FALSE REPORTS RESULT IN FIRING
Four-time trooper of the year is fired after officials accuse him of falsifying at least 11 DWI reports
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.”