A Texas state trooper was ordered to get counseling after he posed for a picture with rapper Snoop Dogg, which the state Department of Public Safety concluded "reflects poorly on the agency," according to documents made public Wednesday.
The trooper, Sgt. Billy L. Spears, was in uniform working at the South by Southwest music and technology festival in Austin last month when Snoop asked Spears to pose for a picture with him, according to a letter from Spears' attorney to the department.
After the picture appeared on Snoop's Instagram account — with the caption "Me n my deputy dogg" a supervisor drove 80 miles round-trip to deliver the counseling order, which is dated March 24 and was first reported by The Dallas Morning News.
"While working a secondary employment job, Trooper Spears took a photo with a public figure who has a well-known criminal background including numerous drug charges," says the order, which Spears' lawyer, Ty Clevenger, made available Wednesday. "The public figure posted the photo on social media and it reflects poorly on the agency."
In letters to public safety officials and prosecutors, Clevenger wrote that, in fact, it was Snoop's publicist who took the photo, not Spears. And Spears didn't have a clue about Snoop's long arrest record, the letters said. In an online post Wednesday, Clevenger said that's because, "believe it or not, some folks don't watch TMZ or read People Magazine."
Clevenger argues that the action was actually an act of retaliation against Spears for having reported misconduct last year by an officer of a different Texas law enforcement agency.
"DPS claims that the counseling forms are not really discipline, therefore the employee has no right to appeal. Yet those counseling incidents can block a trooper's chances for promotion or advancement," he wrote.
Referring to another big-time star who meets the Public Safety Department's definition of "a public figure who has a well-known criminal background including numerous drug charges," Clevenger wrote:
"So what's the big deal? Would the DPS hierarchy get so bent out of shape about a picture with Willie Nelson?"
The Department of Public Safety told the Morning News in a statement late Wednesday afternoon that it doesn't discuss personnel issues unless they result in disciplinary action, "and these efforts do not constitute formal discipline by the department."