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Former PPPD officer raises red flags

By Abigail Allen

Editor & Publisher


Former PPPD officer raises red flags

Morale in the Pilot Point Police Department has been in question for months, punctuated with the formal complaints filed in November and again highlighted by a video created and released by a former officer in mid-March.

       Chief Rex Marks spoke broadly about the importance of morale for a department.

       “Morale is always a concern in terms of how it impacts service to our community,” he said. “I have no reason to doubt our officers are … giving 100 percent.”

       Justin Carlson, who created the piece, returned to law enforcement full-time to work for Pilot Point on May 30, 2023, commuting back and forth from East Texas each weekend to see his sons.

       He said he came to the city because he saw the chance to grow with the community and that he hoped to bring his background as an investigator to help the department.

Former PPPD officer raises red flags

       He was shifted to support services about three to five weeks into his employment with the city, he said.

       He filed formal complaints about his concerns.

       “I didn’t need to be in Pilot Point,” he said. “I wanted to be in Pilot Point. I wanted to be a part of something great. I just voiced my concerns.”

       Carlson was fired on Feb. 29, two days after exchanging emails with a fellow officer about additional shifts in his job responsibilities.

       He had declined a patrol assignment that day, saying it would make it impossible for him to see his kids in Tyler.

       “This was his only way to get me out,” Carlson said.

       He also refused to resign, telling Marks, “if you want me gone, you’re going to fire me, and he fired me right there on the spot.”

       Over the course of his employment, Carlson grew increasingly concerned about issues he saw that were affecting the way the department ran and functioned.

Former PPPD officer raises red flags

       The staffing level, and decisions regarding who to hire, were included in his concerns.

       Pilot Point has extended a conditional offer of employment to Jonathan Macheca, a former Southlake police officer, City Manager Britt Lusk and Marks confirmed.

       The Dallas Morning News reported on Aug. 2 that Macheca was fired from that department in July.

       His termination, according to the article, came because he was photographed by a fellow officer smiling next to a drawing of a swastika and lightning bolts, which are associated with white supremacy, and that photo was sent by accident to a member of the public.

       “The drawing included the phrase ‘SSRO,’ which appears to combine the designation for Hitler’s paramilitary forces, known as the SS, and SRO, meaning a school resource officer, according to the documents,” the article said. “[The other officer] was a captain for the school resource division, while Macheca was assigned to the training unit.”

       Lusk said despite the incident, he believes Macheca would still be a good addition to the department.

       “The background investigation resulted in that he was a good officer outside of this,” he said. “… And that he actually had several commendations in his file. People that had supervised him directly said that he was a good officer. So, given our current situation of being understaffed and trying to fill spots for our patrol, we felt that he had learned from the situation.”

       Marks confirmed that Macheca has previously worked with a current member of the Pilot Point Police Department, but he would not give the PPPD officer’s name.

       “I don’t know that it is relevant, to be honest with you,” he said. “He was referred, like many of our employees are. Our employees are our best source for recruitment.”

Former PPPD officer raises red flags

       Another applicant, David Lightfoot, who served in the Northeast Police Department until it was disbanded and then the Cross Roads Police Department, had his application denied because his license had lapsed when he moved into the private sector.

       In an email obtained by The Post-Signal, Lightfoot questioned that, saying it conflicted with what he was told at the time of his interview.

       “You mentioned that would [sic] give me time to complete the needed classes and Alert training,” he wrote to Marks. “My question is, am I out completely or am I allowed the opportunity to complete the needed training by your scheduled hired date?”

       Marks declined to comment to The Post-Signal on that applicant.

       Another issue Carlson took with the management of the department was what he called a requirement for officers to work off-duty shifts at community events.

       “A lot of it was verbal in the staff meetings,” he said.

       In an email from Oct. 23, Marks told Carlson, “three officers (A Shift) will be need [sic] to work Fall Fest on Saturday 11/4 from 1300-2100 at the Off-duty rate of $65/hr.”

       When asked, Marks said, “officers were given opportunities to sign up.”

       One of Carlson’s other concerns was the amount of vacation time Marks used.

       Carlson referenced emails from Marks to police staff members and to Lusk related to trips the chief took—one from July 10-20; one from Oct. 6-18, which culminated in Marks participating in the International Association of Chiefs of Police in San Diego; and another from Dec. 7-13.

       In each of those emails, Marks identified Sgt. Preston Green as the day-to-day leader, saying twice that “Sgt. Green will have the ‘helm’ for daily operational needs.”

       In each of the three emails, Marks tells those included that he can be reached via email, text or phone call while he’s away.

       The amount Marks is allowed was not documented in his offer letter nor in the Human Resources records the city has, Lusk added.

       Lusk said that he approved all of Marks’ vacation time and that the time taken did not exceed his allotment of paid vacation leave.

       “That is directly under my supervision as a department head,” he said.


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