As if local police departments around the United States are faced with enough problems with gaining the support of the public they are supposed to be protecting, corruption within the ranks continue to pose problems.
Vehicle towing is a lucrative business, not only for the tow companies, but for municipalities who solicit revenue generating contracts for tows requested by their law enforcement agency.
But when you have police officers soliciting business for a tow company owned by members of any police department, the opportunity for corruption exist that is seldom overlooked by police administrators as supporting their brothers in blue to line their pockets with cash, gifts, automobiles, houses and expense paid sporting expeditions, is not a big deal to them, as if they believe they are above the law everyone else is required to obey.
Certain tow company owners in Austin have enjoyed the past four decades of being in collusion with our Police Department, City legal and elected officials to knowingly taken advantage of the public for financial gain.
In an email to Austin Police Department Commander Arthur Fortune recently. it was revealed that certain individuals within his command staff have issued orders to detectives not to enforce certain aspects of Texas State Law that carry criminal penalties subject to arrest, that directly benefit criminal organizations operating in Austin, Texas.
The contents of the email and response are as follows below:
Yesterday in recorded phone call with Detective Atkinson, he told me his chain of command would not allow him to uphold and enforce the Texas Towing Law as written, specifically Occupations Code 2308.301 and 302.
Fact: TDLR Prosecutor Michael Shirk (512-539-5616) sent him a Proposal for Decision rendered by an Administrative Law Judge TDLR filed on a tow company for omitted text, verbiage or added text in statutory language in quotations on the tow sign,
Fact: I know for a fact that SAPD Vehicle Crimes Unit Sgt Jesse Arguello (210-207-2350) called Atkinson this afternoon, that is if he answered the phone, to tell him that SAPD files criminal charges against parking facilities and tow companies for towing vehicles with tow sign that omits text, verbiage or added text to statutory language in quotations.
Based on Atkinson’s comments, his chain of command prohibits him from enforcing the law, that has been on the books for 20 years.
Furthermore, TDLR is displeased at the fact, neither Atkinson or Ballard are forwarding them investigative reports, criminal charges and citations filed on tow companies, tow truck operators, vehicle storage facilities and vehicle storage facility employees, like every other municipality or sheriff departments do.
I would ask that you find out who within your command staff has given Atkinson and Ballard instructions not to enforce the law the Legislature mandated you do enforce to address predatory towing, which is harming the public daily at the hands of criminal enterprises, as this behavior is really giving APD a black eye when other agencies uphold the same law your unit refuses to uphold.
I have faith you will get to bottom of this, because bad apples will cause disruption in any organization regardless the amount of work effort to turn a command around.
The process is in place to work, but when both detectives are told by their chain of command not to enforce the law that carries an criminal charge, that is when the process is broken, as it’s evident they have lied to you just as they have Chief Acevedo since the day he became employed.
These issues about corruption reference towing are not new, as this has been going on since the early 90’s, when Rudy Landeros was Assistant Police Chief that pulled the reins of then wrecker detective Steve Hamlin, who was not allowed to enforce the towing law due to insider corruption, at a time when the New family stronghold was dictating to our police department to not enforce the law.
Even when Detectives David Gann was put in the wrecker unit, his hands were tied as well, then comes, now Lt. Frank Rodriguez, when two detectives were in the wrecker unit with Sgt Robert Cummings as their supervisor.
Enforcing the towing law became nonexistent under Cumming’s supervision, as it has been learned that Cummings was being paid off by Bobby New, then president of the Austin Towing Association, to leave the predatory tow companies alone, which basically meant to stay out of their business, even with their conduct being criminal.
As the public continued to suffer from the abuses of the predatory tow companies J&J, Flash, Central, Albert’s, Prontos, About Town, Assured, A&A, Austin Express and Southside, the ranking members of the Austin Police Department ignored their responsibility to protect the public from organized criminal activity, since many of them, most retired now, but more within the ranks enjoyed the lucrative payoffs, thanks to former Asst Chief Michael McDonald turned Assistant City Manager (now retired) while in charge of the Police Department.
Even when Detectives Robert Loosier and Thomas Ballard were assigned to the wrecker unit, neither were allowed to perform their duties of enforcing the towing law due to these “rules” dictated by their chain of command, that hampers the current Detectives Thomas Ballard and Timothy Atkinson from filing criminal charges against tow companies, tow truck operators and parking facilities knowingly violating the Texas Towing Law, the same exact law other law enforcement agencies and the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulations enforce.
For some unknown reason, Detective Atkinson and Ballard have been told by their chain of command, that 2308.407 which states: “A minor variation of a required or minimum height of a sign or lettering is not a violation of this chapter”, includes omitting verbiage, text or adding text to statutory phrase in quotation on the tow sign which is totally wrong.
But this is simply not so in any form or fashion as TDLR continues to issue fines/license revocations to tow companies for towing vehicles without probable cause due to illegal tow signs.
Between the illegal kickbacks to parking facilities, members of APD, illegal tow signs, illegal vehicle relocations, unauthorized drop fees and the towing of vehicles in an unsafe and competent manner that has gone on for the past 40 years, it’s times this criminal conduct to stop and stop immediately.
Therefore, Commander Fortune’s response to these issues is:
Pat, I know you have brought this matter up prior. I can forward this onto the Police Monitor and IAD for further review for them to contact you if you want them to follow up with you. Please let me know and I can forward the request to them.
I will send the complaint tomorrow (10.23.2015), so you may get a call next week from the Police Monitor to discuss the allegations of corruption. Thanks.
In order for the probable cause to exist to tow a vehicle without the owner or operator consent, the tow sign must be legal, period.
But APD Detectives over the years within the wrecker unit in APD have refused to grasp the reality that criminal intent does not matter with the Texas Towing Law, as any violation of the Towing, Storage & Booting Law carries both criminal and civil penalties.
For ranking members of the Austin Police Department to ignore their responsibilities, knowing 800+ vehicles were outright stolen from directly across the street from the Police Station over a period of 14 months by J&J Towing and do nothing about, it’s clear CORRUPTION exist.
I have full faith the Austin Police Department Internal Affairs Division will get to the bottom of this issue and Chief Acevedo will hold everyone accountable for their dishonest acts that is bringing shame to the Austin Police Department’s image of TRUST.
All of these issues, with the evidence to support the claims of corruption can be found within this website and our extensive blog.