Controversy arises over MPD traffic stop
Officers reprimanded after releasing DWI suspect; mayor backs department
Two Midlothian Police Department officers have been reprimanded and an MPD sergeant has been ordered to undergo ethics training following a March traffic stop in which the officers released the daughter of a police commander who was suspected of drunk driving.
According to an investigative report by KTVT television that aired last week, officers Phillip Evitt and Nicklaus VanDerkar both received a written reprimand for failing to document the arrest and for turning off their body-worn cameras, Police Chief Carl D. Smith told the station.
The police sergeant on duty that night, Sgt. Stephanie Hanson, has been ordered to undergo ethics training and take a day of leave for ordering the suspect’s release, Smith told the station. He added that Hanson has an exemplary record of service within the department, which factored into his decision of punishment.
In the early morning hours of March 12, the 21-year-old daughter of Midlothian Police Commander Clay Regan was stopped by Evitt on FM 663 while reportedly driving a red Jeep erratically, and VanDerkar arrived on the scene to provide backup. The driver was handcuffed and arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated and placed in the back of Evitt’s patrol unit.
According to accounts of the arrest, once the identity of the driver was learned, the two officers took off their cameras, and were later ordered by Hanson to take her out of handcuffs and release her to her father’s custody.
Midlothian Internal Affairs Commander Vernell Dooley investigated the incident, Smith told the television station. The chief also said the department is speaking with the Ellis County District Attorney’s Office to clarify its rules on body cameras and whether it is ever OK to take them off.
Midlothian Mayor Richard Reno released a statement supporting the police department after the report was aired.
“The unfortunate appearance of favoritism is not something that city leaders condone, but I am confident that the progressive-discipline process has been followed for all the personnel involved and that appropriate corrective action has been taken to ensure that anything like this does not happen in the future,” Reno said in his statement.
“Everyone in the community suffers deeply when the actions of our police officers come under fire. I am confident that our police department will survive any such scrutiny and I commend them for being open and honest with the public about the facts of this case.“