Update, April 6th, 2016, 9:57 a.m: The Texas DPS, in a statement, called Spears’s counseling record a “one time coaching opportunity” and claimed that such records “are not maintained in an employee’s permanent personnel file.”
Upshur County, TX- Department of Public Safety Trooper Billy Spears was subjected to “supervisory direction” in the form of a counseling record last week for posing for a picture with rapper Snoop Dogg during the 2015 South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas.
Spears was working at the SXSW event, and he was reportedly asked by Snoop to have a photo taken together. Spears consented, and the photo was posted on the rapper’s Instagram.
Snoop also posted a photo of himself with an Austin Police officer.
A counseling record for Spears was documented on March 24th. The record stated that “While working a secondary employment job, Trooper Spears took a photo with a public figure who has a well-known criminal background including numerous drug charges. The public figure posted the photo on social media and it reflects poorly on the Agency.”
The record went on to provide a supervisor’s suggestion that Spears “use good judgement when taking photos with anyone while in uniform” and “be mindful of social media outlets and how such photos can negatively affect the Agency.”
Ty Clevenger, a lawyer reportedly representing Spears according to news station KLTV, has suggested that the counseling order was an act of retaliation against Spears. A letter to state and federal prosecutors written by Clevenger pointed out an incident prior to Spears’s counseling order in which Spears was detained by Sgt. Marcus Stokke of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission “with no apparent probable cause, because he thought Trooper Spears had been disrespectful to him at a public event.” Spears filed a complaint against Stokke for the detention, but according to Clevenger, it was Spears who was investigated instead and later suspended.
The suspension of Spears was ultimately reversed; Clevenger wrote that “Two months later, however, DPS brought the new disciplinary charge against him, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”
“DPS claims that the counseling forms are not really discipline, therefore the employee has no right to appeal. Yet those counseling incidents can block a trooper’s chances for promotion or advancement,” Clevenger wrote.
In a separate letter to Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McGraw, Clevenger requested that the counseling record be removed from Spears’s record. Clevenger also asked McGraw to clarify if there will be actions made “to prevent further retaliation against Trooper Spears,” and expressed suspicion that facial recognition software may have been used to scan social media sites.
This post has been updated to identify the Texas DPS counseling record given to Spears as a singular written form.