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The former police chief in Coffee City, TX, who was fired by the City Council in September, has now been arrested on charges of tampering with government records. The Henderson County Grand Jury indicted JohnJay Portillo on six felony counts alleging that Portillo lied on his job application about his past legal and disciplinary issues.


The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement requires full disclosure of any prior citations, arrests, convictions, and disciplinary actions on job applications. Portillo allegedly failed to disclose a DUI charge from Florida and disciplinary actions at two previous police agencies in Harris County. Portillo's actions mirrored the issues faced by many of his former officers, as an investigation of the police department found that over half of the 50 sworn officers had problematic histories.


The decision in September to fire Portillo came after a KHOU 11 investigation revealed questionable hiring practices by Portillo.  The council also voted to disband the police force following numerous allegations about the backgrounds of officers Portillo had hired, including that many had been suspended, terminated, demoted, or dishonorably discharged from previous law enforcement jobs.


Coffee City is a small town north of Houston of around 250 residents but had an unusually large police department for its size, with 50 officers. That is five times more than any other Texas town of comparable size. Portillo had quadrupled the size of the department after taking the job in 2021. The full-time officers from the disbanded department now face the challenge of seeking new employment or the option to reapply under a new chief. Meanwhile, reserve officers are in need of finding new stations.


Despite the felony charges, Portillo has launched a bid to run for Harris County Precinct 3 Constable. His campaign website emphasizes his commitment to high performance standards and ethical conduct.


The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office has been assigned to respond to calls for service in Coffee City as the town figures out its next steps. There is currently no timeline for when a new chief will be hired or when the department will be reinstated.

The decision to deactivate the police department and the arrest of the former chief have raised concerns among Coffee City residents. Some expressed relief at the council's decision, citing issues with over-aggressive policing, while others are concerned about the implications for public safety and response times in the absence of a local police force.

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