Locked and Loaded

The Invisible Sheriff strikes again. This week, we wrote about how Lupe Valdez infuriated her rank-and-file officers when she declined to fire Larry Locke, one of her top chiefs, for keeping a Thompson submachine gun in his storage cabinet. Valdez had overruled her highest-ranking employee, Jesse Flores, who wanted to can Locke for dereliction of duty. She choose merely to demote Locke one rank, prompting outrage from the department's employment groups, which claimed that if a deputy had committed the same offense, he'd be filing for unemployment.

After the sheriff's decision, The Dallas Morning News, KDFW-Channel 4 and the Dallas Observer asked for copies of the department's investigative report to see what reasons Valdez had for second-guessing the decision of her second in command. (To be honest, I don't remember asking for it, but I may have.) Today, though, the sheriff has asked the Texas attorney general to allow her to withhold the file, because the case is still on appeal to civil service.

This is going to raise questions again about Valdez's ties to Locke. Although Locke mocked her in an interview with Channel 4 and the Observer, the sheriff called him a "friend" in her official statement announcing his demotion. Locke contributed $100 to her campaign last fall, and at a subsequent fundraising dinner, Valdez went out of her way to thank Locke for his support, according to several people present. Is this why she soft-pedaled Locke's discipline, or did he really deserve to keep his job? The investigative file could provide answers. In the meantime, Valdez's employees aren't likely to let it drop. --Matt Pulle

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams