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Deputy arrested on DWI charge following drunk driving crash along I-35

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(Photo:{ } Bexar County Sheriff's Office)

A Bexar County deputy who was arrested on a DWI charge on Thursday was handed termination papers by Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar while waiting to be processed at the Bexar County Magistrate's Office.

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Joseph H. Martinez was arrested at about 3:30 a.m. following a suspected drunken driving crash along I-35 in Selma, northeast of San Antonio.

Officers said Martinez was driving drunk when he crashed into the back of an 18-wheeler before hitting the center divider.

Within minutes of Martinez's arrest, Sheriff Javier Salazar identified him as a Bexar County deputy who was already on unpaid leave following a prior incident.

During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Salazar said Martinez was involved in a hazing scandal in June 2017 involving the department's Special Emergency Response Team.

The Sheriff said another SERT hazing scandal in August 2017 put Martinez on administrative leave.

The Sheriff said Martinez got in trouble again this January, when he was accused of assaulting an inmate. Then in March, the agency received four complains Martinez assaulted other inmates.

Martinez was placed on unpaid administrative leave in April. The Bexar County District Attorney is now investigating those cases.

Following Thursday's DWI arrest, Sheriff Salazar stated he went to the Magistrate's Office and personally handed Martinez his termination papers.

Martinez is the 19th deputy to be arrested so far in 2018. He is also the fourth deputy arrested since September 5th.

"This deputy was not terminated strictly for a DWI,” Sheriff Salazar said. “He was terminated for a continuing course of inappropriate and illegal conduct."

His focus now turns to addressing the root cause of the arrests, acknowledging he’s well aware the impact they’ve had on public perception of the agency.

The president of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of Bexar County puts some of the blame on mandatory overtime.

"I'm not saying that's an excuse,” union president Juan Contreras told us by phone. "The stresses of the job, it's compounded because they have to work overtime. Sometimes they're told you have to work today, when they're not scheduled."

To counter stress, just this week the Sheriff’s request for a department psychologist got approved.

He says there is now a nationwide search underway for someone who can pre-screen applicants and also work with deputies at various stages of their careers.

"Certainly after an officer-involved shooting,” Sheriff Salazar gave as an example. “Certainly after certain levels of disciplinary proceedings. And certainly if they're showing signs of distress."

A new Early Intervention Program is also in the works.

"Where maybe we are identifying patterns of behavior before they become illegal or problematic and we're able to get this person some help before we're, God forbid, walking them out the back door in handcuffs,” Sheriff Salazar says.

He’s also beefing up background checks of new recruits, using a similar approach as the San Antonio Police Department. The Sheriff says he instructed his background investigators to go as far as talk to ex-wives, high school teachers and anyone else who can provide as much information as possible about potential hires.

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