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Questions remain over officers' discipline after school bus ax

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

ABC13's questions about a Houston police officer-involved bus crash prompted an Internal Affairs investigation that ended with the firing of one officer and the disciplining of seven others. Now the mayor is speaking out about the results of that investigation.

Sergeant Ruben Trejo, who crashed into a school bus back in April, was fired by Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland. But we wanted to know more about the seven other officers who were disciplined, but remain on the job. Questions remain -- Did those officers knowingly cover something up or merely fail to follow the proper procedures?

April 13, the day a car driven by a Houston police officer crashed into a school bus, is one Javier Perez remembers clearly.

"It was chaotic, they blocked everything off," he said.

Perez was one of the first ones trying to help Sgt. Trejo out of his car. He's sad to hear about the longtime police officer's firing, but glad Sgt. Trejo was held responsible.

"Law enforcement, you know, they're here to protect our communities, and it's sad to see, you know, police officers have to get fired. But that's what happened," Perez said.

Now questions remain about the other officers who were disciplined, but not punished more harshly by police chief. Of the seven, two were given written reprimands, two were given one day suspensions, and three were given counseling.

On Wednesday, Mayor Annise Parker says she has confidence in the chief's decisions.

"I trust the chief of police to ascertain what violations of internal policies occurred and take appropriate actions, and there were a range of punishment meted out," the mayor said.

One of those given a one day suspension is Captain Robert Manzo, who at the time of the accident defended Sgt. Trejo.

"We have full confidence in the fact that there are not going to be any substances that would cause any concern to any of us found on the sergeant," Capt. Manzo told Eyewitness News the day of the accident.

Manzo's attorney says the 29-year veteran hasn't yet decided whether he should appeal the suspension. HPD Chief McClelland declined our requests for an on camera interview.

Houston City Council Member Ed Gonzalez, a former member of the Houston police force, says he expects more information in the coming days.

"I need to hear from the chief what his reason it was for the decision. I just don't know what kind of information he had to justify it or not. I'd like to have his explanation," Council Member Gonzalez said.

The seven officers disciplined range from an assistant chief to patrol officers. We have requested the full disciplinary reports on these officers, but so far have not received that information.

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