In Focus

Cop disciplined after alleged DWI gets new post

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

There are surprising new responsibilities for a Houston police officer accused of turning a blind eye in the investigation of a fellow officer's alleged DWI crash.

Seven officers were reprimanded for their roles in allegedly covering up the extent of a fellow officer's DWI accident. HPD says Sgt. Ruben Trejo was drunk when he hit a school bus in April, with a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit. Trejo was eventually charged and then fired from the police force, but the officers accused of helping him nearly get away with it remain on the beat. Now Eyewitness News uncovered a surprising new detail.

Tonight we've learned the highest ranking officer among the disciplined cops is getting a new job. It's not part of his discipline. In fact he'll have some increased and somewhat surprising new responsibilities.

In the minutes after allegedly drunk HPD Sergeant Ruben Trejo crashed his pickup into a school bus his fellow officers denied alcohol was involved. It was, according to HPD, who says Trejo was more than twice the legal limit. One officer literally covered up bottles on Trejo's floorboards and seven officers were disciplined for the botched investigation. This week, we learned some of the details why.

John McNamee with Mothers Against Drunk Driving said, "They should've followed the right procedures and if they did not then they should've been disciplined."

Assistant Chief Daniel Perales was the highest ranking in the group.

HPD Chief McClelland told Perales, "You failed to ensure that a comprehensive and timely investigation was conducted into the allegations that alcohol may have been a factor in Sgt. Trejo's accident."

Just two weeks after being disciplined for not properly investigating that DWI accident, we've learned Chief Perales is getting a new job. He'll now be in charge of traffic enforcement for HPD and the DWI task force.

DWI defense attorney Tyler Flood said, "I don't know anybody that would think that's a good idea."

Apparently Chief McClelland does. He told us Wednesday afternoon, "I have full confidence in the supervisors and officers involved in this case to be able to continue their duties without repeating the conduct that gave rise to this investigation."

His boss, Mayor Annise Parker, didn't know about the switch.

"I have no idea about the transfer," she said.

Even after she learned more details, she stayed quiet. Not everyone will.

The transfer hasn't taken effect yet but when it does there is concern about what message it sends to officers trying to stop drunk drivers when even the chief says the new man in charge didn't do it himself.

"What a terrible decision I think you could make putting this person in charge of the DWI unit," Flood said.

We did ask to speak with Assistant Chief Perales himself but didn't hear back. The job switch paperwork hasn't been signed by the chief yet, but we're told it's done and according to the chief's statement he apparently has no second thoughts.

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