The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) trains, licenses, and regulates peace officers, county jailers, and telecommunicators. TCOLE can discipline these law enforcement professionals for violations of Chapter 1701 of the Texas Occupations Code, TCOLE Rules, or other applicable laws or rules. Since a TCOLE disciplinary action can lead to a reprimand, license suspension, or revocation, getting legal representation as soon as you become aware of a complaint or investigation can be crucial.
Understanding TCOLE Jurisdiction
TCOLE has the authority to handle only specific types of complaints against law enforcement officers. These cases include:
- A violation of law or rule occurs concerning your licensing, training, certification, appointment, or another related standard
- Conviction of or placement on court-ordered supervision, probation, or deferred adjudication for a covered criminal offense
TCOLE does not handle any other types of complaints. All other complaints go to different entities, such as the agency that appointed the officer, the governing body that oversees the agency, the office of the county or district attorney, the Department of Public Safety – Office of the Texas Rangers, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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TCOLE Complaint Procedures
When TCOLE receives a complaint about a licensed law enforcement professional concerning a matter over which it has jurisdiction, an investigator who is also a peace officer will investigate the complaint. If the investigator finds sufficient evidence during a preliminary investigation that a violation of the law or rules has occurred, they will refer the complaint to the enforcement division of TCOLE. That division can open either an administrative or criminal case. In addition, TCOLE can proceed with criminal charges or disciplinary proceedings as appropriate if a criminal offense has occurred.
Understanding the TCOLE Disciplinary Process
TCOLE then files a petition and notifies you concerning its intended disciplinary action. You can file a response to the petition within 20 days. You can also request a hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) to contest the violation notice. An Administrative law Judge (ALJ) will hear from both parties and issue a Proposal for Final Decision (PFD) to TCOLE. The full TCOLE Board of Commissioners, which meets quarterly, will review the PFD and either adopt the decision of the ALJ or issue its order.
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License Suspensions for Disciplinary Actions by TCOLE
TCOLE can suspend your law enforcement professional license for any type of violation over which it has jurisdiction, including non-compliance. In determining the length of an appropriate suspension, TCOLE must consider the following factors under the 37 Tex. Admin. Code, §223.15:
- The severity of any conduct that resulted in your arrest
- The required mental state of your criminal offense
- Whether your criminal offense had an element of actual or threatened bodily injury or coercion against another person
- 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
- Any evidence used in rebuttal to mitigating factors
This rule also sets forth some minimum and maximum license suspension periods for conviction of different levels of criminal offenses under Texas law. These suspension periods include:
- Class A misdemeanor – at least 120 days
- Class B misdemeanor – at least 60 days
- Convicted or placed on community supervision for any offense above a Class C misdemeanor – up to ten years
- Charged with a felony and placed on community supervision – 30 years
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Penalties for Non-Compliance with Training Requirements
You can face suspension of your law enforcement professional license for not complying with training requirements established by state law. You are non-compliant when you fail to complete the required training within the required timeline. If you are not appointed to an agency when you become non-compliant, your license becomes inactive. However, if you are appointed to an agency when you become non-compliant, you will face disciplinary action through the TCOLE process.
If you are non-compliant, you will receive a notice of non-compliance from TCOLE. You typically will have 60 days to complete your missed training. If you complete the missed training during the timeframe given, you may receive only a written reprimand in your TCOLE file. However, more than two written reprimands can result in the suspension of your license.
If you do not complete the missed training within the given timeframe, you can receive a 90-day license suspension for first-time non-compliance. You can receive a 180-day license suspension for second-time non-compliance. In addition, you may not work as a licensed law enforcement professional during your period of suspension, and you can face criminal charges if you continue to work despite your suspension.
Protect Your Law Enforcement Professional License Today
As soon as you know that you are facing enforcement action from TCOLE, you need to take quick action to protect your license and career. Procrastinating can damage your defense and lead to a poor outcome in your case. Contact the law enforcement defense attorneys of Bertolino, LLP, for assistance with your case. You can reach our offices by calling (512) 476-5757 or contacting us online at https://www.belolaw.com/contact-us/.