BELTON — Instead of going to an animal disturbance call on Jan. 3, 2016, Belton Police Officer Gene Cole continued visiting with a woman at the Montrose Apartments for 19 minutes, cursed and told her that he wasn’t responding immediately to the call, a Belton Police document shows.
Cole also told the woman the complainant’s name and then talked with the woman about some of her body parts, all recorded on the officer’s in-car video system.
He was suspended on March 2 by Belton Police Chief Gene Ellis for two days without pay.
Cole’s disciplinary action was one of the few instances in 2016 when a complaint was filed against a Belton police officer, according to a city document. Six complaints were received, but only two were formalized. Of those two complaints, just one was sustained.
Cole’s was the only instance of formal discipline for 2015 and 2016, Belton city spokesman Paul Romer said.
“Informal discipline is part of a confidential file that is protected by Texas Local Government Code 143.089,” Romer said.
Cole, hired April 28, 2014, by the Belton Police Department, was previously verbally reprimanded in 2015 on a separate incident and again in 2016 because he didn’t go help a disabled motorist. In another instance he was discovered by a supervisor who found him texting and hiding in his patrol car in a business parking lot, the document said.
A former deputy with the Erath County Sheriff’s Department, Cole testified in February 2015 at the murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh, convicted in the shooting deaths of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and Kyle’s best friend, Chad Littlefield. Cole said that he heard Routh admit in June 2013 that he killed Kyle and Littlefield while Routh was in the Erath County Jail.
Ellis outlined in the document the reasons for Cole’s suspension, what policies and regulations Cole violated and his previous disciplinary issues.
The document was provided Friday in response to a Tuesday open records request filed by the Temple Daily Telegram.
Cole was dispatched to an animal disturbance call at 10:53 p.m. on Jan. 3, 2016, but he didn’t respond for about 19 minutes. The department looked at his in-car video system, which showed him meeting with a woman at the Montrose Apartments. In the video, Cole told the woman that he wasn’t going to immediately respond to the call. He made comments about the complainant and even read the complainant’s name off of his mobile data terminal screen to the woman. Cole was also heard talking to the woman he was with about some of her body parts, the document said.
The general rules of conduct he violated that were grounds for disciplinary action included insubordination, misconduct and violation of personnel policy or departmental standard operating procedures. Those violations were grounds for his removal or suspension from civil service in the city of Belton, Ellis said.
The documents listed four circumstances that showed a pattern of inattention to duties and misconduct:
• Cole was given a written reprimand on Sept. 21, 2015, for leaving the city limits while he was on duty in a marked city patrol car to go to his Temple home. While there, Cole was involved in a verbal disturbance.
• He was sent on Feb. 4, 2016, to help a disabled motorist. After being on the scene after about 55 minutes, Sgt. Robert Prestin checked on Cole and found him sitting in the patrol car. He wasn’t helping the motorist, the document said.
Once again, Cole’s in-car video system was checked, and it showed that he was texting rather than helping the motorist.
Cole received a verbal reprimand.
• Prestin counseled Cole after finding him hidden in the H-E-B parking lot at 2:20 a.m. on Feb. 4.
• Cole was repeatedly counseled by his supervisors for a lack of productivity.
Romer provided information from the 2015 Police Annual Report that was given to the Belton City Council last year.
Internal complaints and investigations were down in 2015 from previous years, according to the annual report.
Between 2010 and 2015, the number of complaints ranged from a high of 23 in 2011 to a low of six in 2015. Resident complaints ranged from a high of 19, once again in 2011, to six in 2015. No internal sources made complaints in 2015 after previous years showed as many as five made in 2014.
Seventeen percent of the complaints were sustained for misconduct and untruthfulness, the report said.
The types of complaints made were for misconduct (rude/unprofessional), improper police procedure and harassment.
The 2016 numbers will be available in February, Romer said.