My name is Katherine Swilley. I am a former Houston Police Department Senior Officer with 22 years in law enforcement. I was a member of the Police Department’s elite and highly trained Special Response Group. I was also instrumental in planning several fund raisers for fellow officers and their families in need.
After hearing people ask the questions where are the “Good” Cops, Why “Good” Cops don’t speak out following the incidents in Ferguson, New York, Baltimore, Houston and seeing the DOJ report on Ferguson Police Department.
I felt compel to do something, to tell my story and the stories of other cops retaliated against after reporting police misconduct, so I started the Cops Holding Cops Accountable Organization, to bring awareness to retaliation against “Good” Cops who report police misconduct, this includes discrimination, and to bring awareness to the Code of Silence, a culture that protects “Bad” Cops.
The Cops Holding Cops Accountable Initiative is about supporting “Good” Cops, and Holding “Bad” Cops Accountable
It is about all the “Good” Cops in the Houston Police Department and other Law Enforcement Agencies who have been retaliated against suspended, wrongfully terminated, issued erroneous dishonorable discharges, and forced of out Law Enforcement, after Breaking the Code of Silence, to report police misconduct, this includes discrimination.
It is about how officers struggle to clear their names after being lied on and wrongfully terminated. It is about how even civilian authorities close their eyes when officers are terminated, choosing to believe officers are out to “get” the police department when officers try to tell their side of the story. It is about officers who are mentally and financially broken by a system that have failed them.
The Cops Holding Cops Accountable Initiative is about the Code of Silence, a cancer that spreads to corrupt others, including elected officials to remain silent in the face of police misconduct, while creating an Anti Police climate that endanger the lives of all cops and citizens.
In 2000, I founded and successfully operated the non-profit Texas Cops & Kids, Cops Giving Kids Quality Time…Not Jail Time, a long term juvenile delinquency program for disadvantaged youth in some of Houston’s poorest neighborhoods.
The juvenile delinquency prevention program was based on my concerns about the lack of options that disadvantaged youth had in some of Houston’s poorest neighborhoods. I enlisted the support of my fellow officers to serve as mentors. I also coordinated the annual Texas Cops & Kids Dare to Care Fundraiser Dinner and an Annual Golf Tournament.
I also started Texas Cops & Kids because I had observed the level of mistrust and fear mostly black and brown urban youth had developed toward police officers.
The nonprofit’s purpose was to be a long-term preventive maintenance program for disadvantaged youth and to break through the communication barriers between community kids and law enforcement by demonstrating to children that “Cops” are their protectors…not their enemies.
Texas Cops & Kids “Reading is Fun” in-school mentor and tutoring program received National attention and became part of Governor Perry’s mentoring program. Texas Cops & Kids was also featured in the National Youth Today Magazine.
The program paired members of law enforcement with youth in high crime neighborhoods elementary schools located in the toughest areas in Houston. During the programs operation both parents and teachers documented that the children felt spending time with officers helped them both academically and socially.
In September 2005, I was awarded the City of Houston’s prestigious Bravo Award by Mayor Bill White for my community service with Texas Cops & Kids program and for developing a plan to collect fees for outstanding traffic warrants. The plan netted more than $178,773 in fines the first month, resulted in 362 arrests and cleared 894 cases. Another similar program I assisted with netted an additional $756,335 in fines within the first seven weeks it was implemented and cleared more than 2400 cases.
The Texas Cops & Kids program also gained the attention of Houston Police Department Chief, Harold Hurtt. Because of my experience with successfully managing a community-based youth program, Chief Hurtt tapped me to lead the implementation of the National “Kids at Hope” program, to model Texas Cops & Kids police mentoring program for police officers, which he felt would benefit troubled youth across the city of Houston and be an asset to the Houston Police Department.
Chief Harold Hurtt reassigned me to the Public Affairs Division on special assignment in May 2006, as HPD’s Community Liaison Officer to initiate and promote the Chief’s “Kids at Hope” program and implement a law enforcement mentoring program.
In 2006, I successfully formed a partnership with Big Brothers and Big Sisters for the police department and Volunteer Houston.
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says there’s an obvious need for positive interaction between police officers and at-risk kids.
“This effort to get mentors for our young people is very important, because if we don’t provide them with role-models, they will find one, or one will find them. We wanted to make sure that this partnership is a positive experience for our young people to help them to make good decisions, not only to stay in school and succeed in school but also to make good decisions in being a great citizen
In 2007, I also successfully reorganized the Chief’s Youth Police Advisory Council, to open the program to approximately 40 HISD High Schools with 36 students from each school, serving over 1400 students.
Instead of the two schools and approximately 20 students that was participating in the program. The benefit of reorganizing the program would have a greater impact on more students because it would served more schools.
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says, thank you for your commitment to Y-PAC, which is a very worthwhile program that foster a better relationship between HPD and the area’s youth.
However, everything changed and went downhill for me at HPD in 2007, after I reported what I believed was discrimination by my supervisors’ lack of support for the inner city delinquency prevention program that served at risk youth, and my concerns that I was expected to continue fundraising for the program without having my supervisors support for the program.
After reporting my concerns to Chief Hurtt, I was immediately retaliated against with the following: a bogus AWOL charge; to remove me from work so all my work files could be confiscated from my desk; in an effort to frame me on criminal charges of misappropriating funds.
The Department’s Internal Affairs then opened a baseless criminal investigation on me for misappropriating funds from the Youth Programs. Next, the Department’s Internal Affairs (IAD) went shopping for a prosecutor at the DA’s office to accept charges against me for misappropriating funds.
The evidence in the records revealed that IAD attempted to persuade prosecutors to pursue the charges. The prosecutors kept denying pursuing the case because of lack of facts.
The DA’s office cleared me of the criminal investigation due to: lack of evidence. However, in order to save face, after rumors were spread throughout the department, and in the community that I was terminated for misappropriating funds.
The department terminated me on false untruthfulness charges, after I revoked my willingness to be bound by the terms in a “Last-Chance” Compromise Waiver Agreement, that required me to drop any and all discrimination complaints I may have with EEOC. I was also issued an erroneous dishonorable discharge, which ended my 22 years career in law enforcement.
After spending my entire savings to clear my name and fighting to obtained the IAD File, after I was told the file could not be located. I was able to obtain copies of the City of Houston Inter Office Correspondence, Investigative Summary/Synopsis, which confirmed that I was innocent of the allegations of misappropriating funds from the Youth Programs and other charges.
The reports revealed that the department was well aware that I was innocent and there were no facts to support the baseless criminal investigation against me, as far back as, August 2007, eight months before the department terminated me on false untruthfulness charges in March 2008, and that the department knowingly issued me an erroneous dishonorable discharged, ending my 22 yrs career in law enforcement.
The following excerpts from the IAD files confirmed that I was innocent of the allegations of misappropriating money from the Youth Programs.
The Investigative Summary/Synopsis identified as: “Subject Administrative Complaint Investigation No. 29409-2007”, dated August 20, 2007 from T.A Horton, Lieutenant Internal Affairs Division states on (Pg 2 Paragraph 4, From the evidence presented and other relevant documents submitted for this investigation, I found no evidence to prove Officer Swilley’s non-profit organization, Texas Cops and Kids misappropriated or mishandled fundraiser monies. Case evidence also depicts that Officers Swilley did not use donations received from any of the fundraiser programs that were initiated on behalf of Kids at Hope initiative for the Houston Independent School District for personal compensation or gain. Nor did Officer Swilley or Texas Cops and Kids non-profit organization ever receive or procure any of the $25,000.00 grant that was awarded to the Kids at Hope program in Phoenix Arizona.
(Pg 72, Paragraph 4 of the Investigative Report, Issue Record #29409-2007, Schedule A Tax Forms for 2004 and 2005 states Officer Swilley’s Schedule A tax forms for 2004 and 2005 that reflect large gifts to charity. The 2004 form indicates that Officer Swilley and her husband donated $21, 829 to charity. The 2005 form indicates they gave $11,184 to charity. Officer Swilley provided the forms and explained that she and her husband, since the inception of Texas Cops and Kids, have donated their personal funds to the organization so it would have funds to function.
In addition an affidavit obtained February 2012, further confirmed that HPD’s Internal Affairs knowingly subjected me to a baseless criminal investigation and attempted to persuade prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against me.
The Affidavit dated February 1, 2012 from Rick Miller, founder of Kids at Hope, and party to the IAD investigation, states “I was told by Sergeant Miller that one of the charges against Kathy Swilley is that she misappropriated funds or grants givens to the City of Houston or its community partners by Kids at Hope. That again would be impossible because Kids at Hope did not convey any funds to the Houston project.”
“During the phone discussion with Sergeant Miller he shared that he felt the charges against Kathy Swilley were trumped up and there no facts to support the allegations. Certainly, there were no facts to support the allegation that Kathy Swilley was misappropriating Kids at Hope funds because she never had access to them.
“I also learned from Sergeant Miller that the prosecutor kept denying pursuing the case because of lack of facts.”
The Houston Police Department’s Internal Investigation Division Confidential File, Investigative Report #29409-2007, and the sworn testimony of my supervisors confirmed the untruthfulness charges in my termination letter are completely false
The reported also revealed that the city filed an erroneous dishonorable discharge with the State of Texas, ending my career in law enforcement.
I know firsthand that the “Code of Silence” is a public safety threat. My department was willing to put me, an innocent person in jail for speaking out.
If the police were willing to put an innocent cop in jail for speaking out, who’s next?
For two years, I was placed under a court ordered protective order with sanctions and ordered not to discuss my case with anyone other than my attorney. While atrocious lies were spread throughout the police department and the community that I was terminated for stealing money from the Youth Programs.
I have had my integrity and credibility attacked and I have even been threatened and subjected to the harassment of having officers show up at my home claiming that they were responding to alarm calls or calls for help at my home. I have had suspicious vehicles parked in front of my home; dead animals have been found in my yard, including a dead opossum in front of my home with its throat cut; my computer has been hacked; and random vehicles have driven by and fired shots in front of my home; and someone rings my doorbell in the middle of the night; and someone wrote the words “F@#$ Y@%” with the “F” shaped as a Swastika sign on the sidewalk in front of my home; and a helicopter hovers over my house late at night. I feel all these incidents were used to intimidate me to remain silent.
My case and the information on the Cops Holding Cops Accountable website and cases in the news are examples that police cannot police themselves, and there’s a need for police oversight, stating with Civilian Review Boards with Subpoena Power or Federal Control of Law Enforcement
The Code of Silence breeds consent and encourage and corrupt others to lie and cover-up police misconduct, including police department’s culture to retaliate against cops who report police misconduct, and discrimination in their departments.
The documented evidence of wrongdoing, and manipulation of the investigation by the Houston Police Department Internal Affairs top management is atrocious, but the misconduct of so many people to cover up the police misconduct is unconscionable.
My opportunity to seek justice was snatched by a judicial process, which had been compromised by fraud upon the courts by attorneys who misrepresented and distorted the facts associated with my termination, thus foreclosed my rights to a jury of my peers.
What happens when no one will listen to you when you’ve claimed to be innocent for over eight years? What happens when you lose your job at the Houston Police Department (HPD) based on an alleged cover-up? What happens when you have uncovered key evidence proving your innocence, but the people who can help you restore your name, along with everything you have lost, continue to ignore you?
This is what has been happening to Former HPD Officer Katherine Swilley, who the Forward Times featured in a September 2013 article entitled “Breaking the Code of Silence – Former HPD Officer Katherine Swilley, a Victim of Speaking Out.” For over eight years, Swilley has been fighting to restore her name and reputation, in the face of what she alleges is police misconduct, abuse of power, corruption, conspiracy and a serious alleged cover-up.
Since publishing the article in 2013, the Forward Times has remained diligently focused on the developments of this case and has uncovered some key information that appears to shed light on what actually led to Swilley’s termination and could prove her claims that she was terminated based off of alleged police misconduct and manipulation of the investigation of her claims by the HPD Internal Affairs Division (IAD).
The Forward Times recently received several key pieces of information, including a copy of a letter that was presented to the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice from HPD Executive Asst. Chief of Field Operations Michael Dirden. In that letter, it shows that Executive Asst. Chief Dirden; former HPD Chief Harold Hurtt; then-acting HPD Chief Charles McClelland, who presided over Swilley’s termination appeal hearing, relied on questionable information presented to them that led to their overall decision-making surrounding Swilley’s termination.
Chief Dirden stated in his letter: “I can advise you that the employee [Swilley] was afforded an opportunity to confront the allegations of misconduct which formed the basis of her termination and despite her continual allegations of conspiracy and misconduct of others, it appears the employee continues to fail the grasp that it was Chief Harold Hurtt, not anyone else, who formed the basis of the claims against the employee.”
Based on Chief Dirden’s letter, it would lead one to believe that Chief Hurtt had been fully aware and clear of the basis by which he was disciplining Swilley. It appears, however, that Chief Hurtt may not have been as fully aware of the overall situation involving Swilley as the letter would indicate, based on the questionable information presented to him.
Prior to Chief Hurtt making the decision to discipline Swilley, her case was sent to the Administrative Disciplinary Committee (ADC) for review and disciplinary recommendation. It appears there may have been a possible conspiracy to keep Chief Hurtt out of the disciplinary process, which ultimately led to Swilley being disciplined by the police chief.
According to the Administrative Disciplinary Committee (ADC) Check Sheet, dated September 4, 2007, Panel C Chairperson J.C. Harding signed off on the document stating that they had reviewed the case and had attended the ADC meeting, along with six out of nine of the other individuals listed on the sheet. All six who were present signed off on the document that they had reviewed the case and were present at the ADC meeting. Something disturbing appears on the document, however. On that same ADC Check Sheet, the words, “Keep The Chief out of This,” are written next to the discipline recommendation section next to Harding’s name, which seemingly gives instructions to whoever was in charge of handling the next steps in the process, and who was in a decision making capacity to do so, to keep HPD Chief Hurtt out of the disciplinary process. This document is extremely important because the ADC reviews cases and makes recommendations to the police chief for discipline, which the police chief usually follows.
On Sep. 17, 2007, Chief Hurtt verbally presented Swilley with two charges of“UNTRUTHFULNESS” during her Loudermill hearing. A Loudermill hearing is a termination hearing. No documentation was presented to Swilley at the time of her hearing, proving the relevancy of the two charges. Swilley was required to accept a deal based on false untruthfulness allegations that required her to take 15-day suspension, and drop any and all complaints she may have had with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in order to save her job. According to Swilley, when she asked Chief Hurtt who her accusers were and stated that she had not been cited for“UNTRUTHFULNESS,” she was told to take it up with a Hearing Examiner. A Hearing Examiner is someone who hears the cases of officers once they have been suspended or terminated.
According to additional documentation, it was later discovered that the IAD report (29409-2007) dated August 20, 2007 from Lieutenant T. A. Horton, the “UNTRUTHFULNESS” charges that Chief Hurtt presented Swilley during her Loudermill hearing had been found“NOT SUSTAINED” 28 days before her Sep. 17th Loudermill hearing with Chief Hurtt.
The IAD report (29409-2007) dated August 20, 2007, from Lt. T. A. Horton reads: “From the evidence presented and other relevant documents submitted for this investigation, I find the investigation revealed insufficient evidence to prove that Officer K.A. Swilley, violated General Order 200-08: Conduct and Authority, Section 2, Truthfulness … based on information that was presented during Officer Swilley’s Loudermill hearing, I respectfully recommend that the “TRUTHFULNESS” allegation against Officer K.A. Swilley be classified as NOT SUSTAINED.”
Even though Lt. Horton presented those findings in the IAD report (29409-2007) on August 20, 2007, and recommended that the “TRUTHFULNESS” allegation against Swilley be classified as “NOT SUSTAINED,” Swilley was still suspended and later terminated based on the same alleged “UNTRUTHFULNESS” charges that had been found to be “NOT SUSTAINED” by Lt. Horton a little less than a month prior.
The Forward Times was able to obtain copies of Swilley’s official transcripts from her termination appeal hearing, which show a Sgt. Marsha Todd and a Lt. Siscoe attempting to present questionable evidence to, during her hearing on May 29, 2008. According to the documents, after being questioned by the Hearing Examiner (Dole) about Swilley’s case, Sgt. Todd and Lt. Siscoe were forced to admit that Swilley was terminated on a previous 15-day discipline that was concluded in September 2007, under IAD issue record number (29409-2007), versus the complaint Swilley was on record as being terminated for in March 2008, under a different IAD issue number (30819-2007).
In accordance with the provision the City of Houston and the Houston Police Officers’ Union as the Majority Bargaining Agent for all officers entered into the 2001 Meet & Confer Agreement Article 11 (8) of the agreement which states, “in an appeal of an indefinite or temporary suspension, the department shall have the burden of proof.”
By a preponderance of the evidence, HPD must show the truth of the charges being levied at an officer, and must prove that just cause exists for the imposition of recommended discipline, if any. This means that HPD must prove, more likely than not, that the officer acted as the department claims. After having this questionable information presented to the Hearing Examiner, Swilley’s appeal was dismissed without giving a detail analysis of the Hearing Examiner’s findings in her appeal.
There are other disparities that appear to exist within HPD, that show a lack of consistency in how HPD officers have been disciplined within the organization and allowed to keep their jobs.
Officers like HPD Officer Jose Coronado who was drunk when he shot two unarmed men, killing one of them September 19, 2011, while being under the influence of alcohol. Officer Coronado was not disciplined for the shooting, and was allowed to keep his job. He was suspended for only 30 days for acting in an official capacity while drinking, and for using an unauthorized firearm. He was charged with being under the influence of alcohol, which is a violation of department policies No. 300-28 and No. 400-05, carrying a weapon while under the influence of alcohol, as well as several other department violations.
In September 2013, four White HPD officers were suspended for violating department policy after listing one another as witnesses on traffic tickets to help themselves get overtime pay for testifying in court. The four HPD officers that were suspended in that ticket writing scheme to earn overtime pay, had collected nearly $1 million in overtime paysince 2008. On Sep. 4, 2012, after concluding a lengthy investigation by HPD internal affairs, then-HPD police chief McClelland handed out punishments to those officers ranging from 20-45 days off without pay.
Chief McClelland agreed not to fire the four White officers in hopes of salvaging their careers.
Captain Dewayne Ready, who was Swilley’s captain at the time she was being investigated, received a 90-day suspension for operating his security business out of Public Affairs on duty, in what’s called “double dipping” using his city computer, police records, and using thirty on duty police officers to work his security business on duty.
There are several other incidents that don’t pass the smell test and raise the question as to how a highly decorated officer like Swilley could be terminated after filing an EEOC complaint, and having questionable charges brought up against her, when other officers keep their jobs.
How could HPD justify NOT terminating Officer Coronado, Captain Ready and the four officers involved in the ticket writing scheme, but terminate Swilley when evidence from HPD internal affairs investigators show she was innocent and terminated for the wrong reason?
As we previously reported, Swilley was a highly decorated and well-respected HPD officer, who served the City of Houston for over 20 years. Swilley received numerous “Outstanding” performance ratings and commendations from the public, her superiors and from two former Houston mayors. Swilley’s community service work led to City of Houston Mayor Bill White awarding her with the City of Houston’s prestigious Bravo Award in September 2005.
In 2008, Swilley’s problems began when she reported what she believed was discrimination within the Houston Police Department’s Public Affairs Division, due to her supervisors’ lack of support for the inner city delinquency prevention program that served at risk youth. Swilley filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and she states that as soon as that happened, HPD opened up a criminal investigation on her for misappropriating funds from the youth programs. The Harris County D.A.’s office cleared Swilley of criminal wrongdoing for lack of facts.
The City of Houston Inter Office Correspondence, Investigative Summary/Synopsis, dated August 20, 2007, under IAD issued No. 29409-2007 states, (Pg. 2, Paragraph 4, from the evidence presented and other relevant documents submitted for this investigation, I found no evidence to prove Officer Swilley’s non-profit organization, Texas Cops and Kids misappropriated or mishandled fundraiser monies. Case evidence also depicts that Officer Swilley did not use donations received from any of the fundraiser programs that were initiated on behalf of Kids at Hope initiative for the Houston Independent School District for personal compensation or gain. Nor did Officer Swilley or Texas Cops and Kids non-profit organization ever receive or procure any of the $25,000.00 grant that was awarded to the Kids at Hope program in Phoenix, Arizona. The report reflects Swilley and her husband donated a large amount of money to the youth program.)
Swilley stands by her findings that she was terminated as a result of police misconduct and manipulated investigations, after she revoked her willingness to be bound by a “Last-Chance” Compromise Waiver Agreement that required her to vacate and relinquish the rights guaranteed to her by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was unlawful retaliation. By signing a “Last Chance” Compromise Waiver Agreement, it gives an officer the ability to accept a lesser discipline as long as they drop any discrimination complaints they may have filed with the EEOC, or have any other pending civil suits.
Swilley states her case is not an isolated one, and says HPD records show that HPD officers who have agreed to the terms of the “Last-Chance” Compromise Waiver Agreement have had to vacate and relinquish their civil rights but were rarely terminated, if at all. She says that HPD officers who have refused to be bound by the terms in the “Last Change” Compromise Waivers Agreements have been terminated and issued erroneous dishonorable discharges based on unsubstantiated allegations, and trumped-up untruthfulness and/or insubordination charges, which has unceremoniously ended their law enforcement careers.
“You don’t know what it’s like to get to a point where you have no hope of ever working again, due to the dishonorable discharge on my police record,” says Swilley. “I got to that place, but I have to keep believing because I know that I was wronged by HPD and my faith in God and my desire to clear my name won’t allow me to stop believing.”
Swilley is hoping newly elected Mayor Sylvester Turner, newly-appointed interim police chief Martha Montalvo and members of Houston’s city council open an investigation into the alleged police misconduct in her case, and work to create a safe place for HPD officers to report police misconduct against fellow officers without being retaliated against or without having to file lawsuits to clear their name, like she has had to endure.
Breaking the Code of Silence is a precursor to transparency and accountability in policing, which starts with;
- Independent Police Review Boards with subpoena power, to insure transparency in police investigations, to investigate all complaints of police misconduct, including discrimination, and retaliation in police departments.
- Whistle Blower Laws to protect “Good” Cops who report police misconduct
As, I continue to fight to clear my name, I am requesting that you support the calls for an Independent Police Review Boards with subpoena power and Whistle Blower Laws to protect “Good” Cops who report police misconduct.
Thank you for your time, prayers and support.
Kathy Swilley, Ret. Police Officer