SFA's University Police Department under investigation for alleged training violations

SFA's University Police Department under investigation for alleged training violations
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Stephen F. Austin State University has confirmed that its assistant police chief has resigned.
Chris Rivers ended his duty with the department on Friday for personal reasons, an SFA spokesperson said Monday.

SFA Police Chief Marc Cossich refused to comment regarding the personnel issue.

We're told Amanda Kennedy is now serve as "interim assistant chief."

The University Police Department, a Division of the Stephen F. Austin State University Department of Public Safety, has been under investigation by a statewide certification agency.

A university spokesperson confirmed the allegations of training violations in December. If proven true, the outcome could lead to felony charges.

The closer look into training reporting procedures could unveil a major flaw in the system.

Last year, defense attorney Sean Hightower was investigating the law enforcement training background of one person when his alleged findings snowballed.

"Those records were maintained by UPD where they would sign in on the hardcopy," Hightower said. "When they would be entered digitally, other names were added."

Hightower said he stumbled upon the alleged finding when he knew an instructor very well.

"We knew that some of the instructors had taught the classes," Hightower said. "We actually employ one of the instructors at our office as an investigator."

The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement allows instructors to collect students' names, but it's a designated law enforcement officer who posts them on the state's data system.

"Typically, it's the chief or the assistant chief of every department," Hightower said.

Hightower turned his suspicions and findings into the state.

"They would add their names to the list not having attended the classes," Hightower said. "And I believe it happened multiple times."

If true, it's a felony. It's also a flaw in the system.

"That is a criticism I have," Hightower said. "When this information is entered, there is never a time when the data base requires that the hard copy be filed with TCOLE."

Hightower could be called a whistle blower, but he claimed revealing his findings is a duty. 
"It's important that we check the system, and I think that is the job of any defense attorney is to check the system," Hightower said.

The East Texas News has placed a request into the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement for the status of the SFA investigation. The investigator in the case could be a potential witness, so she declined an interview request.

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