/  09.18.2020

Deputies at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department were rewarded for using force during arrests with steakhouse gift cards, two former employees have claimed. The allegations surfaced this week during the Texas Rangers’ investigation of the department for concerns over their aggressive tactics.

“They had the intention that we were all ‘WilCo badass’ and if you went out there and did your job — and you had to use force on somebody and he agreed with it — then you would get a gift card,” former Deputy Christopher Pisa told a Ranger, adding that it was Cmdr. Steve Deaton who gave out the alleged gift cards.

Former Sgt. Troy Brogden corroborated Pisa’s claims, saying that Deaton would award the cards “for what he considered good uses of force.” 

“He would talk about it in groups, including supervisors meetings and classes,” Brogden said. “I was like, ‘What the hell?’”

Two of the deputies who reportedly received these cards were J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden, who were involved in the 2019 death of Javier Ambler II. Ambler — a Black father of two — told officers he had congestive heart failure and couldn’t breathe while they tased him four times during a traffic stop. His fatal arrest was recorded for an episode of the now-canceled TV show “Live PD,” but never aired.

According to USA Today, the new allegations follow in a long line of problematic practices by the department. Local activists have voiced concerns about the Sheriff’s Office hiring deputies with troubled histories, engaging in high-speed chases over minor traffic violations and using aggressive tactics during arrests — several of which are currently under investigation by the Williamson County district attorney.

In a statement, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody denied the allegations.

“Literally, the only use of cards I recall specifically was for a deputy who was able to recover some excellent fingerprints that ended up helping an investigation resulting in a warrant for that suspect and for a capture of a burglary suspect,” he wrote. “I have no idea what ‘good use of force’ means,” he wrote.


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