» Article from Dallas Morning News
Article from Dallas Morning News
Article from Dallas Morning News
"Officer resigns in Lake Dallas during
If diploma claims are
false, he could lose state license
The article listed below appeared in the Dallas Morning
News on Dec. 6th 1997. It concerns Marcus Cook who is the President of
the Texas Police K9 Assoc. To understand why I would choose to include
this article on my web site you would have to go to my list of training
articles and read the other 4 other articles concerning Marcus Cook. I
have listed links to these articles below.
I would like to mention that there are many good trainers
in the Texas Police K9 Assoc. It is unfortunate that these men and women
have to be associated with people like Cook. Since Cook wrote the by-laws
to this organization and appointed himself "president for life."
I will not be surprised if the majority of these members don't leave and
form a legitimate police K9 organization in the near future.
A controversial Lake Dallas police sergeant could lose
his peace officers license if a state agent investigation shows
he falsely claimed to be a graduate of North Mesquite High School.
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers standards
and Education is investigating whether Marcus Cook submitted falsified
documents to obtain his license four years ago.
Mr. Cook applied to the law enforcement commission in
1993 to become a reserve law enforcement officer. On the sworn application,
he stated that he was a high school graduate and submitted a 1984 diploma
from North Mesquite High School as evidence.
Mr. Cook also has testified at least twice in separate
civil suits that he is a North Mesquite graduate.
North Mesquite High School officials said Mr.Cook did
not graduate from that school but withdrew in December 1983 after repeating
the ninth grade and completing one semester of 10th grade.
Mesquite school officials said that Mr. Cook transferred
to Brownwood High School in north Central Texas, where officials would
not discuss his record. High school yearbooks show a Marc Cook attended
Brownwood for one year.
Texas Education Agency officials said their records
also do not reflect that Mr. Cook earned a GED -a high school equivalency
diploma - in Texas.
Law enforcement officers in Texas are required to have
a high school diploma or a GED.
Commission officials declined to comment on the specifics
of their investigation into Mr. Cook's certification. In general, submission
of falsified documents, if proved, "is cause to revoke the license"
of a police officer, said Gerald Keown, director of program and institutional
evaluations for the agency.
If investigators determine that's what happened in Mr.
Cook's case, Mr. Keown said, the agency could revoke his certification
administratively or file criminal charges.
Chief Ristagno declined to give details about Mr. Cook's
situation, saying he was not allowed to discuss personnel matters.
If TCLEOSE contacts us, we will assist,
Lake Dallas Mayor Jerry McCutcheon said the agency already
has contacted the city. "The words I heard, TCLEOSE wanted to look
at his [Mr. Cook's] file," Mr. McCutcheon said.
He also said Mr. Cook had been placed on administrative
leave with pay a few days before his resignation.
That means they had an investigation going on
him. The chief had requested some kind of document verification and put
him on administrative leave until he brought those documents in,
the mayor said. He said he did not know what documents had been requested
Chief Ristagno said Mr. Cook's departure was voluntary,
and Mr. McCutcheon said he still believes Mr. Cook was a good officer.
"I have no reason to believe that that [the state
investigation] led to his resignation," the mayor said. He said Mr.
Cook told city officials "he had a job offer he couldn't refuse."
Mr. Cook has been at the center of a swirl of controversies
involving the Lake Dallas Police Department in the last year. Four officers
fired by the department have alleged that they were punished for questioning
his performance. Former Lake Dallas officers and police from nearby towns
questioned Mr. Cook's treatment of suspects and handling of his police
Mr. Cook has sued five former colleagues and a former
Lake Dallas City Council member for defamation. An attorney for some of
those defendants said this week that Mr. Cook has said he will drop the
Chief Ristagno, as head of the police agency that sponsored
Mr. Cook as an officer, signed his state application.
In any investigation into possible falsification of
documents, "what we are looking into is that entire application,"
said Mr. Keown of the state law enforcement commission. "The agency
administrator signs and verifies that all this information is accurate.
. . . We would be looking at anybody involved in that application process."
The mayor said backgrounds of police applicants should
be closely checked. However, it was unclear what checking was done in
Mr. Cook's case.
Chief Ristagno said Mr. Cook was hired originally as
a dispatcher, and "we don't do as extensive a background check"
Shortly thereafter, he was hired as a police officer.
When the department already has employed a person, background checks "typically
are not extensive," the chief said.
In depositions, court testimony and interviews with
The Dallas Morning News, Mr. Cook has given differing answers to questions
about his education, employment history, places of residence and arrest
record. He told The Morning News this summer that he had past arrests
only for traffic violations.
But Brown County records show - and Mr. Cook testified
in a recent deposition - that he served probation there more than 10 years
ago for a guilty plea to a burglary charge.
By Texas law, a person cannot become a police officer
if convicted of a felony. Because Mr. Cook received deferred adjudication
and completed probation, the burglary conviction did not stay on his record.