Underhanded Politics or Police [Mis]conduct in Elgin?

Elgin Police Department, a small community in Bastrop County, Texas, which has been known for various issues of corruption over the years, is once again in the spotlight.  This time, for the firing of one of its highest-rated officers, Steve Ou.  From information gathered through various internet sources, Officer Ou has consistently posted one of the highest if not the highest number of narcotics arrests for Bastrop County.  This is not to say he is overzealous but simply that he is doing his job as required by the State.  And, when his statistics are measured against those of other officers in the county, it is easy to see that Officer Ou could become a target, as he has always taken his oath seriously.

In December, 2008, what began as a routine traffic stop ended in a high speed pursuit and felony evading charge for the Driver.  This was reported and charged by the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office.  According to reports, this call also involved information that gunshots were fired which resulted in a cooperative response of other officers, including Officer Ou.  During this incident, Officer Ou’s use of a club, as defined by the Texas Penal Code, to break a window on the suspect vehicle was not in accordance with Department policy, though I have not seen a written policy at the time this entry was drafted, and do not know whether such policy exists or is merely a convenience raised by The City of Elgin to justify their smear campaign against Officer Ou.

The most important point to remember is that none of us were present at the time of this incident.  All that we have to rely on is a video and the testimony of all parties involved.  Secounds feel like hours when under the high-stress of a situation like those faced by officers.  As a former Williamson County Deputy, I personally can make that statement.  It is that information and training that helps me to understand cases as they relate to all parties involved and why suspects and officers may respond the way that they do.

Officer Ou has, as required by his State duty as a peace officer, filed a felony complaint against both  Detective Dezarn and Sergeant A.J. Molinari, with the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office, but it is not clear what became of those charges.  So, although there is a presumed "thin blue line" among police officers not to charge each other, Officer Ou was above that sort of double-standard.  Further, Officer Ou was involved in an arrest of an Elgin City Councilman’s son for Burglary of an unoccupied residence, so he was definitely known to those in power not only in Elgin but also in Bastrop County, through the Sheriff’s Office.

In no way am I charging that corruption in Bastrop County is responsible for Officer Ou’s termination, but I firmly believe that it could be a contributing factor, especially given the fact that Officer Ou has taken a stand against what he deemed to be illegal conduct by those entrusted to fight against it and further those who are related to others in power in the community where he worked.

In the video reported by Fox News Austin, the City Manager comments that Officer Ou’s behavior "is a perfect example of what is not acceptable" (using the club to shatter the window)… but consider:

  • Known felony in progress (evading)
  • Possible shots fired (in the CAD call from the Dispatch?)
  • Cover of Darkness
  • One officer from Bastrop with a drawn weapon

All of the above factors contribute to the totality of the circumstances and assuredly, breaking a window should be the least of the City’s concern when it comes to the investigation of this stop, as I believe Officer Ou was well within his rights and exercised control in not doing more than shattering a window.

This is definitely one to watch in the news.