AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County’s Civil Service Commission has chosen to uphold Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s decision to terminate former deputy John Loughran.
After serving TCSO for 24 years, Loughran was terminated in March. Both Sheriff Sally Hernandez and former Sheriff Greg Hamilton claimed in the first part of the Civil Service Commission’s hearing on whether to reinstate him last month that Loughran’s grieving of a fallen deputy was getting in the way of doing his job.
Loughran was supervising Deputy Jessica Hollis on the night she was swept away and killed by floodwaters in 2014. He helped search for her body for hours before it was found in Lake Austin. After she was found, he helped with her funeral.
“I was asked to select her pallbearers,” Loughran said, “I was asked to speak and to give the eulogy at her funeral, which I did proudly, I was asked at the funeral home to help put her in her casket.”
Loughran says it was a traumatic experience and he struggled coping with her death.
“I was taking care of everybody, my troops and Jessica,” he said. “Whatever needed to be done, I was there to do it, and when I needed this agency, they were not there for me.”
In the past two years, the sheriff’s office says Loughran was placed on administrative duty, then administrative leave, twice as he coped with Hollis’s death.
“Not once was it a word of ‘Hey John, are you OK?'” Loughran said. He says it’s a culture that’s troubling for those in the line of duty.
“Police officers see and hear and smell, experience things on a regular basis that people are not supposed to see or experience ever, and they do it with honor, they do it with pride,” he said, “But when they need help, they’re told to get back to work.”
The county’s Civil Service Commission ruled that TCSO needs better policies when dealing with situations like Loughran’s. Commission members said they’ll review current policies and work on making potential changes over the next few months. However, Loughran says he worries the results of his case perpetuate the stigma of showing weakness in uniform.
“I believe this is a huge step back for the mental health of officers, as far as them being able to come forward and say hey I need help,” Loughran said.
Loughran and his attorney say they plan to appeal the Civil Service Commission’s decision to uphold his termination in District Court.
A request for comment from the Sheriff’s Office was declined.