Four-time trooper of the year is fired af­ter of­fi­cials ac­cuse him of fal­si­fy­ing at least 11 DWI re­ports

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Ward

The state Pub­lic Safety Com­mis­sion on Thurs­day up­held the fir­ing of a High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cer who was hon­ored as trooper of the year four times for his record of catch­ing drunken driv­ers.

Trooper Ed­win Lang was fired af­ter au­thor­i­ties ac­cused him of fal­si­fy­ing at least 11 DWI ar­rest re­ports, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic tes­ti­mony be­fore the com­mis­sion.

None of the faked re­ports af­fected any crim­i­nal prose­cu­tions, of­fi­cials said. Lang had worked in Cass County, in North­east Texas.

Com­mis­sioner John Steen ques­tioned whether DPS of­fi­cials should re­view whether troop­ers should re­ceive awards for high num­bers of DWI ar­rests and whether that en­cour­ages cheat­ing. Lang said none of the re­ports in ques­tion counted to­ward his awards.

The vote was 3-0, with two com­mis­sion­ers ab­stain­ing amid ques­tions about whether the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Lang, 43, and his dis­missal last year were han­dled prop­erly.

Com­mis­sion Chair­man Al­lan Pol­un­sky said the case — and ques­tions about why the fal­si­fied re­ports were not dis­cov­ered un­til two years ago, when Lang ap­plied for a pro­mo­tion — will trig­ger an im­me­di­ate re­view of agency poli­cies and prac­tices, es­pe­cially of how re­ports are filed and pro­cessed.

The case is the most re­cent of sev­eral ter­mi­na­tions over al­le­ga­tions of ly­ing, an is­sue that has Pol­un­sky and DPS Di­rec­tor Steve McCraw preach­ing a no-tol­er­ance pol­icy — and has led

Con­tin­ued from B1 to the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice in DPS to con­duct in­de­pen­dent in­quiries of wrong­do­ing al­le­ga­tions against state po­lice.

On Thurs­day, the com­mis­sion named Stu­art Platt, the agency’s gen­eral coun­sel, as in­terim in­spec­tor gen­eral — the third in the past two years. The ap­point­ment fol­lowed the re­tire­ment of for­mer U.S. Mar­shal Lafayette Collins af­ter just four months on the job.

Pol­un­sky voted to up­hold Lang’s fir­ing, as did Steen and Com­mis­sioner Ada Brown. Com­mis­sion­ers Tom Clowe Jr. and Carin Marcy Barth ab­stained.

“The Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety should con­duct it­self to the high­est stan­dards, and any de­vi­a­tion from that should be ad­dressed in a se­vere man­ner,” Pol­un­sky told Lang.

Lang, who had been on sus­pen­sion with­out pay for months, had ap­pealed his ter­mi­na­tion to the com­mis­sion and asked to be re­in­stated.

Af­ter the vote, he sat with­out emo­tion, star­ing at the floor. Min­utes ear­lier, he had in­voked his Fifth Amend­ment right against self-in­crim­i­na­tion and stopped an­swer­ing com­mis­sion­ers’ ques­tions.

Tes­ti­mony Thurs­day showed that Lang, who won the top trooper honor from 2004 through 2007, had ad­mit­ted fil­ing fal­si­fied fol­low-up re­ports on DWI ar­rests over at least two years.

Though Lang ad­mit­ted fak­ing 11 re­ports, of­fi­cials said there could have been as many as 16.

He and his at­tor­ney said the re­ports were writ­ten months af­ter DWI ar­rests were made at the be­hest of his su­per­vi­sor, who said some orig­i­nal ar­rest re­ports could not be found.

Lang said some felony DWI ar­rests were re­duced by pros­e­cu­tors to mis­de­meanors. Troop­ers are not re­quired to file re­ports on mis­de­meanor DWI cases, as they are on felony DWI cases.

“Has my client been hon­est? Yes, he has, all the way through this process,” said Lind­sey Wat­son, Lang’s at­tor­ney. “Has my client messed up in fil­ing re­ports over two years? Yes.”

But she in­sisted that the ter­mi­na­tion should be over­turned be­cause Lang’s per­for­mance had been com­mended reg­u­larly since he be­came a trooper in 2002.

Deputy Di­rec­tor Phil Atkins branded Lang’s ex­cuses as ab­surd.

“He ad­mit­ted that some ar­rest re­ports were made up out of thin air,” he said. “There has never been a more clear case.”

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