Just days after NBC 5 Investigates uncovered massive failures at the Dallas County Sheriff's Training Academy, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez uttered a startling allegation to the commissioners court.
After an exclusive NBC 5 investigation revealed that just 25 percent of the latest recruiting class passed the police exam on the first try, a staggeringly low number that violates a state requirement that 80 percent of recruits pass in order to keep the academy open, Valdez fielded tough questions Tuesday from the Dallas County Commissioners Court on the state of affairs in the department.
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Under questioning, Valdez suggested that 17 deputies in the most recent recruiting class may have intentionally failed their first attempt at the state exam because they were angry with the department.
Valdez said the recruits may have been stressed over learning the department may not have had jobs for them after graduation due to budget cuts and may have tanked the test.
"We can't say that it was done on purpose, we can't say that it wasn't," Valdez told county commissioners Tuesday.
All 17 recruits who failed the test on their first attempt were being paid by the county while attending the academy. All 17 of those recruits passed the test on their second try and were hired as Dallas County sheriff's deputies after graduation; they now all work for Valdez.
Valdez said she couldn't speak for the deputies as to whether or not they intentionally failed the exam and she wouldn't speculate as to what the sheriff's department may do about the allegation going forward.
Dallas County Commissioner Mike Cantrell said Valdez should have investigated the low scores before deciding to hire the deputies.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told NBC 5 Investigates he believes the sheriff should investigate further.
“I think if that occurred and it was done as a protest or it was done intentionally those people need to be terminated because the taxpayers paid them to go to school,” Jenkins said.
One of the unions that represents deputies is outraged that the sheriff would make such a claim without showing evidence to back it up.
"You're basically saying my employees did this to me on purpose, that's ridiculous," said president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 85, Scott Guiselman.
Valdez told NBC 5 Investigates that she only learned of the low scores, and that the academy was at risk of losing its license, shortly before NBC 5 asked her about it earlier this month.
She blames her staff for failing to tell her that the situation was serious enough that the academy risked losing its license.
When asked what she would do to deal with that she said, "that's a personnel matter and personnel matters are not discussed in public."
Executive Chief Deputy Jesse Flores, second in command to the sheriff, would not talk about it.
NBC 5 Investigates approached Flores after commissioners court to ask why he and his staff didn’t let the sheriff know about the situation. He avoided questions.
“I’m not going to talk to you about this,” Flores said.
The academy was put on state probation in November 2013, ostensibly giving the department several months to determine why the recruits failed and what could be done to improve the scores at the training academy.