Marshal law

Peace officers go to war in the city marshal's office

Last year, employees of the Dallas marshal's office were alarmed when Sgt. Don Madewell, a veteran of the department, admitted he had taken an unauthorized loan from the Dallas Police Patrolman's Union, where he had served as its treasurer. But the peace officers were even more outraged when Madewell, who was out on injury leave when the missing money was discovered, returned to the department earlier this year and resumed his duties, which included investigating other officers' alleged improprieties.

Disgusted by the obvious hypocrisy of the situation, angry deputy marshals and the Dallas Police Patrolman's Union complained to Althea Gulley, an assistant director of Courts and Detention Services, which oversees the City Marshal's office. After several months, they still had not received a response.

The Madewell situation is only one of a number of issues that have created a huge morale problem among the 30-plus peace officers that make up the office of the Dallas marshal, whose responsibilities include serving warrants for traffic violations, running the drunk tank, transferring prisoners, and performing bailiff duty in the municipal courts. The real problem, the officers say, stems from the poor leadership provided by Interim Marshal Dean Darnell.

In the seven months since the city appointed Darnell acting marshal, numerous grievances have been filed against him by sergeants, deputy marshals, and detention officers. They have accused Darnell of humiliating and belittling officers, retaliating against them, and generally abusing his power. Officers say these charges are compounded because grievances sit for months on Gulley's desk.

Last month, department employees conducted a survey rating Darnell's performance, and the results were overwhelmingly negative. Officers sent a copy of the survey findings to Jiroko Rosales, director of Court and Detention Services, along with a letter asking her to reconsider Darnell's appointment. Neither Rosales nor Gulley have responded.

Gulley says that her office asked the Dallas Police Department to investigate the accusations against Madewell. Although that investigation was concluded last week, she has refused to make its findings public. "We are strategizing what our next step is," Gulley says.

Rosales also refused to comment on the turmoil at the Marshal's office, other than saying, "We've been in discussions with human resources and the city attorney's office on several issues regarding that division...but I am not sure I am at liberty to discuss them." However, several days after the Dallas Observer contacted Rosales, Madewell was placed on administrative leave, his badge and his gun finally taken from him. Madewell refused to be interviewed for this story.

Employees within the Marshal's office don't understand why Madewell was allowed to continue working while a criminal investigation was pending against him. Other officers have been suspended without pay for much less serious infractions. This kind of favored treatment, they say, is indicative of the Interim Marshal Darnell's leadership style. Allegedly, he rewards his friends, of which Madewell is one, and is vindictive toward officers whom he doesn't like or who have filed grievances against him. Darnell also refused to comment for this story.

The Madewell incident began when he took an unauthorized loan of $1,400 from the union to pay medical bills, according to union president Sgt. Rick Wilson of the Dallas Police Department. Although he didn't ask permission to use the money, he did make a note of it in the union records and even included a repayment schedule.

When Wilson was elected union president last year, he discovered the unauthorized loan during an audit. "I was pissed off. It hurt me a lot," says Wilson. "He betrayed our trust. It surprised everyone. Before that he had done a really good job for us. And if he had just asked us, we would have gone into our own pockets to help him."

Despite Madewell's tearful apology, the union felt it had no choice but to oust him. Union leaders also met with members of the Marshal's office to apprise them of the situation. Even though he had made an unauthorized loan to himself, without the union's consent, the union did not press charges. Since Madewell had made restitution within six months and had documented what he had done, the union thought it would be difficult to prove criminal intent. Wilson said it was everyone's understanding that Madewell would not return to work after injury leave, and instead would retire.

"It was a real slap when he came back," says Wilson, "especially when he began working internal affairs. It hurt morale. He can't be there judging other officers." Some deputy marshals found it disconcerting that an officer accused of misappropriating funds was placed in charge of prisoners' property at the detox jail, was allowed to handle purchasing, and on several occasions served as acting marshal in Darnell's absence.

Although Wilson understands the frustration in the Marshal's office, he believes the real problems stem from Darnell and Gulley. "Neither of them are good administrators," he says. "It's not a pretty picture."

Indeed. "If I had done what Madewell did, I would have been fired a long time ago," says one sergeant. (None of the Marshal's office employees would allow the Observer to use their names.) "The office should have done an internal investigation a long time ago. And they should have put him on automatic administrative leave."

Darnell has suspended other officers without pay for as long as 10 days for minor infractions, such as causing a car accident when little damage was done to the police vehicle. He took two officers off patrol duty for two weeks because they had arrested someone in Red Oak, which sits in Ellis County, and failed to inform the Ellis County Sheriff's office of the arrest. Deputy marshal say they are not required to alert law enforcement in another county, but are advised to do so as a courtesy.

In another incident, an officer claims Darnell retaliated against him for filing a grievance, in which he claimed that on two occasions Darnell had humiliated him in front of other officers and prisoners. A month after the grievance was filed, Darnell ordered that the officer be relieved of his street duties for two months and reassigned to prisoner transfers.

"It's like a good ol' boy network there," says Wilson. "The officers were trying to get these issues resolved internally. They are frustrated that it's taking so long to get something done."

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