A disgraced former Hearne Police Department sergeant is wearing a badge and gun again, according to records that I received today from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and it is only one example of a much larger problem.
Stephen Yohner, known on this blog as “Sgt. Tallywacker,” left Hearne PD last year amid accusations that he texted a photo of his gonads to a female officer. He was also accused of taking money and drugs from crime scenes without properly accounting for the evidence, and he is named as a defendant in an ongoing civil rights lawsuit. Nonetheless, he was commissioned on May 15, 2018 as a reserve officer by the police department in tiny Hico, Texas (home of the Billy the Kid Museum, as it happens).
I emailed City Administrator Adam Niolet and Police Chief Ronnie Ashmore a couple of my blog posts about Sgt. Tallywacker and asked if they knew about his history. I received this response from Mr. Niolet:
I’ve got a feeling somebody will get called into the principal’s office on Monday morning. It’s not like Sgt. Tallywacker’s reputation was a secret. If you Google “Stephen Yohner,” a list of news articles and blog posts explains the circumstances of his departure from Hearne PD, and all of that should have shown up in any background investigation.
So how did he get hired? Did the chief not conduct a background investigation, or did he just ignore what he found? As you can see from my July 6, 2017 blog post, Sgt. Tallywacker had a shady history even before he was hired by Hearne.
I’ve filed an open records request for Sgt. Tallywacker’s application to Hico PD, as well as for all of the documents and materials gathered by Hico PD during its background “investigation.” That should make for some interesting reading.
PASSING THE HOT POTATO
Several months ago I spoke with Kim Vickers, director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, about how bad officers get passed around from one small department to another. Chief Vickers said the turd officer (my terminology, not his) gets caught with his pants down (sometimes literally), but offers to waive any legal claims against the department if the chief lets him resign in good standing.
Most small municipalities are scared of being sued, so they take the deal: the officer resigns before any investigation is finalized, and the chief gives him an honorable discharge. Since TCOLE can only report what the chief submits in the discharge papers, the turd gets passed to the next small department that can’t afford to pay a decent salary or conduct a thorough investigation.
That’s a lousy way to do business, and the Texas Legislature needs to figure out a way to stop it.