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Red Oak continues investigation into traffic ticket quotas

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ERIC CORNELISON
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RED OAK - The Red Oak Police Department was under investigation this week by an appointed outside investigator in order to determine if the chief and deputy chief set traffic citation quotas and threatened patrol officers.

Chief Donald 'Red' Fullerton and Deputy Chief Stephen Anderson have both been put on paid administrative leave because of the investigation into whether or not officers were given legal quotas to meet and they would remain on leave until the completion of the investigation.

'I spoke with the mayor and the investigator and then I decided to put them on paid administrative leave,' said Red Oak City Manager Ken Pfiefer.

Pfiefer said he thought it was customary to place individuals on administrative leave during an investigation.

The Red Oak City Council voted unanimously to launch an investigation into the actions of the Red Oak Police Department concerning the excessive citations at the city council meeting on Tuesday, March 12.

This investigation resulted from complaints from the citizens of Red Oak including two letters from council members and was on the heels of recent letters published in The Ellis County Press and Red Oak Record concerning the rise in the number of tickets handed out.

City Councilman Ben Goodwyn said the police department had only 600 traffic tickets in January 2006 but the number increased to almost 1,800 in January of 2007.

'Some officers had approached me about feeling the pressure to meet quotas and were threatened with demotion, no raises or even termination if they did not give into the chief's demands,' said Goodwyn.

Simultaneously, Councilman Casey Hargrove said he was also getting the same complaints from other officers from the department and community members.

He said he later found out patrol officers were ordered to issue more citations in order to make up for budget shortfalls.

'We are six months into the fiscal year and are almost $1 million dollars under the projected budget.'

'The city manager is supposed to let us know that there (is) a problem with the budget in order to make adjustments,' Hargrove continued.

Goodwyn said, 'I was truly wondering why a police chief would be so hard on his officers about handing out traffic tickets but once I found out about the budget shortfalls I figured that would do it.'

Red Oak City Mayor Ron Bryce said he wanted an independent investigation to look into the allegations, 'We need to look at the facts before jumping to conclusions.'

The council instructed Pfiefer to retain an investigator to conduct the investigation into these complaints and dispel the rumors they have caused in the community.

Sherman Baxter was hired to conduct an independent investigation and there had been no timeline set for the completion of this investigation.

According to Pfiefer, Baxter was an independent investigator with a lot of experience in matters such as these and was currently working on the investigation.

'Baxter will give his report to the council upon completion before those results are made public,' said Pfiefer.

A tentative date for the completion of the investigation was Wednesday, March 21 but according to Pfiefer, no council date had been set to hear the results.

Goodwyn was also concerned for the police force and, if there are crimes being committed, he wanted to ensure something was being done about it.

'If there is a crime here we would have been accessories to the fact,' Goodwyn said.

According to Hargrove, the city has wanted to hire a human resources director, public works director, a city engineer and someone as the finance officer, but these positions had not been filled even though the city still has the Red Oak Road project and the Dallas County water line project beginning this year.

'I now know why we have not hired anyone for those positions and it is because of the budget problems,' Hargrove said.

'This is absolutely, positively not what Red Oak is all about.'

Efforts to interview Fullerton were unsuccessful but he recently was quoted in another publication and denied the police department was setting quotas for officers to meet.

Lieutenant Billy Snell has been placed in charge of the department for the interim until the investigation has been completed.

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