an indicted following a months-long investigation.
[Roberto] Garcia, an 18-year veteran with the department, was arrested and charged Thursday with accident involving death and tampering with evidence following the death of 37-year-old Eduardo Vasquez on New Year’s Day 2018.
“El Paso Police were notified as soon as we had the arrest warrant in hand,” said Sgt. Robert Rojas, with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Special Traffic Investigations Unit.
The El Paso Police Department relieved Garcia of duty after being told about the arrest warrant. Garcia was not fired, merely stripped of his peace officer status until the case is settled, a police spokesman told ABC-7.
Garcia was linked to the fatal accident soon after the New Year’s Day incident. However, he was not arrested till a Grand Jury returned an indictment this week.
Curiously, the case went to a Grand Jury. If your car had been linked to a fatal hit-and-run accident, do you think the District Attorney would have taken the trouble to present the case to a Grand Jury? Do you think it would have taken nine months for the Grand Jury to return an indictment?
Officer Garcia apparently was drawing his salary for that entire time. Apparently, he still is.
I wonder if he works with El Paso Police Officer Jose Flores, who, in 2013, fatally shot and killed handcuffed prisoner Daniel Saenz in the sallyport of the El Paso County Jail, and has since returned to the force.
In June of this year, the El Paso City Council declined to accept any responsibility for the execution of the handcuffed prisoner by one of their employees.