DENISON, TX - The Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas, or CLEAT, has released its findings from an independent investigation into the Denison Police Department at City Hall Thursday morning, and it deals directly with Denison Police Chief Jim Lovell's use of confiscated vehicles.
Dwight Tiller, Director of Field Services for CLEAT, says they believe Denison Police Chief Jim Lovell is misusing confiscated vehicles for personal use.
"Once he drove to work he would drive it home for lunch, officers have told us they've seen it when he was getting a hair cut during the day time, even that about 2 years ago he used that vehicle when he went to purchase his own personal motorcycle," said Tiller.
One of the cars in question is a 1996 Chevy Impala, which was seized in a drug raid in July 2006 and listed as "use by department" on Police documents. According to State statutes, "law enforcement can use seized property solely for law enforcement purposes," such as undercover narcotics investigations. But CLEAT investigators don't believe that is the case with the impala.
"I deal with a lot of law enforcement agencies and I've never heard of a unique, collectible car being used for narcotic investigation purposes because they stand out. And from our information we've heard that that's why these vehicles were retained was for narcotics investigation purposes," said Tiller.
According to the Department's budget and CLEAT's findings, Lovell receives a $350 vehicle allowance every month to pay for gas and upkeep of his personal vehicle while doing city business. But instead, Tiller says it appears Lovell drives the department owned Impala.
"We just don't think it's in the taxpayer's best interest, you have a city official receiving a car allowance and then using a city vehicle that is in addition to that car allowance, and using city gas and city mechanics to keep it up mechanically," he said.
Another vehicle in question is a rare 1972 Plymouth Barracuda. It was also seized in a drug raid and forfeited to the City in July 2008. According to Denison Police Department documents, this car is also listed as "use by department" but has remained in storage since the seizure.
For the past several years, dozens of seized vehicles have been auctioned and that money goes back into tax-payer funds. Tiller said the they estimate the Impala could be sold for approximately $16,000 and the Barracuda for even more, from $20,000 - $25,000.
"Local Council Members should be held accountable under the law for continuing to all the abuse and misappropriation for personal use," said Tiller.
Now CLEAT says the investigation is in the hands of leaders at City Hall. CLEAT has given the City about two weeks to take action. And if they don't, CLEAT will hand over its findings to another law enforcement agency, such as the Texas Rangers.
City Attorney Tom Akins did release a statement that says the City Manager found no policy the chief has violated and the City does not plan to conduct an investigation.
The Denison Police Department declined comment, saying all information must come from the City Attorney. The city attorney would not comment on camera, but did release this statement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
RESPONSE OF THE CITY OF DENISON
IN LATE SEPTEMBER THE NEWS MEDIA WAS INFORMED BY AN ANONYMOUS CALLER THAT THE CHIEF OF POLICE WAS BEING INVESTIGATED FOR MISAPPROPRIATION. THAT WAS BAD INFORMATION AND SIMPLY NOT TRUE. THE ANONYMOUS ANNOUNCEMENT COINCIDED TO THE DAY WITH THE CITY OF DENISON RECEIVING AN OPEN RECORD REQUESTS FROM THE COMBINED LAW ENFORCEMENT ASSOCIATIONS OF TEXAS (C.L.E.A.T.).
THE CITY PROMPTLY DELIVERED TO C.L.E.A.T., AND TO SOME OF YOU, THE NEWS MEDIA, OVER 1100 PAGES OF DOCUMENTS THAT WERE RESPONSIVE TO THE REQUEST. FOLLOWING ITS REVIEW OF THOSE DOCUMENTS, C.L.E.A.T. CONVEYED TO THE CITY THAT ITS SOLE CONCERN WAS THE POLICE CHIEF’S USE, FROM TIME TO TIME, OF A VEHICLE THAT HAD BEEN FORFEITED TO THE CITY. C.L.E.A.T. EXPRESSED ITS POSITION THAT THE USE WAS INAPPROPRIATE AND THAT THERE SHOULD BE A “CONSEQUENCE” FOR THE CHIEF HAVING USED THE VEHICLE.
IN CONSIDERING C.L.E.A.T.’S CONCERN, THE CITY MANAGER FOUND THAT NO POLICY OF THE CITY HAD BEEN VIOLATED AND KNEW OF NO STATUTE THAT PROHIBITED THE CHIEF’S USE DURING HIS BUSINESS DAY. NO USE OF THE VEHICLE FOR PERSONAL REASONS HAS BEEN CITED.
THE CITY MANAGER DECLINED TO PROVIDE TO C.L.E.A.T. THE “CONSEQUENCE” THAT IT WAS SEEKING. LIKEWISE, THE CITY HAS DECLINED TO LAUNCH AN INVESTIGATION AT C.LE.A.T.’S REQUEST INTO THE CHIEF’S CONDUCT WHEN IT SEES NO POLICY OR STATUTE CONTRARY TO THE CHIEF’S AUTHORIZED USE OF THE VEHICLE.
SHOULD A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY UNDERTAKE AN INVESTIGATION OF THE CHIEF’S USE OF A FORFEITED VEHICLE, THE CITY OF DENISON WILL COOPERATE FULLY WITH THAT AGENCY AND ITS OFFICERS.