Ennis cop caught on tape has history of trouble

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on September 28, 2010 at 10:05 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 30 at 12:33 AM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

ENNIS — An Ennis police officer whose treatment of a handcuffed prisoner was deemed "abusive" and "inappropriate"  has a history of trouble.

News 8 has learned that the officer — caught on tape in our recent investigation —   was the subject of another probe that resulted in his termination from the Ferris Police Department.

Our investigation centered on a squad car video and audio tape from Ennis police as they closed in on a suspect.

But it's what happens after the suspect is handcuffed that has attracted attention.  The arresting  officer, Cpl. Sherman Swafford, is heard on tape cursing his prisoner.

"I'm [EXPLETIVE] muddy," Swafford can be heard saying on the recording.  "You got me all [EXPLETIVE] muddy, and I don't like it."

Swafford's curses escalate to the threat of violence because his uniform got dirty.

"You see that guy right there? He's gonna Tase you," Swafford said.

"Tase me? Why would you Tase me?" the prisoner asked.  

"Because I got muddy," Swafford responded, "...and I'm gonna send you the [EXPLETIVE] dry cleaning bill, too."

News 8 has learned Swafford is a 22-year veteran police officer with no state record of suspensions or revocations.

Ennis police Chief John Erisman said Swafford's personnel file record is clean.

But Charles Hatfield, publisher of the Ellis County Press, recalled one blemish as he watched our video.

It was Hatfield's newspaper that uncovered a scandal at the Ferris Police Department in 2003 involving Swafford and his police chief, both of whom were accused of mismanagement of police funds.

The Ellis County Press had reported that Swafford and his police chief had cashed checks from a secret police bank account. The account was supposed to be used for paying off-duty officers, but was actually operating with little oversight or accountability.

 Weeks after the paper first published the allegations, the Ferris City Council fired Swafford and his chief.

Swafford maintained that he "left for political reasons,"  had done nothing wrong, and was never charged with a crime.

But Hatfield said the incident should have served as a warning, and he believes the public should know.

"I'm really surprised he continued his law enforcement career after leaving Ferris," Hatfield said.

Now, Ennis police Cpl. Swafford is caught on tape threatening a handcuffed prisoner.

Ennis police Chief John Erisman said he was unhappy with Swafford's treatment of a suspect. "There were definitely some inappropriate comments made," he said.

But Erisman has taken no disciplinary action against Swafford and has only issued a verbal warning. The chief has indicated to News 8 there is no reason to infer that Swafford is anything but the model police officer.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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