Allegations such as those facing a former Brownwood police sergeant are troubling on a number of levels, and the ramifications are far-reaching. The justice system must be allowed to follow its course, because even with a strong case having been built by investigators, the accused remains innocent until proven guilty. Still, the breach of trust that exists for even such charges to be possible against a person who vows to uphold our laws is devastating to those with whom that individual works.
Many questions remain to be answered. What safeguards could have been in place in the Police Explorers program to prevent unlawful contact between adults and juveniles in the way the charges allege? Were there earlier indications of possible indiscretions, and were they reported? Some may even ask whether an investigation of such reports could have been completed more quickly.
And then there’s the question of what the future of the Police Explorer program might be in Brownwood.
The value of this program is not in question. It provides young people with information, education and experience in the field of law enforcement that could lead them into a fulfilling career of service. It also helps young people who are interested in pursuing police work an opportunity to realize whether it’s a profession that truly suits them. Meanwhile, the Explorers have become a fixture at many community functions at which non-certified individuals can assist, such as directing traffic at events like the Brownwood Reunion Celebration and the Lake Brownwood Fireworks Explosion.
As these questions and others are addressed, as healing hopefully begins and the case against the former police officer is prosecuted, the Explorer program can overcome this crisis with strong leadership from the department and assistance from members’ parents. Meanwhile, every Texan should remember at least this from what has happened. It is unfortunate, but the situation our community and police department is facing is not unique. Last week, for example, an Arlington police officer was arrested through a sting in which he thought he was contacting a teenager for sex. Most importantly, any valid suspicion of inappropriate activity must be reported, and can be reported in several ways. Those reports can be taken to any person in authority where you are — a school official, a trusted law officer and even the State of Texas. The state’schild abuse hotline is (800) 252-5400.