It just keeps getting worse for Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLOSE), Valdez was not even eligible to take the mandatory licensing test she flunked back in April. That's because Valdez did not show the proctor who administered the exam that she had completed a basic peace officer's course during her federal law enforcement career—a requirement for taking the test in the first place. TCLOSE is checking into whether she failed to take the course or didn't know she needed to document she had taken it. Either way, the commission wants answers.
"We're looking into that," says a clearly annoyed Frank Woodall, the director of education and training for TCLOSE, who says that his office is formally investigating what happened. "You have to visit with her staff on how she was able to take the test." (Unfair Park has been unable to reach Valdez's office for comment.)
As a former federal agent with both U.S. Customs and Homeland Security, Valdez would be eligible to take the test so long as she can show she has completed a basic peace officer's class. Woodall says that the sheriff's office is forwarding information that shows that she has taken that class, but sources inside the department tell Unfair Park she never had to go through a basic training class as a federal agent. If that's true, things could get messy for Valdez.
If the sheriff has not completed a basic peace officer's class, the top elected law enforcement officer in the county will have to line up with 18-year-old trainees at a local peace officer academy. That could take at least four months, and then she'd be eligible to take the test again. The problem with that scenario—actually, one of the problems with that scenario--is that it pushes Valdez dangerously close to the end-of-the-year deadline she faces to pass the test. If the sheriff does not meet that, she could be removed from office according to state law.
If Valdez can document to TCLOSE that she's eligible to take the test, then she won't have to go to the academy after all. But she'll still have to answer to how she was able to take the test in the first place. And Valdez will still have to pass the test.
With the commissioners already irritated at her for the department's ballooning overtime costs and county Judge Margaret Keliher arguing that the state should institute minimum standards for the sheriff's position, Valdez has some political and professional fences to mend. At the very least. --Matt Pulle
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