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fishing tournament in Missouri deserves some time off without pay, if only to contemplate one’s error, as does seizing drug paraphernalia and giving it to an unauthorized civilian. But are such violations as “having an affair with a deputy sheriff’s wife,” or “an affair with a fellow Ranger’s wife,” or “failing to conduct [oneself] as a decent and honorable man” violations as serious as unlawful arrests, falsifying government records, or official oppression? By the Department’s rules, they are. Consider also a few precedents: the kind and degree of punishments regularly allotted by the D.P.S. A trooper who “forgot” for five months that he had collected a $53.50 cash fine from a traffic violator was given a one-day suspension. A trooper who pulled over an attractive woman for no apparent legal reason, then asked for her telephone number and a date, was given a punishment of six days off without pay. An officer who was speeding in excess of 100 miles an hour, and who then used his badge to avoid the ticket, was given three days off without pay. An officer who was found guilty of a laundry list of violations, including abuse of his position, seeking favors, and conduct unbecoming an officer was given one day off. In that light, the Department’s chosen punishment for Hodge for the offense of destroying three traffic tickets termination seems more than a little out of proportion. But Hodge’s supervisors insist they want him out of the Highway Patrol. “The department doesn’t feel that we can trust him when he’s alone late at night on the highway,” a D.P.S. lawyer explained to the Public Safety Commission. “The Department cannot say that what [Hodge] did was okay. We have to make a stand. And we make that stand here.” evin Hodge is a slow-talking, be spectacled young man who looks s if he could be a high-school physical education teacher. He is thirty-one years old, the father of two children, and a volunteer fireman who also helps out at the Y.M.C.A. His professional background is distinctly law and order. He is a petty offi serve, and during his active duty he served on the U.S.S. Texas, among other ships. Following his active service he worked for five years as a prison guard in Huntsville, including periods of duty at the infamous Ellis Unit and death row. \(He is currently on reserve assignment in Stuttgart, providDespite his captain’s disapproval, Hodge’s “friendly attitude” may in fact be in the best tradition of the D.P.S. Troopers, especially Highway Patrol officers, are generally distinguished by their courtesy, and on average seem to lack the machismo so common to big-city police forces, especially in Texas. Many of the 3,100 licensed D.P.S. officers come from small towns and and they grew up wanting to be Highway Patrol officers or Rangers. That small-town ethos of service is apparent throughout the Department’s ranks. The agency’s managers have a difficult job. With outposts covering 254 counties, state troopers must integrate themselves into the communities where they are stationed. For that reason, extramarital affairs even those that have nothing to do with work performance and do not, for example, take place in the back seat of a patrol car are still subject to discipline in the department. “We do have from time to time,” D.P.S. director Colonel Dudley Thomas confided to the Legislature earlier this year, “individuals who slip that we need to get out of a community.” Was Trooper Hodge one of those officers: someone whom his superiors needed not only to get out of Montgomery County, but also out of the Highway Patrol entirely? An alternate explanation, and one that the Department resists, may be the system D.P.S. routinely uses for disciplining its own officers. Unlike most other police agencies, the leadership of the Department of Public Safety circumvents its own Internal Affairs process. Most allegations against D.P.S. officers are investigated by the trooper’s own supervisors, and disciplinary action is recommended within the chain of command. The agency’s independent watchdog, Internal Affairs, becomes involved only when an investigation is requested by the director himself or by members of the Public Safety Commission. This system has been criticized by both the State Auditor and by the Legislature’s Sunset Commission. In the Hodge case, the sys tem’ s practical effect was that the charges against Hodge were investigated by his own sergeant \(who brought the mendation for dismissal was made by his captain, who may have lacked an unbiased perspective, disapproving as he was of Hodge’s “friendliness.” \(A spokesperson for the D.P.S. has declined comment on the Department’s disciThe lack of an efficient internal affairs mechanism may partly explain the Highway Patrol’s hot pur suit of Hodge. But there is another possibility as well. Hodge is black. After Hodge’s dismissal hearing, Donald Dickson, the attorney for the Texas State Troopers’ Association who represented Hodge before the Public Safety Commission, made a pointed observation. “In three-and-a-half years of doing discharge [termination] appeals,” Dickson said, “I have yet to appear with a white client.” \(Dickson said he has represented about deed, Dickson says he generally avoids raising race as an issue because the tendency at the Department, whenever race is mentioned, is “to circle the wagons” in defensiveness. Dickson did note that in those three-and-a-half years he has yet to win a case, and each time, the Commission’s votes have been a unanimous 3 to 0 to uphold the director’s decision to terminate. \(By the Department’s own count, of nineteen cases appealed in the last five years, the Commission has reversed the direcRace is not the only issue, Dickson admits. “To some degree, my guys are victims of D.P.S.’s reputation as an elite force,” the troopers’ lawyer says. “There is the perception that this is a pretty damn good police force and it is.” It’s just not a very well-integrated one. There are no blacks, Hispanics, or women among the department’s highest-ranking, policy-making officers. The upper ranks of the D.P.S. have been described by legislative staffers who follow the agency’s operations as the last white male club in state government. It seems that the only time a black or brown face appears in the agency’s board room, where the Public 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 26, 1999