Covington, TX – Everybody has their story, and all these years later, lord knows, they are, one and all, keeping busy sticking to it.
Truth is, if it hadn’t been for the gold plate on that Chief’s shield, all the resultant drama that ensued from a bad yen for hydrocodone tabs and the opiate nirvana they produce would have probably amounted to nothing more than a trip to detox, some counseling, rehab – maybe – and a DEA blip on the doc’s record, dittoed by one on the pharmacist’s tally sheet – that is, the one who filled the scrips. The rest of the dope was allegedly stolen from the evidence locker, according to a female officer who blew the whistle.
“That job (Chief of the Covington, Texas, Police Department) couldn’t have possibly paid much more than – let’s say – thirty or forty thousand,” like the fella said.
Old timers describe it as a dog fight between no less than four hounds of personality type A, each with his own agenda – the kind of brawl that compelled the guys in white hats – The Texas Rangers – to leave the dioramic legend and step into the picture, their shiny silver hundred pesos pieces lighting up the starched expanse of their long-sleeved shirts.
This rural redoubt on the Johnson-Hill County line – populated at the time by 236 souls – brewed up the type of vendetta that makes possible full frontal assaults on the Palazzo in the Piazza, the place of justice where each word is inscribed for the record, all writs are signed and served, the return duly noted, by the clocks in the cupola, ticking away the time so elaborately memorialized.
Naturally, there is way too much money in this stuff.
Considereth: Is there a need for a fully-staffed, round-the-clock full service agency such as a police department – in a town of no more than 236 people?
You’re talking certified, sworn peace officers and support staff, specially equipped vehicles, computers, software, radios, weapons of war on drugs, and the list adds up and up – and up.
Is there a revenue stream to support all this?
You bet there is. It’s called municipal court, and it handles minor misdemeanor cases that chiefly reach disposition through bond forfeiture.
Is there a quota? You know, the quota so often referred to as writing the check with the citation book?
After all, every country mother’s son has a piece of the action, thanks to the Legislature in its wisdom. The funding attached to “court costs” is a staggering grab bag of fiscal jelly roll – prescribed by statute, accounted by the State Comptroller of Accounts, audited by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In fact, in every small-town corporate budget, it’s a line item, the one, the only, that yawning blank that just has to be filled in.
But, then, truth be known, there is no quota, after all. Ask any truck-driving man. He’ll tell you down in Dixie.
Like the Hollywood cop, Joseph Wambaugh, wrote in some sparkling dialogue for the silver screen, “They changed all that. Now, we get to write as many as we want.”
It’s going around. The cases of city secretaries, chiefs of police, and other city dads gone south with the swag swinging from their sacks is rampant, epidemic, a story torn from today’s headlines with perennial fervor.
Like any real estate equation, the x factor is of tripartite importance. There are only three things to consider – location, location, and location.
Covington is located on State Highway 171, a broad-shouldered, ultra-smooth razor cut of macadam bee-lining the route from Hillsboro at the I-35 East and West split to the DFW Metromess, and the railroad hub, Cleburne-on-the-Santa-Fe. A typical bridal path of the iron monsters shod with rubber wheels, it is a tempting place to put the hammer down on any busy day in the life as the cotton blossoms and sorghum stalks shoot by at terrifying speeds, the nasty little fuel-injected Japanese coffee mills whining into infinity on alcohol-laced drizzle gas of extremely low grand exorbitantly high price, taxed even higher by every bean counter in the world.
Whee! It’s what all the fighting’s about, it seems.
Naturally, THE MAN was there in full force, taking care of plenty business.
In a typical case of theatrical cruelty such as this, there’s always someone along on the snipe hunt who will wake up out in the woods, holding the bag, and realize it’s time to start scrambling before it’s way, way too late.
According to published reports, a year before the Rangers arrested Chief Wade Laurence in 2012, he was a Sergeant who aroused the suspicions of then Chief Dowell Missildine when he and Officer Kayla Richardson discovered discrepancies in the accounts of property seized as evidence.
Missildine suspected Laurence had been pilfering Oxycodone. To make the situation even more interesting, Wade had tried to persuade the Chief to fill prescriptions for the controlled substance, an opiate pain killer, on prescriptions from his doctor, Petros Chapanos, because he, Laurence, had accidentally thrown his own prescription in the trash barrel.
Such a deal.
When Officer Richardson filed her complaint, she included allegations that police were selling drugs to kids, telling them it was okay because the substances are prescription items.
One wonders if they mentioned they could get oil burner dope fiend habits, the kind that rip into the soul and body and turn the mind to jelly.
Tracy Baccus, a sewer service operator who coached juvenile sports teams, realized his players weren’t up to their usual standards. They were too stoned to make the plays, and by the time he got around to talking to media, he let the world know the town was living under what the tv news writers termed “narco-tyranny.”
A City Council member, Martha Smith, requested the minutes of the council’s meetings for the previous couple of years, and told the scribes she got a dressing down by Laurence’s girl friend, a city clerk named Courtney Childress.
Childress accused her of informing Child Protective Services investigators whom she claimed were snooping on her relations with her son.
Baccus said he was afraid of being shot; Ms. Smith said she was terrorized over the prospect of being stopped by a cop and killed for her troubles.
The on-line scribblers at “Republic” Magazine and “Cop Block” eagerly reported it all.
There’s danger on the edge of town.
The verdict by the fraternity of web crawlers, Chief Laurence “engineered” the ouster of Missildine by the City Council and took over the top job.
A year later, the Rangers had developed enough of a case to charge him with intent to obtain a controlled substance with a fraudulent prescription, a felony crime.
Six years later, the upshot of the backshot is clear to behold. Of the officers involved in the now defunct Covington Police Department, the Hill County Sheriff’s job is held down by former Covington Officer Rodney Watson, and the local Road Commissioners’ seat is now occupied by Andy Montgomery.
So, onwards and upwards with greater roles in the executive suite of public service.
As a veteran cop observed, “The one who walks away clean – that’s usually the snitch in the deal.”
NEXT: TEXAS COMMISSION ON LAW ENFORCEMENT’S RECORDS OF THE WADE LAURENCE AFFAIR, AS IT BECOMES AVAILABLE…