Wichita Co. Sheriff speaks on former deputy sexually harassing inmates

More than 300 hours of footage relating to the investigation was viewed.
Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 8:34 PM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Wichita County Sheriff David Duke held a press conference Thursday to address the recent arrest of Brett Brasher, a former deputy accused of sexually harassing female inmates while he worked in the jail.

“It’s disgusting. If y’all saw the videos we’ve seen... it’s disgusting,” Duke said. “And it disgusts me. It saddens me that as sheriff I had somebody under me that acted in such inappropriate behavior. It hits me pretty hard to think that really, we had someone do that.”

The sheriff said that more charges are expected in this case. Investigators have gone through around 300 hours of footage thus far, and Duke said that there was around 400 more hours of video that still needed to be reviewed. While the investigation is ongoing, initial findings have painted a picture of a serial abuser who tried to keep out of sight of the cameras while enacting a disturbing pattern of behavior.

In March of 2021, the sheriff’s office received a complaint from a civilian, who said that Brasher had inappropriately touched her while at a Valero gas station in Burkburnett. An internal investigation concluded that while any touching had occurred outside the range of surveillance cameras, the incident had likely occurred. Brasher was suspended without pay for three days and required to take a sexual harassment course before resuming work.

A female deputy who worked in the jail then made a complaint to the sheriff’s office on Oct. 30 of 2021, alleging unwarranted touching from Brasher. Investigators reviewed jail footage, which showed Brasher “hugging on” his female colleague.

This second incident sparked an internal investigation, and the sheriff’s office began looking through footage. Initial findings showed evidence that Brasher was inappropriately touching the inmates, and taking them to areas he thought were out of the cameras’ view. Duke said that within a week of receiving the initial report from his deputy, he terminated Brasher’s employment.

“Once I got the report of what happened, that was it,” Duke said. “Terminated him. For cause. For violation of sexual harassment policies.”

However, the investigation continued. In addition to combing through hours of footage, investigators spoke with female inmates who had seen or experienced some of the alleged assaults. Some said they had been “terrified of retaliation” because of Brasher’s usual position of apprehending fugitives. They were afraid he would come after them after they were released from the jail.

The sheriff described what happened as “sickening,” and a violation of public trust. He emphasized the power imbalance that inherently exists between inmates and jail staff, and pointed to how every deputy is trained on sexual harassment policies to make the line clear: an inmate cannot legally consent to a sexual relationship with jail staff.

“Just because they are in jail, they can’t consent to that [sexual relationship]. They are in the care and custody of the Wichita County Sheriff’s Office, my care as a sheriff,” Duke said. “So you understand how important it is, and how this is something that we do not condone, that cannot happen. This is why he’s been arrested... This type of offense is egregious in law enforcement.”

“I’ve had some people say well, they’re just inmates... We cannot say that,” Duke said. “These are people just like everybody else, everybody’s the same. Some people went left in life, some people went right in life. However, by law, and by the star of obligation, we have to protect our inmates. Period. And take care of our inmates, period. We cannot condone this.”

Brasher appears to have taken advantage of a unique situation: due to short staffing with jail personnel, the sheriff’s office had to pull deputies with jail licenses, who would usually be working patrol or investigations, into the jail to work shifts throughout the last year. Those deputies were designated as “rovers,” traveling between jail pods rather than working directly with inmates. This design was intended to minimize confrontations, as many active deputies working as rovers had actually arrested current inmates.

According to Duke, Brasher appointed himself to work in the area that contained female inmates. Floor supervisors and other higher authorities didn’t intercede because of his position as a rover; Duke said staff have since been “reminded” of policies.

Duke also remarked on changed conditions that may help to ensure similar incidents don’t happen again. The new jail has a different layout, and only female staff work with female inmates. While still facing staff issues, the sheriff’s office got approval from the county to raise wages for jail personnel in the hopes of attracting and retaining new employees.

Brasher started as an unpaid reserve deputy on Dec. 14, 2011 and had just completed the Vernon police academy. He worked to rise up the ranks and became a full time deputy on Aug. 19, 2016. He then worked in fugitive apprehension until being terminated following the complaint in October of 2021.

A Wichita County grand jury returned a 10-count indictment against the former Wichita County sheriff’s deputy on Feb. 16. Brasher was arrested on Feb. 17, but bonded out on the same day. He faces charges including two counts of sexually violating the civil rights of a person in custody and eight counts of official oppression from August through October of 2021.

Duke said that investigators have more footage to go through, and encouraged women to speak out if they had been harassed by Brasher. He said the current charges are only the beginning.

“I don’t believe this is the end of it. I believe there will be more,” Duke said.

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