LLANO, TX – All too often those who continuously apologize for crimes committed by police officers are able to justify some of the most egregious instances of outright murder by claiming the officer was a bad apple. Almost as often, however, as TFTP has shown numerous times, the bad apple theory is exactly that—a theory—with no evidence to support it.
Illustrating the nature of the bad apple theory is the fact that grand jury indictments against officers in Llano Police Department, including their Police Chief Kevin Ratliff, have nearly wiped out the entire department.
There are eight law enforcement officers employed by the Llano Police Department, according to the LPD’s website, and now, as of August 13, two thirds of the entire police force has been indicted.
Does that seem like “one bad apple,” or a potentially much greater problem?
The indictments stem from a massive civil rights violation of a single person but have led to investigators uncovering a cesspool of bad cops.
As KXAN reports, on Aug. 13, a grand jury indicted Llano Police Officer Mark Burke and Llano County Deputy Duncan Roberts each on three counts of official oppression after trying to pick a lock at a home, then kicking the door in and arresting a man inside.
The corruption dates back to last year after officers were caught lying to frame an innocent woman for assault on a public servant, tampering with evidence, and using excessive force.
According to the documents from the Judicial District Court of Llano County, as reported by KVUE, Llano Police Officer Grant Harden, who has been suspended since December, was indicted on one count of official oppression and another count of tampering with a government record.
The documents allege Hardin made a false police report to justify the arrest of the unnamed victim on May 2. On top of Harden's charges, Llano Police Chief Kevin Ratliff, Sergeant Jared Latta and Officer Aimee Shannon were indicted for official oppression in connection with the same arrest.
As KVUE reports, according to a source close to the investigation, the officers claimed they arrested the man for public intoxication. One officer stated in his report they arrested the alleged victim outside of his home. However, the officers reportedly entered the man’s home without probable cause or a warrant and arrested him, overstepping their authority. The public intoxication charge was later dismissed.
As TFTP reported at the time the DA's Office said that Chief Kevin Ratliff suspended himself with pay upon becoming aware of the investigation and that he will remain on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation. Must be nice to be able to give yourself a paid vacation just after potentially committing a crime while on the job—a luxury afforded only to police officers.
The DA’s office said that the Texas Rangers are assisting with conducting the investigation.
The Llano County Sheriff’s Office will provide assistance to the city while half the police force is on suspension, as LCSO has a mutual assistance agreement to back them up on calls when necessary.
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Showing just how corrupt this department is, while half of them were charged in connection with a single case, another officer was indicted shortly after as well -- for another case.
As KVUE noted at the time, as officer, identified as Officer Melissa Sloan, was indicted in an unrelated case for tampering or fabricating physical evidence. The documents allege that on March 26, 2017, Sloan destroyed a video recording of a crime scene for a controlled substance case, knowing it would hinder the investigation.
As Jay Syrmopolous pointed out for TFTP, those that forward the idea that the problem is simply a few bad apples, allow the systemic problems in law enforcement to continue without being addressed.
While the suspension and indictment of two thirds of a police force may come as a surprise to some, it’s no surprise to The Free Thought Project, as we’ve reported on numerous similar incidents.
For example, in March 2015, the Brooklyn Police Department came under investigation amid allegations that weapons, drugs and other items had been removed from the evidence room. Then in March 2016, the head of a drug task force in Pennsylvania was arrested for having sex with a minor in exchange for leniency.
More recently, this past July, the entire drug unit of the Troy, New York, Police Department was suspended following reports that the unit entered a home without a warrant – then tried to cover their tracks by filing false burglary reports.
According to the Times Union, the officers entered a home after they were tipped off by another Capital Region police agency. But then they lied about it.
After realizing they made a major mistake, officers compounded their problems by attempting to cover their tracks. They allegedly filed a false burglary report.
After the police chief became aware of the incident, and the attempted cover-up, the entire drug unit was placed on administrative leave.
The common thread in these disparate cases is that there is no “one bad apple,” but a systemic problem of police attempting to cover for the illicit behavior of other officers – something known as the “thin blue line.”
Essentially, the thin blue line operates as a good ole boys network with a mantra that a good cop looks out for a fellow officer first—regardless of how illegal the activity is, or whether in it violates an individual’s rights. To be accepted by the law enforcement “brotherhood” you look out for fellow cops first. Those that refuse to bend to this expectation are run out of law enforcement by their peers, as we’ve reported on numerous times.
While it’s extremely rare for officers to be held accountable for their illicit actions, the actions of the DA’s office in Llano should be an example to the rest of the country that law enforcement isn’t above the law.