Though he has his badge back, San Marcos Police Officer Paul Stephens will be confined to a desk job after issues about his credibility and use of force were raised by the Hays County District Attorney’s Office.
On June 25, District Attorney Sherri Tibbe sent a letter to San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams expressing concerns about Stephens’ history of being untruthful and using excessive force. The letter outlined that Stephens will not be called to serve as a witness in prosecution trials.
“Our office must be able to vouch for the credibility of officers who testify on behalf of the State of Texas,” Tibbe wrote. “As a result of Officer Stephens’ conduct, we are unable to do so.”
Stephens was indefinitely suspended in October after he shoved a woman to the ground and allegedly obstructed an internal investigation into the Aug. 18 incident outside Dillinger’s bar on Hopkins Street in San Marcos. Stephens appealed the suspension.
Months later a neutral hearing officer, Richard Brann, published a report saying that Stephens’ indefinite suspension, tantamount to firing, was not valid and downgraded it to a 15-day unpaid suspension. According to state civil service laws, San Marcos Police Department had to abide by the ruling.
Tom Stribling, an attorney for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, believes the recent move is “disturbing” since the arbitrator ruled that Stephens was truthful in the department’s investigation.
“Having been cleared for the charge of lying we think that it’s improper for the DA and the chief of police to continue to utilize the excuse that they think he lied,” Stribling said.
Williams strongly agreed with Tibbe’s decision, saying that Stephens’ credibility was one of the reasons he terminated him in the first place.
“I knew that it wouldn’t work,” he said. “I already had the conversation with the DA before I suspended him. She was very clear then that she couldn’t use him as a witness.”
Besides the most recent episode, Williams noted that Stephens lied to his commander in October 2008 when he said that he was tardy for a subpoenaed court appearance in Comal County because of a death in the family when he actually overslept.
He also received an oral warning in August 2009 for addressing an automobile driver stopped for speeding in “harsh and belittling terms.” The driver had a choking dog in the vehicle and was rushing it to a veterinary clinic. The dog died during the traffic stop.
Stephens reportedly told the distraught pet owners, “Chill out, it’s just a dog, you can get another one.”
For now, Williams said that Stephens will remain in a crime prevention and community service slot, away from patrolling duties.
“In good conscience I can’t put him back on the streets if I can’t trust his word,” Williams said. “He has to gain the faith of me and the DA, and I’m not sure he can do that.”
Sean Kimmons is senior reporter at the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the Mercury.