The investigation that led to the revocation of training privileges for the Bell County Sheriff’s Office shows that Sheriff Eddy Lange received what constituted as illegal training.
A copy of the investigation obtained through an open records request from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education showed Lange received 53 hours of falsified or improper training from the department’s former training lieutenant.
Lange, who won election in November, has since asked to have the training hours scrubbed from his record. The investigation also shows that Lange, before the election, first brought issues with training to the state commission.
On Jan. 31, Lange and County Judge Jon Burrows voluntarily suspended all training activities by the sheriff’s office for two years in order to avoid a permanent revocation by the commission.
The sheriff’s office training coordinator, Lt. Danny Kneese, resigned and surrendered his peace officer’s license.
Kneese oversaw training for the department since 2006. He admitted to improperly performing classes and giving out inadequate lesson plans, according to his sworn statement.
Though Kneese absolves Lange, former Sheriff Dan Smith and anyone else at the sheriff’s office of blame, the agent in charge of the investigation said he was very suspicious of Lange’s involvement and Chief Deputy Chuck Cox’s knowledge of deficient training practices.
An offense report stated Lange promised Kneese a position as jail administrator after Lange’s election became a likelihood. Lange also promised Cox, who was then a lieutenant, the chief deputy position.
The offense report characterized Kneese as an intensely loyal person who had been convinced to be the “fall guy” in the wake of the investigation. It recounted a meeting with Kneese at the commission’s headquarters in Austin in which Kneese gave investigators a sworn affidavit.
Kneese refused to enter the building and handed a typed statement to the
investigator. He told the investigator he had been by Lange’s house before driving to Austin. Lange later confirmed he reviewed Kneese’s statement before it was submitted.
“It is clear to me that (Lange) is coaching ... Kneese, and this is the reason for the disclaimer about Lang (sic) being put into the affidavit,” the investigator stated.
The agent received an anonymous tip Dec. 12 that Lange and his chief deputy had gone to Kneese’s house several times and may have threatened Kneese regarding his statements to the commission.
“This makes sense because in Danny Kneese’s written statement he takes total responsibility for this incident, when it is clear to me that he did not act alone regarding the training given to Eddy Lang (sic),” the investigator stated.
After Lange won a hotly contested Republican primary runoff, he began to seek training to re-up his peace officer’s license.
Lange, then a county commissioner, previously served as an officer with the Temple Police Department. He quit that job in 1984.
In August, Lange began training. He received credit for a Federal Emergency Management Agency course, crisis intervention training and a new supervisor’s course. However, none of those hours were completed in a classroom.
In Kneese’s affidavit, he stated he would give Lange the coursework in a packet for Lange to take home and complete.
A signed affidavit from Lange stated he questioned Kneese about the training processes.
“He (Kneese) stated that he had an agreement with TCLEOSE that allowed homework to be done and counted as training,” Lange stated.
Lange received his final hours of credit Sept. 5. Soon after, he contacted the commission with concerns about the training. Investigators met with Lange on Oct. 16.
On Nov. 1, the commission’s deputy director, John Helenburg, and the agent met with then-Sheriff Dan Smith. The investigator assembled a training book, outlining rosters and personal statements of sheriff’s employees with training hours that appeared excessive and fraudulent.
During the meeting, Smith called Cox into his office.
As they recounted their findings, Cox did not appear surprised, had a “non-caring attitude” and showed no interest in the training rosters, the report stated. “I suspect he may have been aware of what was going on all along,” the investigator stated.
Cox stated he had little knowledge of other issues with training, and had not taught a class in a long time. However, records indicated Cox taught at least one course in 2012.