Personnel questions hamper constable’s first 3 months in office

Records show captain using county vehicle before being commissioned

SAN ANTONIO – Vehicle records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show a captain with the Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable’s Office signed in, then used a county vehicle before he was commissioned by the agency.

Several photos of Precinct 2 Capt. Anthony Castillo also show him in full uniform, wearing a badge and carrying a gun before his commission was in effect.

The photos, which show Castillo and other members of Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela's administration during a New Year's Day swearing-in and pinning ceremony, were posted to the constable's campaign Facebook page in early January.

Multiple law enforcement sources, including a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement investigator, who spoke with the Defenders on the condition of anonymity, said the vehicle logs and photos show a clear violation of TCOLE licensing standards.

"If somebody is not being shown to be actively commissioned as a peace officer, but they're doing the functions of a police officer or peace officer, there's definitely some issue that may come up here later on down the road," said Richard Bryan, manager of the Alamo Area Regional Law Enforcement Academy.

Bryan declined to speak about Castillo or Precinct 2, but said any officer, even if he or she is licensed, cannot act in a law enforcement capacity until a law enforcement agency holds that person's commission.

"You have no police law enforcement power just because you graduated an academy," Bryan said.

TCOLE records show Castillo is a licensed peace officer whose commission was previously held by the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. However, that commission ended on Dec. 30, 2016. His commission with Precinct 2 was not picked up until Jan. 6, according to state records.

In addition to photos of Castillo in a Precinct 2 uniform New Year's Day are the vehicle logs, which show "capt a castillo" log in and drive a Precinct 2 vehicle on Jan. 4.

The log, which tracks a vehicle's location using GPS, shows Castillo started his shift at Precinct 2 headquarters in the 7700 block of Guilbeau Road.

The log shows the vehicle "on scene" several hours later in the 7000 block of Ingram Road. The vehicle then remained in that location for the next two days.

The log contradicts Barrientes Vela, who said in an email last month that Castillo was not issued a county vehicle until Jan. 7.

Barrientes Vela, who declined the Defenders' requests for an interview for this story, said via email, "My Captain's credentials are not in question."

A TCOLE spokesperson, however, said the state is now looking into Castillo.

Ten current and former employees of Precinct 2 spoke with the Defenders for this story, but asked that this report not use their names. Some of the employees described the work environment under Barrientes Vela during her first three months in office as "toxic."

County records show several deputies resigned or retired in late December, shortly before Barrientes Vela took over the office. Several more deputies have resigned since Jan. 1.

Records also show the credentials of five Precinct 2 reserve deputies were not renewed and expired New Year's Eve.

Several deputies who spoke with the Defenders also have taken issue with Barrientes Vela's decision to no longer allow deputies to take home their patrol vehicles at night.

Law enforcement professionals have long said that patrol vehicles parked in neighborhoods, particularly at night, are a simple crime deterrent.

Barrientes Vela said in a written statement that she ended the practice of take-home vehicles after many constituents questioned whether it was economically responsible.

She then went on to say she was “being targeted by media” because of her “position of authority as the First Female Bexar County Constable in a male dominated Law Enforcement field.”

About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.