NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KETK) Four East Texas Department of Public Safety troopers believe their First Amendment rights have been violated and are now filing a federal suit in the Eastern District of Texas against the institution.
According to federal court documents, the four men reported to their immediate superiors and the Office of the Inspector General that their sergeant was enforcing an unlawful quota system for arrests and traffic stops at the Nacogdoches duty station.
“Their own department found that he violated department policy.”Tanner Franklin, representing four state troopers
The suit, filed on Tuesday, alleges that Sergeant Robert Shugart subjected anyone who didn’t meet the quota to ridicule and harassment, and offered money and other prizes to those who had the most stops or arrests.
“The department had a chance to handle this multiple times, there were multiple investigations. The department could have handled it, their own investigation found that he violated numerous department policies.”Tanner Franklin
The state troopers, Rodney Mahan, John Henley, Jael Barton, Jr. and John Riggins say they refused to comply with the quota system and when they reported the activity they were, in return:
- tranferred to other duty stations away from their families
- denied promotions
- violently berated in front of others,
- denied vacation
- forced to work dangerously long hours
Each of the men have more than 10 years of experience on the force.
“I think it’s incredibly disappointing that Sergeant Shugart ultimately got a slap on the wrist.”Tanner Franklin
The findings of the investigation led by the Inspector General are mentioned in the lawsuit.
It says in part:
“Troopers complaints about Shugart awarding improper gifts at Center and Nacogdoches were true.”
And “between 2016 and 2019, Sergeant Shugart displayed a pattern of hostile behavior towards subordinates.”
Ultimately finding he “acted in a manner contrary to the department’s rules.“
However, even with the investigation complete, it was handed over to the Chief of the Highway Patrol Division.
There it would sit for nine months until a new highway patrol chief would step in and send the report over to troopers.
That is when the department handed down a suspension to Sergeant Shugart.
That suspension, the punishment for the findings of a quota system and for rewarding troopers with the most traffic stops and arrests, was a total of three days.
A three day suspension that Franklin is disappointed in.
“It’s not something DPS superiors are unaware of,” Franklin said.
According to the lawsuit, DPS Sergeant Shugart started his position at the Nacogdoches duty station back in 2017. Before that he was stationed in Center (Shelby County), where troopers allegedly raised concerns over the same quota system issue.
Attorneys Tanner Franklin and Sean Hightower are representing the group of troopers filing the suit. Its status is pending in the United State District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Lufkin Division.
KETK is reaching out to DPS for a comment on the situation.