It's a Dirty Job...
DPD Sergeant Ricardo Terrones learns the pitfalls of investigating fellow cops
PITY THE MAN who must investigate his bosses' wrongdoings. Nothing but trouble will come his way.
So it is with Ricardo Terrones, a sergeant with the Dallas Police Department working in Internal Affairs--a job in which Terrones polices the police, meting out punishment as he and his IAD supervisors see fit; a job that is thankless but one Terrones nonetheless attacks with vigor. He is known for his thorough investigations.
If nothing else, thoroughness is what he applied to the Eddie Crawford case. It is this same thoroughness that nearly had him, in the end, applying for a new job.
Corporal Eddie Crawford is a police senior and vice president of the Dallas Police Association, the largest union within DPD, the one union every police academy graduate is told to join, according to numerous sources. George Aranda, the president of a competing union, the Latino Peace Officers Association, says Crawford is friends with many assistant chiefs of police, and those friendships allow Crawford perks other cops will never enjoy.
Like doing union business on police department time--and getting paid for both. This is a big no-no. Many officers before Crawford have been fired for it.
If you're Crawford, the DPA pays you $500 a month to attend its monthly meetings. (The figure comes from court documents.) And it pays you this $500 because it knows you're supposed to ask the police department for leave, without compensation, for every hour that you attend a union meeting. To do otherwise would mean that the city is paying you when you are, in effect, off duty.
According to a lawsuit filed by Crawford's former supervisor, Lee Bush, and four other police officers, this is exactly what Crawford did during former police Chief Terrell Bolton's reign.
"He was double dipping," Bush told the Dallas Observer in January. Crawford wasn't asking for time off, Bush claims. But he was getting paid by the city while he did union work. (Crawford, through his attorney, Janice Moss, declined to comment. The Observer, as reported in a previous story, "Union Suit," January 20, 2005, obtained internal documents showing that Crawford six times in 2000 and 2001 did union business without approved leave from the police department. )
Bush wrote Crawford up for this. But he got nowhere. "I filed several complaints [on Crawford]," Bush said in January. "Some of the chiefs don't want to investigate."
So he sued. In October 2003, Bush and fellow officers Kevin Ellis, Steve Fuentes, Shawn Wash and Tom Clayton sued Crawford, Terrell Bolton, Assistant Chief Randy Hampton and five others. Now, the suit isn't entirely, or even partially, about double dipping--it's about discrimination and Crawford allegedly breaking into Bush's office, among other things--but there is a line in there concerning Crawford's alleged greed, and this is what interested Internal Affairs when it assigned Ricardo Terrones the case in December 2003.
"There were things that went on in this investigation that were...irregular," Terrones said in a recent deposition, when questioned by Bush's attorney, Doug Larson. (Terrones declined to speak with the Observer.) "One of the irregularities was that Senior Corporal Crawford by documentation was conducting DPA business while on duty, but I also uncovered facts that he was allowed to do that through his chain of command."
Allegedly Bolton and Assistant Chief Hampton told Crawford he could double dip all he wanted, even though, by Larson's count, five police officers have been fired or punished for same. (Such is the power of the DPA, the LPOA's Aranda says.)
Yet there was a problem with this chief-sanctioned double dipping. No written proof existed that Bolton or Hampton had allowed it. There was only Crawford saying the bosses in meetings with him had approved of his tactics. This put Terrones in a tough spot. (Try "professional suicide," Aranda says.) Terrones had to ask Hampton, the acting chief of police after Bolton's firing in August 2003, if he had allowed Crawford to double dip. The exchange last year didn't go well.
"Hampton's meeting with me the first time wasn't exactly productive," Terrones told Larson. The first set of questions Terrones sent, Hampton evaded. The second and third set were edited, Terrones believes, by his immediate supervisor and Deputy Chief Calvin Cunigan, who oversees Internal Affairs. Only then were questions sent to Hampton. Terrones said he never received satisfactory responses.
(Attorney Moss declined to speak on behalf of Hampton, also her client. Cunigan could not be reached for comment.)
Terrones finished his investigation earlier this year. There was a "preponderance of evidence," he said, to sustain on Crawford--to find him guilty of the double dipping allegation. "I believe it should have been sustained," Terrones told Larson, "but then I could see the flip side."
Terrones spoke daily with Chief Cunigan and other IAD supervisors about the case. They were all ambivalent. Terrones eventually found the allegation to be "inconclusive," meaning there wasn't enough evidence to sustain on Crawford. His report, as is the case with all IAD reports, had to then gain approval from the chain of command above him. The report today either has or hasn't gained that approval, depending on your source. But there's next to no chance the finding will change.
"I wasn't comfortable with this [investigation] at all," Terrones told Larson.
He knew there'd be backlash. "At the end of May," Terrones said, "I was told that I was being removed from the Internal Affairs Division; that I had to find a new position before June 1."
The decision to move Terrones didn't come from his boss, Cunigan. It came from someone higher, Terrones said: Assistant Chief Tom Ward, who has "close ties," the LPOA's Aranda says, to Eddie Crawford. (Ward says moving Terrones had to do with the reorganization of Internal Affairs: Terrones was one of seven sergeants; the revamped IAD called for six. Ward also says he's not any closer with Crawford than he is Aranda. "In my 26 years, I've never been to lunch with [Crawford]," Ward says.)
Aranda met with police Chief David Kunkle, concerned that the transfer of one of his union members was an act of retaliation.
Kunkle didn't think so. "The discussed transfer had nothing to do with this investigation," he tells the Observer. It had everything to do with the mandate he'd given IAD to conclude its cases quicker. "It was a big mess when I got here" in May 2004, Kunkle says. "Cases that were from 2002 were still outstanding."
Terrones, for one, has never worked quickly. It took him more than two years to finish the Crawford case. But Kunkle knew if he moved Terrones, "It would be perceived by some people as retaliatory."
So Internal Affairs is where Ricardo Terrones remains, no doubt hoping to never get a case like Eddie Crawford's again. --Paul Kix
It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt--or accused of racial discrimination, or suspended, or sued for $300,000. Such is the case at the Dallas Fire Department, where an old-fashioned session of "horseplay" turned into a full-scale discrimination suit that was settled by a judge in favor of the city of Dallas last Friday.
According to court documents, the predominantly white and Hispanic firefighters at Station 57 were engaging in horseplay in August 2002 when one of the firefighters was injured. Lieutenant Mark Janick accused a colleague of assault, and Walter Dunagin III was placed on administrative leave, then suspended without pay. Dunagin claims the punishment came not because of his actions, but because he is black.
Court documents filed by Dunagin, in which he demands $300,000 in lost wages and attorney's fees, say white firefighters have not been similarly punished for horseplay. A judge ruled otherwise, writing that Dunagin had failed to prove that white officers "similarly situated" to Dunagin were treated "more favorably." Judge Jane Boyle went on to write that Dunagin may have entirely fabricated one of the more favorably treated individuals he used to make his case.
Dunagin said the horseplay was the result of a "phone can" set up at Station 57. Every time a firefighter received a personal call at the station that was answered by someone else, he or she was required to put a quarter in a can. He says calls at the station became an all-out race. Dunagin said he became apprehensive after an initial incident in which he says he was rushed by two other firefighters, both trying to reach the phone. Dunagin says they assured him the roughness was "how we play."
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When the phone rang around lunchtime on August 16, 2002, Dunagin says, he and Janick made a dash for the receiver, but Dunagin "blocked" Janick and answered. After completing the call, Dunagin says, he turned to find Janick surrounded by fellow firefighters telling Dunagin to "get back."
"They made up a story that I knocked this man 20 feet away from the phone," says Dunagin, who was placed on administrative leave, "and put a big gash in his head and knocked him out cold."
Internal and public investigations yielded conflicting results about the incident, but court documents show that a grand jury declined to indict Dunagin in November 2002. Dunagin remained on leave, however, and was officially suspended for 20 days without pay in January 2003. In February 2003, Dunagin returned to work at another Dallas station.
Dunagin said he had not been made aware of the judge's decision as of last Tuesday and has not yet decided if he will appeal it. --Andrea Grimes