Four Ferris Police officers returned to work two weeks ago after being placed on paid administrative leave.
Officer Philip Pearson and Sgt. Jason Nottingham were both placed on paid administrative leave March 16. Police Chief Eddie Salazar and investigator Walter Weiss were dealt the same reprimand 10 days later due to alleged violations of the city’s personnel policy.
All of the reprimands came after a city employee filed a complaint March 8 against Ferris City Manager Bill Jordan.
The allegations of planting evidence against Pearson were found not to be true. The Ferris Police Department, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office independently investigated the matter. The complaint alleged Pearson had allegedly attempted to plant drugs inside the complainant's vehicle during a traffic stop.
“We had a citizen that complained to the city manager about an arrest that happened in October. It was actually a sheriff’s office arrest. My officer, Pearson, went over there to back him up for assistance,” Salazar said. “The guy was actually arrested for outstanding warrants. They did find a small plastic baggie that had residue, and they didn’t charge him, but they could have. In Texas, you can charge someone with any detectable amount, which includes residue.”
Salazar stated the person who was arrested obtained copies of the body camera and patrol vehicle footage through an open records request. These videos were supplied to the individual by the department.
“I guess he saw something on there that looked a little shady to him. So he filed a complaint, which is certainly his right. So we looked into it and didn’t see what he was alleging,” Salazar explained. “He filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office. They looked into it and didn’t see what he was alleging. But we took it one step further because this was our officer that he was accusing.”
Salazar added the department had the complaint reviewed by the Texas Rangers, who found nothing to substantiate the claims. The department then notified the resident about findings from the investigations. The resident then filed a complaint with the city manager.
“I told the city manager that it has already been investigated by us, the sheriff’s office and the Rangers. That is three," Salazar recalled. "He said, ‘can you find somebody else?. I said I would go talk to the district attorney's office see if they will go ahead and take it.”
Salazar stated Ellis County Sheriff Chuck Edge then said he would ask the Ellis County and District Attorney’s Office to look into the matter.
The staff at the County and District Attorney’s Office informed Edge an investigation into the matter was already underway and was filed by the complaint. The investigation could not substantiate the allegation.
The Ferris Police Department conducted an in-house investigation on the harassment complaint against Nottingham made by the same individual.
Salazar stated the complaint alleged that Nottingham stopped the resident too much and made derogatory comments about him. After a review by the department, it was found there was little or no contact between the two individuals. The claim of harassment could not be substantiated.
Jordan previously told the Daily Light when he received the complaint against Nottingham and Pearson, he asked Salazar to place them on leave. Salazar stated at the time he did take this action as requested by Jordan.
“I am happy that we did not have any wrongdoing in our police department. That was the whole goal of the investigation. People were riled because they were placed on administrative leave,” Jordan said. “If we don’t take complaints seriously and do what we need to do as far as ensuring that we fairly investigate them then we lose trust with the community if we don’t do that and there is something there.”
Jordan stated there was no action taken against Salazar, but there was a disciplinary action taken against Weiss for a city policy violation. A written reprimand was put in Weiss’s personnel file.
“We did an investigation internally on that one. I am glad that we found that one of them was not found in violation. It is unfortunate that we did find a violation on the other,” Jordan explained. “We determined that it was not something that was so detrimental that we could not move past it. We did take a corrective action. He is back at work, and we are glad everyone is back.”