An Austin-area sheriff's office praised deputies for using force and rewarded them with steakhouse gift cards, former employees say. Former Williamson County deputy Christopher Pisa, who is being investigated by Texas Rangers for using force on a Black woman during a traffic stop last year, told them Commander Steve Deaton rewarded deputies that he praised for being "badasses." "They had the intention that we were all ‘WilCo badass’ and, if you went out there and did your job and you had to use force on somebody and he agreed with it, then you would get a gift card,” Pisa said in recording obtained by the Austin American-Statesman. Deaton resigned last year after an outcry over offensive Facebook posts including depictions of dolls being raped.
Former Sgt. Troy Brogden, who resigned from the force in 2019 after 20 years, backs up Pisa's account. Deaton "would talk about it in groups, including supervisors meetings and classes,” Brogden tells the American-Statesman. "I was like, ‘What the hell?’" Pisa told investigators that two deputies involved in the death last year of Javier Ambler—a Black man who died after being repeatedly Tasered despite his pleas that he couldn't breathe—received gift cards, although he didn't link them to the Ambler case, reports KVUE. In a statement, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody said the only use of gift cards he can "specifically recalls" was "for a deputy who was able to recover some excellent fingerprints that ended up helping an investigation." (Read more Texas stories.)