No action taken against Ferris officer
By 10/16/2003 00:00:00
The Ellis County Press
FERRIS - No action was taken against Officer Joe Alejandro after a resident filed a complaint against him for arresting him.
C.J. Smith, a resident of Ferris and a longtime carrier for the Dallas Morning News, was pulled over and issued a citation for having white dome lights shining inside his truck, but later, he was put in handcuffs after calling Alejandro a 'boy.'
Alejandro did not tell Smith, directly or on incident reports, why he pulled him over a second time and arrested him.
Both Alejandro and Smith testified before an open meeting Tuesday, Oct. 14 at Ferris City Hall, each having similar recaps of what went on Sept. 21.
However, when asked about the second stop, Alejandro said police officers could arrest motorists for traffic violations. Alejandro claimed Smith showed exhibition of acceleration, or burned out after being issued the ticket.
'I said I would pay the ticket, he had justified the ticket, because yeah, I was adamant in [my language towards him], but I still don't know why I was put in handcuffs,' Smith said. 'I was driving slowly when I [called him boy]. I was rolling.'
Smith cannot recall if he turned on his blinker though, after driving off, but in the open session meeting, Alejandro, a nine-month veteran on the Ferris police force, said Smith had turned on his blinker.
But later, after consulting with his attorney, Alejandro said he couldn't recall if the blinker was turned on.
Then, when Ferris City Councilman Jessie Hernan-dez questioned him about the second incident, which the complaint was about, Alejandro shrugged.
'I had every intention of putting him in jail,' Alejandro said. 'I'm not going to lie.'
Because an officer can arrest someone on traffic violations, the evidence about the blinker was viewed as crucial.
Both men were sworn in before the meeting started, and were under oath.
Alejandro, according to his attorney, hadn't even received Smith's complaint after it was filed, despite it being submitted weeks ago.
'I find that a bit funny,' Smith said.
Then, on the arrest, questions surrounding the video equipment in the squad car were brought up, with acting Chief Mike Zaidel testifying that 'for some reason, the audio-video equipment wasn't working.'
'We've had problems before [with the video equipment],' Zaidel said.
When asked about the complaint, Zaidel at first said he received it, but didn't give it to Alejandro. Then later in the meeting, he told Smith and council members he hadn't received one.
'I don't have a right to give it to Alejandro,' Zaidel had said. 'C.J. Smith did not give me one.'
Sylvia Smith, wife of C.J., said the meeting was all a 'joke' and things were not finished in regards to the complaint.
'We're not through with this,' she said.
During the meeting, Jessie Hernandez, described by fellow councilman Fred Pontley as part of the 'magnificent duo' who wanted to fire Alejandro, brought up a separate complaint against Alejandro, citing a city attorney's opinion that it could be submitted as a question of the officer's character.
Jeff Cottongame, police chief who is currently on administrative leave, quickly stood up and said Hernandez could not share the information.
'I know I'm suspended, but good God, you [can't reveal another complaint],' he said.
Pontley had asked Smith if this newspaper had 'pumped him up' to sign the complaint and bring the allegations forward.
Also, Ferris resident Danny Satterwhite had argued loudly with Councilwoman Lori Perkins, instructing her to allow Mayor Jimmie Birdwell to conduct the cross-examination.
'You're an embarrassment to this city,' Perkins had told Satterwhite.
Smith, who called upon other residents with complaints to come forward publicly, said he plans to pursue another complaint regarding the security tape and equipment.
'Had the video worked, and for whatever reason it didn't, it would back up everything I said.'