The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) licenses and regulates law enforcement personnel, including peace officers, county jailers, and telecommunicators. As a result, TCOLE can discipline law enforcement professionals for violations of Chapter 1701 of the Texas Occupations Code, TCOLE Rules, or other applicable laws or rules. Disciplinary proceedings by TCOLE that arise from a complaint can lead to dire consequences that may endanger your career. Therefore, securing legal representation by an experienced law enforcement defense lawyer at Bertolino LLP, can be critical from the outset of any complaint against you.
TCOLE Jurisdiction and You
TCOLE only has jurisdiction over certain kinds of complaints against law enforcement officers. As a result, TCOLE only investigates and disciplines officers who have committed criminal offenses or have violated a law or rule concerning their licensing, training, certification, appointment, or another similar standard. Noncompliance with these standards can lead directly to TCLE disciplinary proceedings and result in sanctions. All other complaints go to the appropriate agencies or must be handled through the civil legal system.
Understanding TCOLE Disciplinary Proceedings
If TCOLE receives a complaint about an officer within its jurisdiction, an investigator who is also an officer will investigate the complaint. Their role is to determine whether sufficient evidence exists that a violation of the applicable law or rule has occurred. If the investigator finds sufficient evidence, they refer the case to the enforcement division of TCOLE, which can initiate administrative disciplinary proceedings or criminal charges.
If TCOLE opts to start disciplinary proceedings, it will file a petition and notify the officer of the alleged violation. The officer has 20 days to file a response. At that point, the officer can attempt to resolve the complaint through a negotiated agreement or request a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) to contest the notice of alleged violation.
SOAH then assigns an administrative law judge (ALJ) to the case, who conducts a hearing where both parties can present evidence. Following the hearing, the ALJ will issue a Proposal for Final Decision (PFD) to TCOLE. The full TCOLE Board of Commissioners must review the PFD and determine whether to adopt the ALJ’s PFD or issue its order.
Sanctions for Noncompliance with Training Requirements
Sanctions for not complying with training requirements under state law can lead to suspending a law enforcement or peace officer license. Noncompliance occurs whenever an officer fails to complete the required training within the requisite timeframe, subjecting the officer to disciplinary action. In addition, if the officer is not assigned to an agency at the time of noncompliance, the officer’s license becomes inactive.
The first incidence of noncompliance results in TCOLE issuing a notice of noncompliance, which gives the officer 60 days to complete the missed training. So long as the officer completes the training within the 60-day timeframe, they may receive only a written reprimand from TCOLE. However, more than two written reprimands may lead to a license suspension.
On the other hand, if an officer fails to complete the training as directed following TCOLE’s notice of noncompliance, the officer can receive a 90-day license suspension. A second incident of noncompliance can result in a 180-day suspension. During suspension periods, the individuals may not work as law enforcement officers and are subject to criminal charges if they continue to work in that role despite suspensions.
Furthermore, suspensions can occur no earlier than the date the officer violated the rule or law that led to the suspension. A suspension period also can run concurrently with any other period of suspension or probation.
Factors for TCOLE to Consider in Issuing Sanctions for Noncompliance
TCOLE must consider the following factors under 37 Tex. Admin. Code, §223.15, which relates to noncompliance, in determining the length of an appropriate license suspension:
- Your history of previous violations of TCOLE-related laws or rules;
- Any actual or potential harm to public safety that your conduct created, such as personal injury or property damage;
- Any existing aggravating evidence; and
- Any evidence used in rebuttal to mitigating factors.
Additional factors exist under this section related to determining the length of a license suspension, but they relate solely to suspension due to the commission of criminal offenses by a law enforcement officer.
We Will Protect Your Law Enforcement License Today
You can count on the experienced law enforcement license defense lawyers at Bertolino LLP, to take all steps necessary to protect your license and career. We will investigate the circumstances that led to your disciplinary proceedings and devise the best strategy for your case. Do not wait until it is too late for us to make a difference in the outcome of your case. Call us today at (512) 515-9518 or contact us online.