MIDLOTHIAN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – By the time the findings of an administrative investigation into the traffic stop reached Midlothian Police Chief Carl Smith’s desk he knew what to expect. He was disappointed nonetheless.
“This is a transparent organization,” he insisted.
The investigation by Professional Standards Commander Vernell Dooley determined two officers who’d stopped a police commander’s daughter removed their body cameras after discovering who she was and later released her at the order of their sergeant.
In an interview with CBS 11 News, Chief Smith shared his reaction to the controversial incident and answered questions about the department’s response.
- READ: Investigation Questions Why Midlothian Officers Allowed Police Commander’s Daughter To Avoid Jail
One of the officers involved, officer Phillip Evitt, told Commander Dooley he was scared he’d lose his job for placing a commander’s daughter in handcuffs.
“I’m sorry we haven’t done a better job at convincing him that doing the right thing will always be respected by this administration,” said Chief Smith.
Evitt and his partner, officer Nicklaus VanDerkar, both received a written reprimand for failing to document the arrest and for turning off their body worn cameras.
Officer VanDerkar told Dooley he was shown in training it was acceptable for conversations between officers.
“This is not what I would call an attempt to cover up or a corruption type issue,” he said.
The chief says the officer didn’t appear to be trying to hide the fact that they were removing their cameras. The department he said is working to communicate to officers that is against policy.
“We’ve done a pretty exhaustive evaluation of the last two years of arrests and contacts to make sure this is not an ongoing procedure,” said Chief Smith.
The department is also working on a new policy requiring a high-ranking chief or commander be notified in the future when someone is released from custody.
The chief responded to questions about Sgt. Stephanie Hanson’s discipline. She’s the one who ordered the commander’s daughter let go.
She’s been required to undergo ethics training and to take a day of leave.
“It may well be a paid day off, but it is no vacation day,” said the chief.
Chief Smith said he considered the sergeant’s history as a stellar employee in determining her punishment. If she has to be disciplined again, he says, she’d face tougher consequences.
“Moving forward, you basically have served, whether it’s paid or unpaid, a suspension for failure to follow policy,” he said.