Leaders at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office in Texas reportedly gave gift cards for places like Logan’s Roadhouse to deputies who used force on the job, two former employees have said.
- USA Today reported that one former deputy made the admission to Texas Rangers, who are investigating the agency’s aggressive policing tactics.
- Former Deputy Christopher Pisa told Texas Rangers during a recorded interview, obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, that Cmdr. Steve Deaton awarded gift cards to deputies he considered “WilCo badass.”
- “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,” Pisa said.
- Another former employee, former Sgt. Troy Brogden, confirmed Pisa’s claim, saying Deaton handed out the gift cards “for what he considered good uses of force.” Brogden spent 20 years at the agency before resigning last year.
“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 that he has "no idea what ‘good use of force’ means": “Literally, 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.”
- The report noted that the gift card rewards are but the latest in a series of questionable practices at the agency reported in recent months.
The department has also hired multiple deputies with troubled histories, engaged in high-speed vehicle pursuits for minor traffic violations and used aggressive tactics in several incidents that are now under investigation by the Texas Rangers and the Williamson County district attorney.
One of the incidents under investigation is an April 2019 traffic stop Pisa conducted in which he used force on an African-American woman.
- The incident triggered both a criminal investigation and Pisa’s resignation.
- Pisa told the Texas Rangers that he expected to receive a gift card after the incident.
- Pisa reportedly also said during the interview that the former officers involved in the 2019 death of Javier Ambler were among those who received gift cards, though he did not specify for which incidents.
- Ambler was a 40-year-old Black man “Tased four times as he shouted that he had a heart condition and could not breathe," USA Today wrote.
Deaton resigned in September 2019, months after social media posts of his surfaced with objectionable images showing dolls depicting actions, such as rape and kidnapping and the mutilation of a Black football player.