SUSPENDED THEN FIRED
Early New Year’s Day, 2007, Fort Worth police officer Jesus “Jesse” Banda Jr. sat in his car outside an all-night party where his ex-girlfriend was with another man. Banda called a dispatcher and ran a check of the license plate of the truck the man was driving to determine his address. Days later, the truck was found blasted with nearly a dozen rounds from a shotgun.
Banda, who had seven years’ service at the time, told investigators he knew nothing about the damage to the truck, according to internal affairs and arbitration documents. In the end, police could not tie Banda to the shooting, but the department concluded that he had lied about why he had called in the license plate.
Then-Police Chief Ralph Mendoza put the officer on restricted duty, ultimately suspending him indefinitely — the same as firing him — in June 2007 for being untruthful and violating the department’s ethical standards. Banda was told not to represent himself as a police officer while internal affairs investigated the matter.
During that time, Banda was a passenger in a limousine pulled over by a Fort Worth officer. The officer said he saw the vehicle and, as he watched, the driver passed a Bud Light to passengers in the back. The officer said that when he asked Banda to get out of the vehicle, Banda handed the officer his police credentials.
The department opened a second internal affairs investigation.
An arbitrator ruled in August 2008 on Banda’s firing over the check of the license plate. He said Banda had clearly used department resources to run the license tags “for personal reasons” — but also said that firing him was too harsh, compared with punishments given to other officers. The arbitrator ordered him reinstated, reduced his firing to a 90-day suspension and awarded nearly a year of back pay, records show.
Banda was back on the force only one month when he was fired a second time, this time by new Police Chief Patricia Kneblick for misrepresenting himself as an officer during the traffic stop. Again, Banda appealed. This time, Banda’s union attorney argued that there was no proof that Banda had showed his work ID during the traffic stop and that the department’s investigation had been shoddy and incomplete. Bill Detwiler, who was the hearing examiner, agreed: “The hearing examiner finds the investigative process used in this case to be fatally flawed.”
Detectives had followed up with just three of eight potential witnesses and had done “little or nothing to source such information” including tracing the license plate of the limo and interviewing the driver, Detwiler said in his ruling. And, Detwiler noted, the detective investigating possible criminal charges lacked formal training and experience.
Seven months after Banda’s second firing, in April 2009, Detwiler reinstated the officer with partial back pay.
Banda, through the police department, declined to comment.
“The hearing examiner took issue with the same problems that we took issue with,” Terry Daffron Hickey, Banda’s attorney, told a local TV station at the time. “I think when you’re in a situation where you’re investigating a police officer and it’s a serious accusation and their job is on the line, there’s a duty out there to do a thorough, fair and complete investigation.”
In 2015, Banda, 45, was promoted to detective, records show. Current Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald declined to comment.
“The hearing examiner finds the investigative process used in this case to be fatally flawed.” Bill Detwiler, hearing examiner in Jesus Banda’s appeal of his second firing