TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – Kidnappers, sex offenders, and murderers. You may think convicted criminals out on parole are forced to wear GPS monitors and tracked all the time. But the CBS 11 I-Team uncovered, that’s not always the case.
The Parole Division for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has a policy that says they are supposed to respond and clear GPS alerts within 24 hours. But state records show that’s not happening. And in some cases alerts aren’t cleared for days.
So why is that so important? Because when alerts go off, seconds count. And no one knows that better than James Boyd.
On March 21, 2013 James Boyd’s life changed forever. He was working as a deputy for Montague County, a small county northwest of Fort Worth near the Texas-Oklahoma border. Boyd pulled over a car he thought looked suspicious and was shot by Evan Ebel, a convicted felon that had recently been released from a Colorado state prison.
Boyd is now working with the Cooke County Sheriff’s Department. More than a year and a half after being shot by Ebel, Boyd is still piecing his life back together.
“You look so normal right now. Do you feel it,” CBS 11 I-Team Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal asked.
Boyd candidly answered, “I feel as normal as I’ll ever get.”
Boyd will always have problems with his balance and hearing because of the shooting. But he’s committed to keep wearing the badge.
“Doing what I do. I would have rather it be me than anybody else,” Boyd said.
“You would have rather have been shot than a coworker,” Villarreal questioned.
“Yes,” he said told her without hesitation. “Cause we’re a brotherhood.”
Evan Ebel had a GPS monitoring device attached to his ankle after serving time in Colorado. He was supposed to be closely monitored by Colorado’s Parole Department. But when his anklet went off, Colorado State officials admit no one responded for at least two days. By that time he had already killed two people and was making his way to Texas.
Deputy Boyd is well aware of the error. “Do you ever think that the system is broken possibly,” Villarreal asked.
Boyd took a long pause, then said, “Broken, no. Flawed, yes.”
Keeping Boyd’s situation in mind the I-Team took a closer look at the GPS monitoring devices used in Texas. Nearly 2,300 parolees from sex offenders to murderers have these anklets.
“That seems like a lot to handle,” Investigative Reporter Mireya Villarreal stated when talking with Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Director, Stuart Jenkins. “That is a large number for sure. But it’s being monitored very efficiently,” he noted.
The I-Team sorted state data from May 2014 where more than 19,000 alerts were logged — 19,000 alerts that are supposed to be checked by just 186 specialized parole officers or TDCJ’s command center.
Most alerts were answered in less than an hour. But we also found hundreds of cases where it took days to clear the alert.
An example is Donald Brazier’s case. He’s a life-time registered sex offender whose victim was a 16-year-old girl. His anklet sent an alert to the state on May 31, but it wasn’t cleared until June 2, nearly three days later (based on the hours of his alert). The state says he went to the hospital where the device was removed. But the alert wasn’t cleared until he got his new GPS device.
Gary Mullins is also a registered sex offender who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl. His anklet sent an alert on May 31 and it wasn’t cleared for three days. The state later blamed it on a low battery issue, but as a precaution issued a warrant for his arrest.
Parole Division Director, Stuart Jenkins, says not every alert means a parolee is doing something criminal. What it does mean is they are not following the conditions of their parole.
Villarreal questioned Jenkins, “Is it something you’re comfortable with being in the public and having family in the public?”
“Well, I don’t think we had anything on there that were beyond five days,” he said. “But that would be concerning.
Jenkins assures us, even if they haven’t cleared a call, parole officers or the state’s command center is investigating and processing the alert. And when parolees can’t be found arrest warrants are issued. In the last twelve months, TDCJ has issued 1,782 of them.
For someone such as Deputy Boyd, the numbers and the response times aren’t surprising.
“Knowing the amount of people that a parole division has to look after, understandable,” Boyd admitted. “Correctable, yes. Should it have happened, no. But, understandable.”
Problems in Colorado and California with these GPS devices have forced parole divisions in those states to audit and revamp their programs.
Here in Texas, the parole division director says they have not had any major issues like the one Deputy Boyd went through. But they are always looking to improve their response times.
♦♦♦A Closer Look At One Day In May♦♦♦
Donald Brazier and Gary Mullins both had GPS alerts that went off on May 31. In an effort to better understand how the GPS monitoring system works in Texas, the CBS 11 I-Team pulled all of the alerts for May 31 that took longer than one day to clear. There were ten of them that fit that qualification.
Here’s a list of those parolees and an explanation from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as to why the alert took days to clear:
J. Conton #07587999, Unable to connect on 5-31-14 12:41 a.m. , alert cleared Sunday 6-1-14 1:08 a.m.: Command Center staff called and spoke with offender who was instructed to call the PO on Monday. The offender continued to be monitored and additional alerts would have resulted if non-compliant.
R. Rabe #04177035, Battery 5-31-14 1:35 a.m., alert cleared Sunday 6-1-14 7:25 a.m.: Offender had been arrested earlier that morning on a warrant issued due to a previous alert, this alert was a notice that the battery was running low. Unable to Connect 5-31-14 9:06 a.m., alert cleared Sun 6-1-14 7:25 a.m.: Offender had been arrested on a warrant issued earlier that morning. Equipment was unable to call in as the battery had died. The alerts cleared when the equipment was deactivated.
G. Mullins #05840320, Battery 5-31-14 2:44 a.m., cleared Monday 6-2-14 10:38 a.m.: Offender had a warrant issued the previous day due to absconding. This alert was a notice that the battery was running low. Unable to Connect 5-31-14 10:15 a.m., alert cleared Monday 6-2-14 10:38 a.m. Offender had a warrant issued the previous day due to absconding. Equipment was unable to call in as the battery had died. The alert cleared when the equipment was deactivated.
J. Todd #01534886, In Charger 5-31-14 7:04 a.m., alert cleared Sunday 6-1-14 9:30 a.m.: Offender was arrested 5-30-14 on a warrant issued for an earlier violation but the equipment was still in the charger resulting in this alert. Alert cleared when the equipment was deactivated. Base Unit Unable to Connect 5-31-14 2:37 a.m., cleared Tuesday 6-3-14 8:27 a.m. Offender had been arrested 5-30-14 and the alert cleared when the equipment was deactivated.
· P. Dunn #05127666, Tamper 5-31-14 6:25 a.m., alert cleared Thursday 6-5-14 2:13 p.m. Notice that the equipment had possibly been tampered with was received, Command Center staff verified the offender was at home. New equipment was ordered by PO on Monday 6-2-14 after verification no tamper had occurred and after installation of new equipment on 6-5-14, the alert cleared. The offender continued to be monitored and additional alerts would have resulted if non-compliant.
D. Brazier #04546444, Tamper 5-31-14 6:41 p.m., alert cleared Monday 6-2-14 2:27 p.m.: Notice that equipment had possibly been tampered with was received. Per PO, offender had gone to the hospital; no action was required by Command Center staff. The offender continued to be monitored and additional alerts would have resulted if non-compliant. Alert cleared after verification no tamper had occurred and installation of new equipment on 6-2-14.
J. Deleon #07262822, Bracelet Gone 5-31-14 2:06 p.m., alert cleared Tuesday 6-3-14 3:03 p.m.: Offender was unable to clear the alert when contacted by Command Center staff and was instructed to call PO on Monday. The alert cleared when new equipment was installed on Tuesday 6-3-14. The offender continued to be monitored and additional alerts would have resulted if non-compliant.
T. Martin #02383404, Base Unit Unable to Connect 5-31-14 3:19 p.m., alert cleared Monday 6-2-14 2:38 p.m.: Offender had been released from custody the night of 5-30-14 and an alert was generated as there was not a land line in the home. The PO switched to cellular in the monitoring system and as a result the base unit converted to charger only. No action was required by the Command Center staff. The offender continued to be monitored and additional alerts would have resulted if non-compliant.
L. Hammond #01498135, Home (zone violation) 5-31-14 11:15 a.m., alert cleared Monday 6-2-14 11:45 a.m.: Offender had been arrested on 5-31-14 for a previous violation and the alert generated when the offender was taken to jail by law enforcement. Alert cleared when equipment was deactivated.
R. Hartsfield #02301279, Home (zone violation) 5-31-14 8:10 p.m., alert cleared Monday 6-2-147 4:00 a.m.: Command Center staff verified the offender was at home. Alert cleared when PO updated schedule. The offender continued to be monitored and additional alerts would have resulted if non-compliant.
TDCJ spokesman, Jason Clark noted:
“The following offenders were identified with an alert generated Saturday May 31, 2014 that exceeded 24 hours prior to clearing. It is important to note that although an alert may not show to have been “cleared”, action by the Department is taken in response to the alert prior to the alert clearing. In some instances the alerts were generated after a warrant had been issued or the offender had been arrested. Additionally, alerts continue to be generated until such time as the offender is removed from the equipment.”
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