EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – KTSM learned at least three El Paso County Sheriff’s Office detention officers are subject to a criminal investigation, according to a records response from the El Paso County Attorney’s office.
A representative with the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel advised against releasing employment information to KTSM regarding three detention officers due to a pending criminal investigation.
The initial inquiry was made to the Sheriff’s Office on August 24 after KTSM’s Investigative team learned of a possible investigation into several officers’ roles in an alleged drug distribution ring at the east El Paso County Jail Annex.
A sheriff’s office spokeswoman denied an investigation into the three officers when questioned by KTSM via e-mail.
“We’ve had no such investigation and do not have any information regarding employees operating a drug ring at the El Paso County Jail,” the spokeswoman emailed on Aug. 26.
The following day, KTSM’s Investigative team made a Public Information Act request to the Sheriff’s Office asking for memorandums of understanding, notices of leave, termination notices, or resignation notices for three specific officers.
Thursday, the County Attorney’s Office provided KTSM official notice indicating a possible ongoing criminal investigation involving the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The notice did not provide specifics as to why the three officers included in KTSM’s request were under investigation.
“The Texas Government Code provides that information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime is excepted from the requirements of the Public Information Act if release of the information would interfere with the detection investigation or prosecution of crime,” the notice states.
It also states a representative with the Department of Justice “indicates that the responsive records relate to a pending criminal investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.”
“The FBI is of the opinion that the records contain matters that the release of which would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime,” the notice states.
KTSM 9 News is withholding the names of the detention officers as they have not been formally charged.
“As a matter of policy, the FBI does not confirm the existence or status of any investigative work for several reasons; among them the integrity of investigations and privacy rights of all individuals involved,” a spokeswoman for the FBI’s El Paso office said.
To follow-up, an open records request was made through the Texas Public Information Act asking for documents related to the three officers’ employment status with the Sheriff’s Office.
On Thursday, KTSM 9 News also received employee data for the Sheriff’s Office and a notice from the County Attorney’s Office.
Employment data show one of the detention officers was hired in the year 2000 and had been earning an annual salary of $73,301. The second officer was hired in 2010 with a $64,902 annual salary. The last started working with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office as a Detention Officer in 2014 with an annual salary of $53,395.