Keliher Gets Testy

One day after news broke here that Sheriff Lupe Valdez flunked a required state law enforcement test, Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher is thinking that the folks down in Austin need to draw some guidelines on who exactly can ascend to the top law enforcement position in Texas counties.

"You ought to know how to run a jail; you ought to know jail standards; you ought to be able to know the law; you need some managerial experience," Keliher says.

While Valdez inherited a troubled and scandal-plagued department, she hasn't exactly been the agent of change she professed to be when she ran for office in 2004. In March, the Dallas County jail failed its third straight state inspection and second in her term. Last week, Valdez appeared before an irritated Dallas County Commissioners Court to explain why her overtime costs were ballooning even as her department has fewer vacancies than it did a year ago. Then there was yesterday's news that Valdez posted a failing score on a licensing test the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLOSE) requires of all officers of the law, including sheriffs.

"The problem is when you have a jail that's not certified and overtime right now that is so excessive, and now you have not passing the TCLOSE test. It highlights the fact that there needs to be some qualifications for you to be sheriff for certain-size counties," Keliher says.

A former district judge, Keliher says that lawmakers ought to look into making passing the TCLOSE test a requirement before taking office. After all, new judges couldn't preside over murder trials if they flunked the bar.

"You wouldn't say 'They didn't pass the bar exam, don't worry about it, it's really not important.'" --Matt Pulle

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