(article courtesy: marshallnewsmessenger.com)
Marshall Police Chief Jesus "Eddie" Campa denied on Thursday that he has targeted officers by installing GPS tracking systems in their patrol cars without their knowledge or that he has made public comments about personnel that were inappropriate, allegations that were recently brought to the city's attention by the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA).
TMPA, a labor organization that aims to safeguard the rights of state law enforcement officers and that acts to mediate reported disputes within departments, said a number of Marshall officers have contacted the group to express dismay in Campa's leadership.
"I have been in conversations with the city and the TMPA," Campa said, stating he felt he had cooperated with the TMPA's mediation, having participated in discussions between the organization and the city of Marshall, as well as granting requests made by TMPA. "They have asked for some open records requests and we have provided them with all (they requested)."
TMPA North Texas Representative Clint McNear said, as a whole, he believes the department desires and is in need of new leadership.
"The officers (at MPD) are ready for a change of leadership," McNear said. "There are mounting issues. It's no secret he has applied (to other departments) and is actively trying to leave and doesn't want to be there. All of his employees agree with him that is time for him to go."
McNear said several allegations against Campa were brought to TMPA's attention after officers reported having GPS devices placed in their vehicles without their knowledge. McNear said the incident left the officers selected for GPS tracking feeling targeted by their chief.
"Other issues came to light because of the GPS (issue)," McNear said. "Once that was brought up, a lot of other allegations started coming up. The deep desire for a change in leadership came to light."
Campa responded, saying GPS tracking was placed on about five officers' vehicles as a part of a testing phase for Auto Vehicle Locators, which allow a business or agency to remotely track a vehicle.
"On the GPS issue, I don't even know what to say about that. It was an officer safety issue, something that we were testing and looking at. I didn't think it was that big of a deal," Campa said. "We were in the testing phase (of tracking vehicles) and (at the time) we didn't have funds to purchase ones for every single vehicle. We knew eventually we would have (tracking capability) on all the vehicles and that issue would be resolved that way.
"The primary reason for AVL and GPS is officer safety," Campa said, adding the officers were initially unaware their vehicles were being outfitted with GPS tracking systems but that there was no reason they were not informed.
"We probably could have done a better job of rolling it out and implementing it," Campa said. "As far as us targeting anybody, that is absolutely false."
McNear doesn't agree.
"Obviously those officers have been targeted and had devices put on their vehicles," McNear said. "When called on it, there were numerous and often conflicting excuses and reasons for why those officers were being surveilled through GPS … and when he explained (Campa) said he was just monitoring their activity to see what they are up to."
McNear confirmed the organization put in an open records request to the city to examine MPD's standard operating procedures for GPS tracking devices, as well as Campa's emails pertaining to the GPS systems dating back to Jan. 1, 2016.
"Typically, GPS in the fashion he is using it is utilized (in a case where) I'm an investigator and I believe a resident living on Smith Street is dealing narcotics and human smuggling," McNear said. "Then I can get a court order and put a GPS tracking device on a vehicle. When it would be applicable to put it on a police officer's vehicle is if there was reason to believe or evidence indicating an officer might be involved in illegal activity. That wasn't the case with any of these officers. They are all very decorated and respected officers."
McNear said placing GPS devices on the officers' vehicles is not illegal, but suspicious.
"By law there is nothing forbidding him from doing that," McNear said. "But for the sake of transparency, when there's numerous allegations being made against you at the time and you are targeting and (placing GPS) devices on other people, it is certainly interesting to say the least."
Additionally, McNear said Campa came under scrutiny because of derogatory comments he reportedly made during a FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (LEEDA) class.
In an email sent to the city, acquired by the News Messenger through a Freedom of Information Act request, McNear wrote: "I'm deeply troubled after receiving texts from law enforcement attending an FBI LEEDA class in Bossier this morning. I was informed that there was public classroom discussion/comments, made by Chief Campa and his administration, about alleged personnel issues at Marshall Police Department. Obviously this lack of professionalism is not the norm of most law enforcement administrations. I hope this is not indicative of retaliation and continued problems to expect."
Campa said he was confused by the reports, denying he said anything inappropriate.
"It's kind of hard to answer when I'm not sure what they are talking about. Because we never mentioned anything (of the sort)," Campa said. "There was no inappropriate comment, there was no comment about any kind of retaliation. I'm kind of at a loss for words. I have no idea exactly what they are talking about when it comes to that."
McNear said he stands by the statements he has heard about the supposed incident.
"I know the information I received," McNear said. "I expressed my opinion in the open records request, if he says it didn't happen, that's his statement on that. I've been told different information.
"The chief was attending a class in Bossier and I started getting texts that he was making comments about problem personnel and making derogatory comments about employees, right in midst of us going through this process," McNear said.
Looking to leave
McNear said issues at MPD were compounded further by Campa applying for a chief position in Melbourne, Florida earlier this year, as well as visiting the city.
"He posted online he was learning policing techniques and ideas to bring back from Melbourne, Florida, which gives the appearance he was there on a work trip, when he had applied and was in the process for the chief position," McNear said. "He never mentioned that in his social media posts when he was telling everyone he was there to bring back good things for the city of Marshall. It just seems a little deceptive to me when you're reporting about bringing great things back to the community … but not giving the whole picture that he's applying to be the chief of police and therefore wouldn't be bringing anything back. He'd be leaving."
Campa said he had applied to the Melbourne position, but the aforementioned visit to the city was during a personal vacation and after he had applied.
"The financial records revealed he was not (visiting) on the city's dollar, but it certainly seems deceptive to me," McNear said. "It's just not a transparent way of handling your business as a leader of those people there."
The city of Melbourne PD confirmed Campa applied for the chief position, but was not a finalist.
McNear also said he is looking into allegations of financial misappropriation by Campa, with the organization having requested records of all grants received by MPD since Jan. 1, 2015, as well as all donations for the K-9 unit, donations for the specified purchase of K-9 ballistic vests, all donations received for hosting of community events and a list of expenditures of D.A.R.E. account funds.
"There have been a lot of allegations made and I'm still sorting through if any of them or true or not true or misunderstandings," McNear said. "I'm not to a point to determine one way or the other how valid the allegations may be."
"I have no idea what he's talking about," Campa said to the allegations of financial misappropriation. "We've turned in everything he's requested. I don't know what he's looking into or what the allegation is."
Mayor Eric Neal said he hopes to have any disputes in the MPD settled soon.
"The city takes any kind of investigation like this seriously," Neal said. "We feel that we're completely committed to our employees to find out what and if any issues exist and take care of them as they need to be taken care of."
McNear said there were other allegations against Campa, but would not comment on what they were.
"We have requested other documents (from the city)," McNear said. "There is other information that we are working on that we are not prepared to speak to at this time, but there's been multiple allegations that we are still working on as well."
McNear said he felt the dichotomy of Campa's continued promises of a better Marshall do not gel with his efforts to leave the community for greener pastures.
"If you're telling your community you want to be here and you want to change the world, but on the flip side of that actively trying to leave, that doesn't give the people you are leading significant confidence," McNear said. "Then you lump all the other issues on top of that, they would agree with (Campa) that it is time for him to move on."
Campa responded that it is natural to desire upward mobility as long as it doesn't affect performance.
"Just because one has aspirations and dreams of someday going on and running a much larger department in a much larger city, doesn't mean that I don't care about the community I am currently in," Campa said. "I am in the community of Marshall and as long as I'm here, I'm going to continue to do what's best for the community and the officers of Marshall.
"I do have my dreams and my aspirations of going to a much larger community and a much larger city," Campa said. "I don't see why anybody should be upset or mad at me for doing that as long as I don't come back to Marshall and don't do my job. We are busting our tail all the time to make sure that Marshall continues to strive and continues to make gains."