Texas Department of Public Safety has reprimanded one of its troopers, Billy Spears, for taking a selfie with Snoop Dogg at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin in March – Spears has been ordered to undergo counseling as a punishment for standing next to the rapper with a ‘well-known criminal background’.
Spears was providing security during the event, when Dogg approached the officer and requested that the officer be photographed together. Dogg later posted the picture on his Instagram account with the caption ‘Me n my deputy dogg’.
“While working a secondary employment job, Trooper Spears took a photo with a public figure who has a well-known criminal background including numerous drug charges. Be mindful of social media outlets and how such photos can negatively affect the agency,” read a counseling record memo. Because the action taken against Spears called for counseling and was not a formal disciplinary action, the trooper has no means of appeal.
Spears’ Attorney Ty Clevenger, in a letter to the director of the Texas DPS, insisted that the “surrounding circumstances of this disciplinary action make it all the more obvious that it was an act of retaliation”.
“Trooper Spears was not aware of Snoop Dogg’s criminal history, nor was he aware that DPS personnel are expected to run criminal background checks of everyone who requests a picture,” he wrote.
Clevenger also believes the action against Spears is retaliatory because the trooper reported an Alcoholic Beverage Commission officer last year for unprofessional conduct. The complaint prompted an investigation against Spears, who was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.
“DPS claims that the counseling forms are not really discipline, therefore the employee has no right to appeal. Yet those counseling incidents can block a trooper’s chances for promotion or advancement. So it appears that DPS commanders are papering Billy’s file with counseling incidents because they can’t prove that he violated any law, order or policy, and they know that he will beat them with the law and the facts if he is given an opportunity to appeal,” he adds.
DPS spokesman Tom Vinger released a statement regarding the action taken against the trooper: “DPS does not typically discuss or release specifics of personnel issues unless they result in disciplinary action as outlined in Government Code 411.00755 and 411.0072. Supervisors counsel and coach employees on a regular basis and these efforts do not constitute formal discipline by the department”.
TX DPS trooper reprimanded for letting Snoop take his photo, demonstrates benefits of basic pop culture education http://t.co/mKCNO5E1AN
— Sean Beherec (@sbeherec) April 1, 2015