2022 Liberty Co. law enforcement training course was 'fundamentally inadequate,' state agency says

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Thursday, March 28, 2024
19 graduates losing peace officer license due to 'inadequate' training
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement canceled peace officer licenses for 19 graduates in Liberty County due to "serious and systemic" failures.

LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement has canceled the peace officer license for 19 Liberty County academy graduates, impacting multiple agencies.

It revokes the licenses for 19 graduates of a 2022 academy class run by the Liberty County Sheriff's Office under an agreement with the College of the Mainland.

In a letter dated March 22, 2024, from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) - the agency that governs police licenses, investigators found the 10-month course "fundamentally inadequate," and as a result, wrote, "This will require the cancellation of all peace officer licenses issued to the students."

TCOLE alleges that after an investigation, it found "the Academy's failures were serious and systemic" and included giving students credit for "repainting a World War II anti-tank gun at the Liberty County Courthouse."

Liberty County Precinct 6 Constable Zack Harkness said two of his six deputies are from that 2022 Liberty County class. He hasn't seen the letter yet but is exploring legal guidance because he believes his deputies are qualified. Both passed the state exam at the conclusion of the academy.

"Very surprising, very shocking," he told ABC13. "Since their graduation almost two years ago, both deputies have gotten over 350 hours each of additional TCOLE-approved training in various subjects."

Liberty County ran the course under a memorandum of understanding with the College of the Mainland, which is licensed to oversee peace officer training.

A college spokesperson said that the agreement no longer exists, and they are in close communication with TCOLE about its concerns.

The College of the Mainland later provided the following statement:

"On Friday, March 22, College of the Mainland received a letter from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) indicating that 19 students who attended the Basic Peace Officer Course (BPOC) between January - November of 2022 will have licenses canceled due to deficiencies in reporting of course documents.

This letter is the result of an assessment completed by TCOLE, stemming from a complaint that was filed in January 2024 regarding a law enforcement training academy that was offered by the Liberty County Sherriff's Office through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the College of the Mainland Law Enforcement Academy. The complaint alleged that a former academy student did not receive training or complete the BPOC according to applicable TCOLE standards.

The College of the Mainland recognizes the seriousness of this decision by TCOLE and met with them yesterday afternoon to identify immediate actions that can be taken to remedy this situation in the best interest of impacted students."

Among those copied on the letter from TCOLE is Ann Marie Mitchell, the training coordinator for the Liberty County Sheriff's Office. On the social media site LinkedIn, she wrote, "every Peace Officer, Dispatcher, and Corrections Officers should be given the training they need to safely perform their duties in the most professional manner. My duty is to provide that training."

The sheriff's office told Eyewitness News to expect a statement but, as of late Tuesday, had not provided one. Harkness said his biggest concern right now is supporting his deputies.

"They have a very deep, vested interest in this community," he said. "They serve with a heart, and they're very vested in the well-being of the community."

On Thursday, the sheriff provided the following statement:

"The Liberty County Sheriff's Office (LCSO) held a Basic Peace Officer's Training Class in 2022. The class was sponsored by the College of the Mainland Law Enforcement Academy. LCSO has received notice from The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) that the 19 graduate students will have their Basic Peace Officer License rescinded. The College of the Mainland Law Enforcement Academy reported to TCOLE that all the graduates had met the minimum requirements for the class.

The decision to rescind was made when a TCOLE investigation showed that the College of the Mainland Law Enforcement Academy did not provide TCOLE with accurate records proving that the graduates received the required training that is required. Based on that fact, the terms of agreement between the College and TCOLE were not met. This is the main reason for COLE's decision to rescind the Peace Officer License for the 19 graduates.

LCSO believes that the graduates did receive the minimum requirements. They al passed the academy test and the TCOLE test. The College of the Mainland has made a proposal to the Liberty County Sheriff's Office that they believe will benefit the law enforcement officers that attended the academy. LCSO is researching that proposal.

Legal counsel has been obtained to represent the graduates. The Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA) has agreed to represent al the graduates even though some of them were not members. Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) will also provide legal representation for the ones that are members.

LCSO will provide updated information on this matter when we receive it."

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