ROGERS — An unlocked file draw at the Rogers Police Department had large, clear plastic bags of marijuana and cocaine — both powder and rocks. The bags, used for K-9 unit training, were inside two separate, unlocked Army green ammunition boxes.
Another room off of the department’s evidence/property room was unlocked, and inside it were three long arm weapons, police badges and police uniforms — all unsecured. The key to the evidence room was in an empty desk drawer.
Rogers City Administrator Chris Hill and the City Council received information last week from the Bell County Sheriff’s Department Special Crimes Unit that about 18 criminal investigations hadn’t been touched or investigated since 2017 — and that included four sex-related reports.
Former Police Chief Robert Wireman refused to take Telegram phone calls twice Friday, hanging up each time.
The Special Crimes Unit, led by Lt. Michele Cianci, received permission to check the Rogers sex offender records to make sure everything was up to date since the department had no officers or police chief after the July resignations of Wireman and Officer Kathryn Martinez. They entered the department Monday.
Unsealed were many packets with information about registered sex offenders in the area. Twenty-six packets had validations that needed status verification, Cianci said.
No checks and balances appeared to exist in the department, Cianci said in the email to Hill that outlined what she and her investigators found.
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza talked about the situation in Rogers.
“Additionally, the sheriff’s department is in the process of reviewing the nature of potential investigations that were located by the Special Crimes Unit,” Garza said. “To that end, the sheriff’s department is in a position to give assistance as needed until a new police chief is hired by the city of Rogers.”
When a new police chief is hired, a determination will be made on any pending complaints and a correct course of action will be determined, Garza said.
“Should anyone feel that a complaint that they made to the previous police chief was not investigated, they should contact the Bell County Sheriff’s Department and make them aware of the nature of their complaint,” Garza said.
Issues brought up
Hill brought up issues Thursday regarding some of Wireman’s activities since 2017, in an emailed statement to the Telegram.
Wireman challenged the November 2017 alcohol sales election, filed misdemeanor and felony charges against former mayor Tammy Cockrum and Hill, and said he was investigating a mayoral election that ended in a tie between Cockrum and Billy Ray Crow. Crow won a runoff election.
Wireman also investigated in June 2018 the cost and removal of emblems from two older police vehicles put up for bids to sell. Complaints and charges for various reasons were sent to the Texas Attorney General’s office and the Secretary of State, which were refused, according to documents obtained by the Telegram.
In respect to other complaints, documents obtained by the Telegram showed on Nov. 28, 2018, the Bell County District Attorney’s Office refused the complaints because the matters Wireman submitted were “neither factually nor legally a criminal offense.”
Traffic quota claims discussed
Wireman and Martinez each claimed in their resignation letters, submitted separately, that Hill and Tammy Cockrum said the department needed to increase the revenue from traffic fines by writing more tickets. Hill allegedly said during a July 8 budget workshop that each police officer needed to write two tickets per shift, which came to 10 per week and 500 per year.
Each referred to those discussions as “setting a quota,” which is illegal under Texas law.
Martinez said in her letter she spoke to an elected official July 10 who repeatedly told her the police department needed to pay its own way. She didn’t name the elected official.
However, Wireman named Cockrum, who reportedly said the department needed to “write enough tickets to cover its budget.”
Cockrum, who lost the mayor race in June, was not on the Council as of July 8, she confirmed Friday.
Hill couldn’t be reached to confirm or deny the quota claim, but Cockrum attended the July 8 meeting and said some Council members and Wireman wanted to add another police officer. During the conversations pro and con, it was said it wouldn’t be good to add a new officer if the budget didn’t cover it.
Crow reportedly said that it was common knowledge a police department has to help pay for itself, but he wasn’t alluding to quotas, according to Cockrum.
Hill allegedly gave a hypothetical example of what it would take per year to finance two officers, and included the figures Wireman quoted in his resignation letter, Cockrum said.
Hill’s office provided the number of police department citations from 2013 through 2018, the amount issued so far in 2019 and the net dollars generated by the fines for each fiscal year.
According to Texas Municipal League regulations, cities with a population less than 5,000 are allowed to bring in up to 30 percent of the city’s total income through traffic tickets.
Managing through city ordinance
Cockrum and Hill tried to restructure the department somewhat by writing a chief of police ordinance. It listed the duties and responsibilities for Wireman.
However, Crow made a motion against the ordinance, and Council members Thomas Williams and Matthew Salladay voted to support Crow. The only councilman who voted for the ordinance was Brandon Skrhak, according to Hill. Council minutes obtained by the Telegram showed Annetta Fread abstained from voting.
Mayor pro tem Skrhak and the current City Council are considering a new police chief ordinance that may pass “to prevent this from happening again,” Hill said.
Crow, Rogers’ current mayor, said he didn’t have a copy of the report sent by Cianci to Hill. However, Crow said he talked to Wireman, who told him he wasn’t aware of a sex offender who wasn’t in compliance. Crow said he couldn’t be at Tuesday’s meeting, which was requested by three Council members. Crow was at the Holland Masonic Lodge to give his grandson a $500 scholarship, he said.
Crow claimed the meeting was held without his authorization although the city followed state rules regarding the public postings of City Council meetings.
ROGERS POLICE TRAFFIC REVENUE
Here are the revenue amounts from traffic tickets written each year by the Rogers Police Department since 2013.
2013 – 1,476 citations - $160,262.25
2014 – 2,031 citations - $164,392.26
2015 – 1,835 citations - $223,782.46
2016 – 1,489 citations - $186,122.53
2017 – 1,788 citations - $188,532.81
2018 – 546 citations - $124,365.61
2019 – 302 citations* - $63,251.18
*Figure through August 2019