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."