WCSO training academy officers reprimanded for misconduct towards cadets

Several officers from the Williamson County Sheriff's Academy have been reprimanded by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement for serious misconduct.

The commission’s investigation found two officers in violation of GPA calculations, using racial slurs, and bullying cadets.

Manor Chief of Police Ryan Phipps said he was approached by a cadet who alleged the academy instructors were changing test scores. Phipps said he then asked Pflugerville officers if they experienced any issues with their training.  

"They talked about being called names and being belittled and bullied and of course the changing of the test scores," said Phipps. "I want my officer and I want my other cadets to know that they were stood up for and the things that occurred that were wrong in the academy were addressed and hopefully the next time Williamson County decides to run an academy it's ran the way it should."

Concerned, Phipps reached out to Pflugerville Police Chief Jessica Robledo who spoke with her newest recruits and then reached out to Buda Police Chief Bob Kidd. The three chiefs brought the officers' complaints to Williamson County Robert Chody. Phipps said Chody was appalled and said he was going to investigate the allegations.

Robledo said due to the seriousness of the allegations, she believed it was too late and told Chody she would contact TCOLE.

TCOLE performed multiple interviews with instructors and cadets from different agencies. One cadet detailed an instance in which Sgt. David Nickel allegedly told a female jailer cadet that she “looked like a whore because of her tight workout clothing she was wearing.” A different cadet detailed another instance in which Nickel called the cadet the “n-word” and said “that is what they would call him on the street.” There were multiple complaints about Nickel’s behavior.

Lt. Craig Gripentrog told investigators he wasn’t aware of Nickel using derogatory language. Gripentrog was questioned heavily about class averages and GPAs rising for some cadets and falling for others. According to TCOLE, Gripentrog changed a policy without approval of the advisory board.

Lt. Gripentrog’s license was revoked and Nickel has resigned in lieu of termination.

Lt. Mark Luera has been hired as the New Training Coordinator and he said these events happened prior to his arrival. Luera received an Academy Warning Letter as notice of reprimand to the Williamson County Sheriff’s Academy which listed the violations. 

The letter stated, “TCOLE supports the decision by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Academy to voluntarily suspend basic licensing courses during the pendency of this investigation.”

TCOLE will review the policies and procedures to endure the fractions that were identified to do not happen in future licensing courses.