Four state troopers from Nacogdoches are suing the Texas Department of Public Safety, saying they are being retaliated against for reporting an illegal quota system for traffic stops and arrests implemented by a sergeant.
The suit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Lufkin by attorneys Tanner Franklin and Sean Hightower on behalf of troopers Rodney Mahan, John H. Henley III, Joel Barton Jr. and John Riggins.
In the federal complaint, the four troopers say DPS Sgt. Robert Shugart “offered monetary and other prizes to the troopers that had the most arrests and traffic stops in a period.” Those who failed to meet the quotas were “subjected to ridicule and harassment,” the suit says.
State law prohibits law enforcement officers from using a quota system in writing traffic citations or making arrests. The four troopers who filed the suit say they refused to participate in the quota program and were retaliated against after reporting it to higher-ups.
“Among other acts of retaliation, the troopers were transferred to other duty stations away from their families, denied promotion opportunities, violently berated in front of others, denied vacation and forced to work dangerously long hours, all in violation of the policy,” according to the suit.
A civil complaint only tells one side of a legal argument. DPS officials have 21 days to file a formal response. Shugart could not be reached for comment.
Shugart is accused of implementing the quota system in 2017 when he arrived in Nacogdoches and running a similar program while stationed in Center. In April 2019, Shelby County District Attorney Stephen Shires asked the Texas Attorney General to investigate Shugart. An internal investigation was completed May 6 by DPS officials and found that Shugart “displayed a pattern of hostile, discourteous and unprofessional behavior” and violated department rules and regulations.
Shugart was suspended without pay for three days and permitted to remain in the local DPS office.
On May 7, the suit says, the four troopers received a memo saying that rather than removing Shugart, they would be allowed to transfer to other duty stations. If they chose to stay in Nacogdoches County, where they all live, “they would be forced to participate in one-on-one mediation with Shugart,” the suit says.
Barton applied for a transfer, which was later denied, according to the suit.