Records show that about 160 officers in Dallas, one of the country's largest police departments, remain on the job despite being punished for a variety of offenses, some serious such as theft, excessive force and lying.
The list, which includes the officers' misconduct and punishment, provides a glimpse into transgressions that typically aren't released publicly. In one instance, an officer was twice cited for unnecessary use of force, in 1991 and 2000; causing a disturbance in 2000; and filing a false report in 2008. He was suspended each time, a range of two to 20 days.
Dallas police did not respond to repeated inquiries for information such as which policies guide police managers in determining whether officers should be terminated.
The Dallas Police Department's list came to light last week following a lengthy investigation by the Austin American-Statesman in which the paper requested such information from each district attorney's office in Texas. Most denied the request, but a few complied.
The Dallas department has more than 3,500 sworn officers, and the officers on the list represent about 5 percent of the force. Numerous officers were punished for filing a false report or providing misleading statements to supervisors, while others stole, committed fraud, drove while drunk or committed some other offense. In some cases, the officer was fired but reinstated upon appeal.
Lynn Pride Richardson, chief public defender for Dallas County, said Monday that the so-called Brady list puts pressure on the department to better determine who's fit to wear a badge. Chief David Brown has fired some officers, which shows he's trying to weed out some troubled ones, she said, but there's little he can do if an officer is reinstated by a civil service board.
"If you get a bad apple, then you recognize that and you put the training in place or the mechanism in place to correct the problem," she said.
Bob Gorsky, a lawyer who represents the Dallas Police Association, declined to discuss specific officers, but said he's reviewed the list and noticed errors that include police supervisors being omitted from it. He also argues that some officers are punished for being "untruthful," a broad criticism that can include an officer who was simply mistaken when relaying information.
"They've been labeled now on this list and it results in a very unfair perception about these officers," Gorsky said.
Named after a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady lists are maintained by prosecutors legally obligated to provide defendants with relevant material that may be favorable to their case. The law includes informing them in any case where an officer with a checkered record may testify.
Robert Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, said the Brady law was broadened in Texas with the adoption in 2013 of the Michael Morton Act, named for the man who served 25 years in prison for his wife's slaying before being exonerated by DNA testing in 2011. The prosecutor at his trial was accused of withholding evidence.
"I think prosecutors today are being very careful to be over-inclusive," Kepple said. He agrees with state attorney general rulings that Brady lists don't have to be released to the public, arguing that attorneys can subpoena an officer's personnel record when they like.
Ellis County, south of Dallas, also provided records of troubled officers to the Statesman, detailing transgressions in several small police forces. But unlike Dallas, Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson said the 12 on the list have "either lost their jobs or are soon to lose their jobs. So, it's a matter that tends to resolve itself."
Wilson said he released the records because he considers them public record, but understands why most district attorneys don't release their lists.
A patchwork of laws results in broad contrasts in how police personnel records are released, according to David LaBahn, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Prosecuting Attorneys. In California, for instance, he said there's an officer bill of rights that provides a greater amount of privacy.
But each state has some type of avenue for a defendant to learn an officer's personnel record, LaBahn said, and for good reason -- "there's a constitutional obligation to disclose those lists to the defense."