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Investigation Questions Why Midlothian Officers Allowed Police Commander's Daughter To Avoid Jail

MIDLOTHIAN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - The red Jeep traveling through Midlothian swayed back and forth between the road and shoulder.

It was around 2:30 a.m. on March 12, as Officer Philip Evitt pulled behind it and flashed his lights.

"The reason I pulled you over is because you're all over the road," he told the driver, asking that she step out.

In a field sobriety test captured by both dash and body cameras, the young woman stumbled and struggled to balance.

"What did you have to drink?" Officer Evitt asks her.

"A couple shots," she responds.

"Do you know what they were?" he asks.

"Whiskey," she says.

To Evitt and his partner, Officer Nicklaus VanDerkar, who arrived to provide backup, it was clear the woman was impaired.

"You are under arrest for driving while intoxicated," said Officer Evitt, as the suspected drunk driver was handcuffed and seated in the back of his patrol car.

VanDerkar grabbed her driver license, as he requested radioed dispatch to request a background check.

That's when he realized she was someone he'd met before -- the daughter of a police commander.

The Midlothian Police Department granted CBS 11 News video from dash cameras, body cameras and cameras inside the room where officers were questioned about their actions that night as part of an internal investigation.

"I don't agree with what we did out there," Officer VanDerkar told Professional Standards Commander Vernell Dooley.

In videos from that night, VanDerkar can be seen removing his camera and asking his partner to do the same.

"Hey, uh, Evitt," he says. "Put this in your car real quick."

"What's up?" responds Evitt.

"Real quick. It's okay. Just. Let's talk for a second," said VanDerkar.

The two placed their cameras in the front seat of a patrol car and closed the door.

"All he told me was, 'Do you know who that is?'" said Evitt.

The news of who he had just arrested stunned the officer.

"It blew my mind. I was like holy s***," said Evitt.

He told Commander Dooley he immediately became scared.

"This was one of my supervisor's daughters," he explained. "I was like, there's my career right there. I'm done."

Evitt called his supervisor, Sgt. Stephanie Hanson. She asked what condition the suspect was in.

"Is she falling down drunk? Is she throwing up on herself? Is she incoherent? Is she just absolutely gone?" she recalled asking. "He said, 'No, she just had too much'. I said, 'Okay, I'll call her dad to come get her'," she told Commander Dooley.

Officer Evitt says he was told to "un-arrest" the young woman.

"She said, 'Hey, this is what I need you to do. Go ahead and un-handcuff her, un-arrest her. Just hang out there," he recalled.

It was the first Evitt said he'd ever received such a request.

The officers did as they were told, releasing the woman to her father.

But, their actions left them feeling conflicted and upset.

"I couldn't sleep because of that. I know what we did… I don't believe in," said Officer VanDerkar.

Officer Evitt said his wife noticed the change in his demeanor. "My wife even said when I got home, 'Are you okay?' I was pale. It bugged me a lot."

There was no record made of the arrest, no incident report, which is required by the department whenever anyone is even temporarily restrained.

Officer Evitt said, he went to Sgt. Hanson at one point, feeling scared and panicked.

"And she's like, 'Well, it was my decision. Don't talk about it. And if need be, we'll talk about it later,'" he said.

The officers, though, did speak to others. Within weeks the rumors reached Dooley, who launched his investigation.

"We unarrest her… why?" Dooley asked Sgt. Hanson.

"She's a commander's daughter. I know under our policy we have discretion and under state law we have discretion," she replied.

Hanson would later write "I wanted to spare (the commander) the emotional pain of seeing his daughter in jail at his workplace and having to bond his daughter out of jail in front of his coworkers."

"You can't let your personal relationships affect your decision to arrest someone or not," Dooley counseled her.

As discipline, the officers received a written reprimand in their files.

The sergeant received orders to attend ethics training and to take "Decision Making Leave," a paid day-off of her choosing.

"The sergeant in this case is directed to take a day to reflect on the policies that were violated and to learn from those, and to report back to the chief" said Assistant Chief Scott Brown.

Police Chief Carl Smith, who determined the punishment, said it's not a vacation, but part of the city's policy of progressive discipline.

In private meetings, the chiefs said those involved expressed regret.

"I think they're all prepared to learn from it and move on," said Brown.

Justice based on who you are, they say, isn't what the department stands for.

"It doesn't reflect the values of the department or we wouldn't have implemented discipline. There's a lot of trust put in us and we have to earn that," said Brown.

Chief Smith said the department is speaking with the Ellis County District Attorney's Office to clarify its rules on body worn cameras and whether it is ever okay to take them off.

Officer VanDerkar reported he'd seen a supervisor do so in training, while Officer Evitt said he'd never seen it done before, but trusted his partner had a good reason.

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