Grisham calls on Temple mayor, city council, city manager to address police chief, other issues (TX)

As C.J. Grisham’s prosecution for interfering with a peace officer while performing a duty has been a high profile case both locally and on the national stage, city of Temple and Bell County officials have largely been silent on the issue. The case stemmed from Grisham’s March 16 arrest by Temple Police Officer Steve Ermis upon the officer responding to a non-emergency call of two individuals, one reportedly with a gun, that happened to be Grisham and his 15-year-old son on a 10-mile hike on the outskirts of Temple.

Bell County Attorney Jim Nichols has answered occasional questions posed by the media though his visibility was most demonstrated upon Grisham’s retrial conviction. As lead prosecutor of the Class B misdemeanor offense, Assistant County Attorney John Gauntt Jr. routinely invoked the standby “can’t comment on a pending case” line. Assistant County Attorney Darrell Guess responded to Public Information Act requests often soliciting from the state attorney general’s office decisions to withhold the police dashcam videos and non-emergency audio of the initial citizen call to police, but similarly made no public statements.

The city of Temple has been silent on the issue. Similar to Guess, Deputy City Attorney Nan Rodriguez also ran point with the attorney general’s office requesting information withholding decisions regarding the police dashcam videos. Both Mayor Danny Dunn and Police Chief Gary O. Smith have made no public statements.

To that end, Grisham recently sent this letter to Dunn, Smith, City Manager David Blackburn and the four city council members – Tim Davis, Judy Morales, Perry Cloud and Russell Schneider.

Dear Temple Leaders,

While the prosecutors were able to find a corrupt enough judge to come in and bastardize the court system by refusing to allow me to present exculpatory evidence and resulted in a guilty verdict, the fact remains that the City of Temple is facing a major trust deficit.

The dashcam footage has been released and NO ONE (except fellow corrupt police officers) agrees the officers acted within their authority.  But personal opinion about what happened to me is not why I’m contacting you.

I have frequently called for the firing of Chief Smith because he allows his officers to flagrantly violate Department policies (something we could not admit into evidence during trial either), lie to supervisors, and falsify sworn documents.  In addition, Chief Smith has allowed his Department to intentionally release completely false statements to the media that have affected my career and public standing and he has refused to correct the record.  I documented these false statements in a blog post I wrote in April.  With the release of the dashcam footage and original phone recording from the concerned citizen, I have again been proven right and honest while TPD has been proven to have integrity issues.

I can only speak to what is now public record and I highly encourage each of you to look at it for yourselves. Look and see how we have police officers on the force that not only lie to their supervisors and lie on SWORN affidavits, but willingly lie in sworn court testimony.

Is this the police force YOU want to protect? Do you realize that there are people refusing to spend another dime in Temple because of this event? Firing two officers for assaulting a 15-year old kid is only the tip of the iceberg of the problems in our department that begin at the top.  The fact that so many officers lack basic integrity and honor speaks volumes about our Police Chief.  I’m also beginning to think that it speaks volumes about our City Manager who has yet to do anything about this.  Just as the saying goes that simply because something is legal that doesn’t make it right,  the same can be said that just because a man is found guilty doesn’t mean he did anything wrong.

So, I’m going to continue exposing the corruption in our city government with or without your help.  I just hope you have the moral compass to actually do something.

Congratulations!  Your police department made a “criminal” out of a man who never broke a law in his life.  But, I’m only a temporary “criminal” because I WILL appeal this decision to the highest court if necessary. And it doesn’t affect my civil suit (which I have two years to file). In the meantime, I created this video last night that documents the first of many instances of police corruption and dishonesty.

Whether you like me or not, watch this video and see for yourself.  I don’t use opinion or conjecture.  I quote the TPD’s own manuals and use their own video to expose them.

What is the city doing about this besides a few token officers firings?!

In Liberty,

CJ Grisham

The officers fired over the assault of 15-year-old boy refers to the May 18 incident in which the collar bone of Lorenzo Martinez was believed broken by two Temple police officers. The disciplinary action was announced weeks after a grand jury no billed the officers and seemingly simultaneously with Grisham’s conviction.

Grisham asks if this is the police force officials want to protect? Another question worth asking is if this is the police force that should inspire confidence for Temple taxpayers when it comes to resident safety as well as ensuring responsible use of public funds?

Let’s remember that in addition to tax dollars likely to be spent in responding to a criminal case appeal of this low-level prosecution seen by many as an irresponsible grudge match, civil litigation is likely ahead. And though Ermis’ actions will be the focus of such a case, Ermis isn’t the most probable target of the lawsuit – that will be the city of Temple or, in other words, Temple taxpayers.

And one more thing. Let’s not forget the Ermis Doctrine, the position espoused by Ermis during his court testimony that a suspect never has the opportunity to resist arrest; that it’s appropriate to use the force necessary to affect an arrest; and that a defendant has no right to resist the use of unreasonable force and should instead rely on the court system “where things are to be hashed out.”

Is this indicative of the law enforcement culture promoted by both the city of Temple and Bell County? With no open refutation of such a stance, silence on this matter suggests potentially so. It also reminds that unrestrained, imprudent use of force could lead to further imprudent uses of taxpayer dollars – an issue, a concern to which public officials should respond.

Local governments are often a “farm team” for politicians’ upward mobility. Thankfully, Bell County’s local government venues aren’t fertile ground from which such candidates historically emerge.

When Grisham was arrested, he had a right to remain silent. Do local officials?

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist and the editor of Watchdog Wire – Texas. As a Policy Analyst with Americans for Prosperity – Texas, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the Creator and Online Producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

Commentary, Featured