On Hold

Found not guilty of the rape charges against him twice over, a former deputy constable still can't get his job back.

"If you refuse," he says, "according to our policy that is insubordination, and that officer was fired because he did not follow the guidelines, not because of the criminal charge."

Serges maintains that his record has no such stain.

"There was no dereliction of duty, no insubordination, nothing," he says. "I obeyed when they called me in, they took my badge and my gun and I complied. There were no policy violations that came to light during the whole ordeal."

Daniel Kramer
Other Precinct 4 deputies have been rehired after their criminal charges were cleared. Serges is suing to find out why his case is any different.
Courtesy Michael Serges
Other Precinct 4 deputies have been rehired after their criminal charges were cleared. Serges is suing to find out why his case is any different.

Then there is the liability argument, the one that keeps fretful mothers awake as their daughters roam the suburbs at dusk and that gives nightmares to administrators scared of making the wrong rehiring decision.

Patrick Judge, executive director of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, an organization made up of state law enforcement training boards, cautions agencies on the risk of rehiring someone who's been charged.

"Any administrator worth their salt wouldn't touch anyone who's had their credibility challenged," he says. "The liability is just horrendous. In some cases you can defend the position that the officer was truly innocent, but...the hiring agency would have to explain itself and any future conduct by the officer."

A cursory Internet search, however, found more articles about agencies across the country rehiring officers who had been acquitted than stories about exonerated officers who had been rehired and then ran amok.

Serges dismisses the liability argument. After all, he says, he didn't do anything wrong in the first place.

"Why are the other officers who were accused and then rehired now okay? They had 'integrity' issues, too. In my case, there was no 'maybe,' no wiggle room, like there was some evidence, just not enough. I didn't do it and it was obvious in court. This was not an O.J. Simpson case where the glove shrank. There was no glove. I didn't do it, period."

These days, Serges is living back at home with his grandmother in Sunnyside and working the overnight shift at CVS for a private security company. More than $60,000 in court costs and legal fees, he says, have left him broke, and this is the only way he can make a buck. No one else, he claims, will hire him.

After learning that the constable's office would not take him back, Serges says, he applied for work with a host of smaller agencies, including Texas Southern University, University of Houston and North Forest Independent School District. Apparently no one was interested.

"When I tell other agencies that I don't know why Precinct 4 won't rehire me, that ends the application process," says Serges. "They say, 'If Precinct 4 won't touch him, maybe we shouldn't either.'"

Patrolling a pharmacy parking lot at night, thwarting would-be shoplifters, is not what Serges imagined as a kid when he'd watch T.J. Hooker on the tube and dream of being a peace officer.

"I used to tease security officers, calling them flashlight cops," says Serges. "Now I am a flashlight cop. It's not what I envisioned. I don't want large sums of money or anything like that; I just want answers. I want to know why this is such a nightmare when I haven't done anything wrong. I don't deserve this. I just want my life back."

chris.vogel@houstonpress.com

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