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City Manager defends VIP protection for council members to provide ‘continuity of government’

Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 8:01 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Lubbock City Councilwoman Latrelle Joy has been accused of using officers from the Lubbock Police Department as her personal security detail during an out of town trip.

The KCBD Investigative team continues to look into this possible inappropriate use of Lubbock Police Department resources. Specifically, how this approval effects the average Lubbock taxpayer.

Why would city officials authorize tax funds for police protection for a council member at a private out of town event?

Two weeks ago, Lubbock City Councilwoman Latrelle Joy said she had no knowledge of any plans for two Lubbock Police Officers to be sent to provide security at a family funeral in Abilene.

K: “Did the Lubbock Police Department provide a personal security detail for you on a private trip out of town?”

L: “No.”

K: “Why is that a no?” "

L: “Well, the way you phrased the question requires a no.”

The decision raised questions about the city charter, which, according to Article 9 Section 4: No council member shall receive anything of value, directly or indirectly, upon terms more favorable than are granted to the public.

Following that story, the KCBD Investigates team took our questions to Lubbock’s City Manager, Jarrett Atkinson, and the man who authorized the assignment, Lubbock’s Chief of Police, Floyd Mitchell.

F: “I received information that there was a potential threat, or concern for the safety of Councilwoman Joy, and based on that information I authorized a detail to attend the funeral of her daughter.”

K: “But was that threat related to city business?”

F: “It’s a threat against a person.”

K: “If I received a threat, would I be able to then in turn, call you and say ‘Hey, I have this threat, can I have protection out of city limits?’”

F: “In this particular case, what I received and based off the information I received, I authorized that.”

K: “Was that connected to her job, was it related to city business, or the continuity of city government?”

F: “Once a police officer is made aware of a potential threat, or some harm to a person, or to their property, it is our responsibility to take whatever action we deem appropriate. So, once I received that information, I authorized officers who have training in VIP, or executive training to attend that service.”

And while the Chief never directly answered that question, he did appear to confirm what our team had learned from our sources:

F: “At a lot of funerals, whether it be an estranged spouse, people have issues.”

The peril the Chief was responding to was a “vague domestic threat.”

K: “It still seems a little unclear to me whether this threat really was related to the councilperson’s job.”

J: “The unique nature of the threat, and that’s information contained within the police department, I don’t have it and I don’t want it. That’s not my role. But, Kasie, it really is that simple. We have seven elected officials here. They are each individually and collectively responsible for providing that policy direction and continuity of government. So, I do think it’s very, very important to take care of those people. Does that at all translate into 24 hours any and everywhere? Absolutely not. It doesn’t. But, in this case, the information that the chief shared with me, upon which he based his decision, I think I can support that. We have got to take care of these elected officials, any, each and any one of them is part of the continuity of government.”

Our team wanted to know, if there was a threat requiring two officers trained in VIP protection, did the Chief alert law enforcement agencies in that jurisdiction?

K: “Was there any communication between any other department?”

F: “I talked to one of our commanders here and said ‘Hey, make sure we reach out to them, but again, let’s provide a level of security for this event.’”

But, since the city charter expressly forbids council members from receiving anything of value upon terms more favorable than are granted to the public, how does the public get the same VIP protection services a council member received?

So, through an open records request, our team asked the City of Lubbock where John Q citizen gets in line to receive VIP protection.

ORR: “If a Lubbock citizen is in genuine fear for his life or safety during his personal travel to and stay at a city more than 100 miles away, what is the procedure by which he may apply for personal protection and travel escort services from the Lubbock Police Department?

And the response our team received was this, “There is nothing responsive to your request”, meaning there is no city policy which allows for a private security detail by the Lubbock Police Department for the average Lubbock citizen.

During our interview, our team asked the City Manager specifically if there was a policy prohibiting city employees from providing benefits they are not allowed to.

Mr. Atkinson told our team he was not aware of any policy that prohibited that.

However, through an additional open records request, the KCBD Investigates team received a memo which updated the City of Lubbock employee policy manual, and instructs City of Lubbock employees that they cannot use their positions improperly to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for themselves, relatives, or others, a memo which was written by the City Manager and was sent to all City of Lubbock employees on Jan. 2, 2018.

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