March 5, 2014

Two cops in West Texas were involved in a two week competition to see who could steal the most signs from homeless people. After two months, their supervisors finally reported it and discipline was handed out.

Derek Hester & Daniel Zoelzer officers from Midland Police Department were suspended for three days without pay for violating the department's professional standards of conduct.   

The Associated Press obtained the findings of the investigation through a public records request, according to

"According to the investigation report, eight signs were found in the trunk of Hester’s patrol car on Nov. 20 and Zoelzer had thrown the about 10 signs he had confiscated into a city trash container after Hester called him to warn him he had been reprimanded by his superior for having the signs.
The two told the internal affairs investigator that they were issuing criminal trespass warnings when they took the signs. But according to the report, no homeless people were issued criminal trespass warnings by either officer in 2013. Most of those warnings in Midland are written, but some are verbal.
The investigation also looked into complaints from within the department that Hester and Zoelzer failed to log into evidence brass knuckles, a small set of scales and two knives they had obtained during other patrol stops. The investigation into the signs began after an officer on patrol with Hester when Hester obtained the brass knuckles sent an email to his sergeant Nov. 18 about Hester saying he wasn’t going to log them in as evidence.
The signs and the brass knuckles were found in Hester’s car during a vehicle inspection two days later."

 Many including advocacy groups are saying the punishment wasn't harsh enough, and the investigation should have been made public sooner than it was.

Cassandra Champion, an attorney in the Odessa office of the Texas Civil Rights Project, said:

 “The fact that they are making sport out of collecting the personal property of homeless individuals could be seen as them targeting these individuals for discriminatory harassment. Simply holding a sign is absolutely a protected part of our free speech.”

Police Chief Price Robinson said the punishment was suitable and the misconduct was an “isolated incident.” After the investigation the officers were reminded to “respect individual rights and human dignity”:

“We want to respect people, no matter who they are — homeless, whatever. That situation’s been dealt with. Those officers understand.”


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