Coffee City, Texas Police Chief Fired and Police Department Deactivated

The Coffee City Council voted Monday night to fire Police Chief John Jay Portillo and disband the entire police department. The allegations came to light after a TV station investigation into several officers working remotely in Houston. Portillo reportedly offered a resignation letter, but the council declined it. The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office will cover Coffee City for the near future.

A series of reports done by KHOU 11 Investigative Reporter Jeremy Rogalski led to a deeper look into the Coffee City Police Department and Portillo himself.

The City Council took less than 15 minutes to reach its decision. It means the town of 250 people that once had 50 police officers on the force now has none.

KHOU 11 Investigates discovered that in a city of almost 250 people, there were 50 police officers. That’s five times the number of cops than any town its size, according to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records. More than half of the department’s 50 officers had been suspended, demoted, terminated or dishonorably discharged from their previous law enforcement jobs, according to personnel files obtained through open records requests to other law enforcement agencies. Most of the officers were hired by Portillo.

“There were things that we weren’t aware of and that really just opened our eyes, you know, there’s major changes that have got to be made and made quickly,” Coffee City Mayor Jeff Blackstone said after Monday’s council vote.

Portillo had tried to email his resignation before the meeting, but council members refused to accept the unsigned notice and instead outright fired the police chief.

“We just felt it was best to basically terminate the program, that way we’re able to go out and find a new chief, let him do the proper evaluations and determine if he wants to re-hire anybody or start from scratch,” Blackstone said.