Crime

Union will not back El Paso police officers charged with sexual assault

Union will not back police officers...

EL PASO, Texas - The El Paso Municipal Police Officers Association does not back officers who are facing criminal charges, with minor exceptions.

ABC-7 spoke with union President Sgt. Ron Martin after two El Paso police officers were charged with sexual assault.

Officer Juan Carlos Gardea, 46,  was arrested Feb 6,  and charged with sexual assault of a child.  Police said the victim said she was assaulted by the officer, a relative, Feb 4, 2017. The 19-year veteran of the police department was arrested and booked into the El Paso County Detention Facility under a $100,000 bond. Gardea appeared before a judge Monday morning for a bond hearing. His attorney said the bond amount was excessive and asked for a reduction. The judge denied the motion and bond was not lowered.

Officer Brian Michael Lujan was arrested Friday after a 5-month investigation. The four-year veteran of the department was charged with one count of sexual assault and two counts of invasive visual recording.

Officials said the cases involved three separate victims in three separate incidents, all while Lujan was on-duty.  Investigators said the incidents happened over an extended amount of time. The investigation stemmed from a complaint alleging criminal conduct filed with EPPD's Internal Affairs Division.

Martin said the union does not back, or assist officers facing criminal charges; however, there is an exception. Martin said the state union will look at the charges, and after a committee's review an attorney may be hired. The union backs officers who were acting within the scope of their duties, he said.

In a pamphlet available at the internal affairs office, Chief of Police Greg Allen said: "The close working relationships with the community enable the police department to achieve an appropriate level of professionalism and establish public confidence in law enforcement."

 "The department, therefore demands a high standard of conduct and discipline from all its employees (uniform and civilian) in order to preserve the necessary trust and confidence within the community we serve."

The pamphlet breaks down the possible outcomes of the complaints once they are filed. Upon investigation, the complaints could be unfounded, exonerated, not sustained or sustained. Depending on the outcome, a discipline review board determines the disposition on the investigation, but the chief of police has final authority on all disciplinary matters.

When an investigation is sustained, one of the following actions may be taken against the employee, depending on the nature of the violation: counseling, training, written reprimand, suspension, demotion or termination.

Employees can appeal disciplinary action taken against them.


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