SUS­PENDED THEN FIRED

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - JE­SUS BANDA JR.

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

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