Reserve deputies say they're 'forced' to work Sheriff's political events

Agency: Reserves can skip assignments

Author: Matt Rivers, Video Journalist, mrivers@ksat.com
Published On: Oct 22 2012 09:51:52 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 22 2012 09:51:52 PM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

Four active reserve deputies with the Bexar County Sheriff’s Reserve Association said they are regularly required to staff campaign events for Sheriff Ortiz, in an interview recorded Sunday.

Reserve deputies are part-time officers that work for the department for free, 16 hours per week.  In exchange, they are allowed to keep their peace officer commissions from the state.

In a KSAT Defenders investigation that aired last Thursday, reserve deputies were shown staffing political events.

Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz defended his position, saying everyone who appeared did so "out of the kindness of their hearts."

KSAT received more than a dozen emails shortly after the story aired refuting that claim. Four deputies agreed to appear on-camera, with identities concealed.

“There is not a special event, like a political party, that goes on without the Sheriff’s knowledge,” said one reserve deputy.  “He approves all the specials for the support division.”

“We are told that it’s part of our duty, that this is what we need to do to keep our commissions,” said another.

One deputy said he felt like a hypocrite working a recent political function because he was not even going to vote for Ortiz.

“There is no way I volunteered to work that event,” said the reserve deputy.  “But if we don’t do them, we are under the threat of them taking away our commissions.”

Emails given to KSAT appear to support those claims.  The director of the reserve deputies, Roger Apolinar, wrote in one of the emails that if deputies had not worked enough "specials," those should be the reserve deputies assigned to the next one.

Many of the reserve deputies expressed frustration with the situation.

“This isn’t what we signed up for,” said a reserve deputy.  “When we have to work these events that we know are for individual people, it’s frustrating.”

Another deputy didn’t mince words.

“I don’t feel that I should spend my time as a babysitter for adults,” said the reserve deputy.

Lt. Randy Galindo, a supervisor with the reserve deputy association, spoke in place of Sheriff Ortiz.

He echoed statements made by the Sheriff in an interview last week, denying everything the reserve deputies said.

“This is volunteer, and if you don’t want to show up to these events, you don’t have to,” said Galindo.  “They do it out of the goodness of their hearts.  They can always say no.”

Galindo also denied that reserve deputies are ever threatened with losing their commissions if they don’t work special events, including political parties.

The reserve deputies are organized as a 501(c)3 non-profit group.  Those groups are not allowed to donate anything of value, monetarily or otherwise, to a political candidate.

Sheriff Ortiz said despite these reserve deputies working security at his campaign events, all while acting as agents of their non-profit group, there are no violations occurring.

His opponent in the race for Sheriff, Republican Susan Pamerleau, thought differently.

“There is something wrong here, and I think that through whoever investigates this, that needs to come out,” said Pamerleau.

It would be up to District Attorney Susan Reed to launch that investigation.  There have been no indications yet whether an investigation will be opened.

For a list of recent stories Matt Rivers has done, click here.