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Texas town votes to deactivate PD, fire police chief in wake of investigation

Councilmembers voted to fire the chief and deactivate the department following allegations about the backgrounds of hired officers


Coffee City Texas Police Department

By Sarah Roebuck

COFFEE CITY, Texas — A city council voted to deactivate the Coffee City Police Department and fire its chief after information about policing in the city was revealed, CBS 19 reports.

The city councilmembers voted during a meeting Monday to fire Police Chief JohnJay Portillo, who was suspended Sept. 1 following allegations about the backgrounds of officers he hired.

Portillo had grown the department by four times since he took the job in 2021. Citing police records, KHOU reports more than half of the 50 sworn officers had been suspended, terminated, demoted or dishonorably discharged from previous law enforcement jobs. Portillo said he hired the officers because they were “retaliated” against by former agencies, KHOU reported.

Moreover, the choice to dismiss the chief was made following a city-led independent investigation that verified Portillo failed to disclose a DWI charge out of Florida on his job application for becoming chief.

Coffee City is a town of around 250 residents. With a department of 50 officers, it has five times the amount of officers than any other Texas town of its size, CBS 19 states.

The full-time officers will have to seek new jobs or they can choose to reapply when a new chief is appointed. As for the reserve officers, they will need to search for a new station, according to Coffee City Mayor Jeff Blackstone.

The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office will assist with policing as the city figures out next steps, city officials said. There is currently no timeline of when a new chief will be hired or when the department will be reinstated.