Texas cops were allegedly given steakhouse gift cards from their superiors in the sheriff’s department if they used force while on the job, according to a report.
In a recorded interview with Texas Rangers, former deputy Christopher Pisa said Commander Steve Deaton with the Williamson County sheriff’s office rewarded deputies he considered “WilCo badass”, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
“They had the intention that we were all ‘WilCo badass’ and, if you went out there and did your job and you had to use force on somebody and he agreed with it, then you would get a gift card,” Mr Pisa said in audio obtained by the publication.
Former Sergeant Troy Brogden, who resigned from the sheriff’s department in 2019, confirmed his former colleague’s claims, adding Mr Deaton would reward deputies with gift cards “for what he considered good uses of force.”
Mr Brogden, who worked for the department for over 20 years before resigning, said the gift cards were brought up by Mr Deaton multiple times in meetings and classes with other members of the force in attendance.
“He would talk about it in groups, including supervisors meetings and classes,” Brogden said. “I was like, ‘What the hell?’”
Sheriff Robert Chody said in a statement: “The only use of cards I recall specifically was for a deputy who was able to recover some excellent fingerprints that ended up helping an investigation resulting in a warrant for that suspect and for a capture of a burglary suspect.”
“I don’t know what ‘good force’ means,” he added.
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Department has faced increased scrutiny in recent months, with Texas Rangers and the Williamson County District Attorney’s Office investigating at least five use-of-force incidents involving deputies.
One incident under investigation involved deputies Johnson and Zach Camden, who remain on the force. The two deputies were involved in the March 2019 death of 40-year-old black man Javier Ambler that was captured by Live PD.
Body cam footage of the incident, which wasn’t publicly released until June 2020, showed Mr Ambler telling officers that he had a heart condition and was struggling to breathe while they restrained them. The officers also allegedly used a stun gun on Mr Ambler during the arrest.
Mr Pisa did not say in an interview with a Texas ranger if the two deputies received gift cards for the March 2019 incident that involved use of force. But he did say it was “common knowledge” that Mr Deaton would review incidents and would reward deputies with gift cards if they used force.
“You are saying that — correct me if I am mistaken — that Commander Deaton, that it is known that Commander Deaton gives out gift cards to steakhouses or wherever to people for using force?” the Ranger asked in an audio tape.
“A good use of force,” Mr Pisa said.
Attorneys for the two deputies involved in the Ambler case declined the American-Statesman’s request for comment on whether they received gift cards from their superiors following that incident.
Mr Pisa resigned after using force on a black woman during an April 2019 traffic stop, an incident that is currently under investigation.
He told a Texas ranger that he expected to receive a gift card from his superiors following the incident but never did.