Snoop Dogg is a national treasure. Either you agree, or you don’t know who Snoop Dogg is. But Texas DPS trooper Billy Spears found himself in hot water for agreeing to a small favor on behalf of the rapper.
While Snoop was in Austin for SXSW, he asked Spears to pose for a picture that the rapper then shared on Instagram (with the caption “me n my deputy dogg”—oh, Snoop). Spears himself didn’t make the request, didn’t take his own photo with Snoop, and didn’t share the shot on his own social media accounts. He simply said “okay” when asked if he’d pose for a photo that Snoop’s publicist took.
And, according to the Dallas Morning News, that was enough to land Spears in trouble.
DPS officials saw the posting and cited Spears for deficiencies that require counseling for posing with a known criminal. . . .
Because the action taken against Spears called for “counseling” and was not a formal disciplinary action, the trooper has no means of appeal.
The counseling reprimand read: “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. The public figure posted the photo on social media and it reflects poorly on the Agency.”
A lieutenant from Tyler drove 80 miles round trip to have him sign the document.
This appears to be an odd cause for disciplinary action. Snoop’s criminal background is a matter of public record, but he’s hardly the only beloved public figure with a record. Cedar Hill Police made a video tribute to commercials starring convicted criminal and known drug user Matthew McConaughey earlier this month. When Willie Nelson was arrested in Sierra Blanca, law enforcement officials celebrated his arrival; Sheriff Arvin West took a selfie with the singer, and the starstruck prosecutor offered to dismiss the charges if Willie would come sing in the courtroom. During the two years before his conviction was overturned on appeal, it’s unclear—but hard to imagine—that DPS had a “don’t allow yourself to be photographed standing next to Tom DeLay” policy.
In other words, this all seems rather selective. While those are different agencies than DPS, the idea that law enforcement must maintain an adversarial relationship with anyone who has a criminal conviction at all times is a curious one. Willie Nelson is a proud drug user with a criminal record and a history of tax evasion—and, like Snoop, he’s also an American icon for whom the most common association isn’t “convicted criminal.” And that’s what Spears said in his own defense, when asked about the photo. He knew who Snoop was, of course (so does your grandma), but he wasn’t aware of his criminal history.
According to Spears’s attorney, Ty Clevenger, that shouldn’t even matter. Writing in his blog, Clevenger notes that:
DPS has no policy requiring a criminal background check on everyone who requests a picture with a uniformed trooper. In fact, DPS has no policy forbidding a photograph with someone who has a criminal conviction.
Clevenger goes on to explain that Spears’s official record will now show that his client experienced “deficiences indicating need for counseling” and that the counseling session involved Spears being told to say no when asked for a photograph.
At the very least, that seems kind of rude. Whether the person asking is Snoop Dogg, a kid at the Capitol, or anyone else, refusing to allow yourself to be photographed standing next to one of the countless citizens that a DPS officer is tasked with protecting and serving seems to create a confrontational relationship wherein one has no cause to exist. When it comes to “reflecting poorly on the agency,” refusing to allow officers to pose for photos, and making a stink about it when they do, seems worse than being in the same photograph as Snoop Dogg, the rapper’s criminal history be damned.
Still, if that’s official DPS policy going forward, we suppose that the next time Willie Nelson, Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Tim Allen, Wynonna Judd, Robert Downey Jr., Marv Albert, Martha Stewart, Josh Brolin, or any other convicted criminal attempts to snap a selfie with a state trooper, the public and the agency will be spared the humiliation that could result.