Emails Show Sheriff's Staff Hoped to Downplay Academy's "At Risk" Status

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Emails obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show staff at the Dallas County Sheriff's Training Academy hoped to avoid telling people the academy was "At Risk" of being shut down over low test scores. (Published Thursday, May 22, 2014)

    Emails obtained by NBC 5 Investigates show staff at the Dallas County Sheriff's Training Academy hoped to avoid telling people the academy was "At Risk" of being shut down over low test scores.

    Sheriff's department emails obtained through a records request show in December a lieutenant in charge of the academy did not want to post a state required notice telling people the academy was "At Risk" of losing its license.

    The lieutenant wrote: "I really hate to use the work 'AT RISK'. I would rather use something like 'under evaluation' or 'under review'.....sounds less harsh....."

    A captain replied, "That would be misleading. The Academy is at risk. As they say, it is what it is."

    The department did eventually add the phrase "At Risk" to its website sometime earlier this year, but Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez told NBC 5 Investigates that she still didn't personally know the academy was in danger of losing its license until around the time NBC 5 Investigates started asking questions last week.

    Three of the unions representing employees of the sheriff's department are now criticizing Valdez after she suggested some recruits may have purposefully tanked the state exam because they were upset with the department.

    The state is now investigating that claim.

    Meanwhile, an attorney representing some cadets kicked out of the current class of recruits is raising more questions about what is going on inside the troubled academy. The cadets were dismissed last week, the same week NBC 5 Investigates first revealed the state threatened to close the academy over low test scores.

    "The timing of it causes me to believe there is a connection," said Lance Wyatt, an attorney for three of the cadets who said they were initially told they passed a driving test only to be told days later they failed. "It causes me to believe that this is some type of knee-jerk reaction. How can anybody know what the standards are in a situation like that."

    The three dismissed recruits are now fighting to get back into the academy.

    "The cadet's grievances will be reviewed by the Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission, so any comment at this point would be inappropriate. We also will continue to work closely with TCOLE to correct the training academy matters," Valdez told NBC 5 Investigates on Thursday.

    The union that represents the deputies suspects the sheriff's commanders are now so concerned about this year's recruits that instructors are being more demanding than normal.

    "This is going to be the first class in a long time where they've actually cut folks that haven't met the grade," said Scott Guiselman.

    Meanwhile another union has come forward defending the staff at the sheriff's academy. In a statement Dallas Peace Officer Association President John White said, "The recent events are not indicative of the quality of our officers or instructors. We support our Academy staff and are willing to work with Administration to help resolve these issues."