Three months since a state regulatory commission revoked training privileges from the Bell County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Eddy Lange is now seeing a possible positive consequence.
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education essentially forced the sheriff’s office to discontinue its training programs for two years following the discovery that a former lieutenant was fudging training hours and improperly administering classes.
On Jan. 31, Lange and Bell County Judge Jon Burrows voluntarily signed an agreement suspending training activities for two years.
It has prevented the sheriff’s office from conducting any continued education for deputies as well as jail academy training for newly hired guards at the Bell County Jail.
Despite that, Lange said he could see a scenario in which not having a jail academy would save the county money.
Central Texas College is exploring the possibility of restarting a police academy that could include a jailer academy. Officials are conducting an assessment to see if there is enough demand to restart an academy the college shuttered in 2011 because of falling revenue.
“We have not made any decisions or other considerations and will not until we complete our assessment,” CTC spokesman Bruce Vasbinder said in an email.
Lange said if the college conducts a jailer academy, he would hire people who earned a jailer’s license on their own time and money.
The revocation of the sheriff’s office’s jailer academy has not prevented the agency from hiring new jailers. Guards are allowed one year to complete a 96-hour training course, much of which is available online, said Kim Vickers, director of the regulatory agency.
Hiring deputies has not been hindered either. All new deputies went to police academies conducted by the Killeen and Temple police departments.
And many neighboring agencies volunteered to assist the sheriff’s office with continued training for deputies. Lange said officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety as well as area police departments have provided continued education for deputies.
Vicker’s agency also stopped short of voiding any training investigators determined was fraudulent. In a scathing investigation report critical of Lange and Chief Deputy Chuck Cox, the commission found several employees who had wracked up hundreds of hours of falsified training.
It led training coordinator Lt. Danny Kneese to resign and surrender his peace officer’s license for five years.
“Danny took the sword for everybody,” Lange said.
“We took care of the root problem,” Vickers said. “Could we go in and follow up on training that they didn’t do appropriately? Yes, we could if we had the resources to do it, but we don’t have the resources.”
All sheriff’s deputies have met training requirements for the current two-year cycle, which ends in September. By the time the next training cycle concludes, the department’s training privileges will be restored, barring any further infractions.
Lange and Vickers said many courses are available online. Texas A&M University provides several courses online through its Texas Engineering Extension Service, for example.
Lange said he has taken several courses online after requesting his record be scrubbed of all fraudulent coursework. One course administered illegally remains on his record, and Lange said he will not take the peace officer’s test until he retakes it in earnest.
“We’re trying to go above and beyond what’s been required of us, more than complying with what they told us,” he said.