The second in a series of “Behind the Badges” gatherings, hosted by Daisetta Police Department and Chief Mike Parrish, was held Monday, Oct. 1, at the Hull-Daisetta Volunteer Fire Department in Daisetta. This week’s guest speakers included men and women from several different divisions of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s impossible to cover the complexity of a law enforcement organization, such as the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, in only a couple of hours, but I thought it’d be a good idea to show the public that the sheriff’s office has a lot more going on than just patrol,” said Daisetta Chief Mike Parrish. “During the second meeting of our Behind the Badges series, I requested Sheriff Rader to divide the 90-120 minute presentation time between dispatchers, patrol deputies, criminal investigators, and narcotic interdiction personnel.”
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office has seen the administrations of 40 sheriffs before Bobby Rader became the 41st, and this southeast Texas law enforcement agency has grown immensely over the years.
Rader opened the “Behind the Badges” meeting by showing the crowd just how much the county has changed in terms of the county population and the number of calls for service his agency receives annually.
Rader provided some eye-opening statistics as he stated, “The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office is staffed with only one deputy for approximately every 9,609 citizens and we’re on track to receive approximately 43,575 calls by the end of 2018.”
This number, according to the statistics provided, far exceeds the number of calls received and handled by the sheriff’s office for any year in the agency’s previous history.
Rader spoke of the difficulties encountered while attempting to keep up with the calls for service from an ever-growing Liberty County population.
On most occasions, calls for law enforcement assistance occur when someone picks up a phone and dials 9-1-1. Those calls are answered by police dispatchers who are also known as telecommunications officers or operators.
Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch Supervisor Sherry Walton, who followed Sheriff Rader’s segment of the meeting, gave detailed insight in regard to what it’s like to serve as a telecommunications officer for a law enforcement agency. Walton, along with Telecommunications Officer Tiffany Hall, explained how they may have as many as three phone calls and three different radio communications going simultaneously and, at times, dispatching emergency services can be extremely chaotic.
The dispatchers informed community guests that they dispatch calls to far more than just the sheriff’s office. They also dispatch for all six constable’s offices, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Daisetta Police Department, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, transport deputies, wreckers, Liberty County EMS and services such as Life Flight along with approximately 17 volunteer fire departments.
Walton went a bit more in-depth with the personal side of being a dispatcher.
“We don’t get closure,” she said then went on to say that dispatchers are the first first-responders because they receive the calls but, since they don’t actually respond to the scene, in many cases they seldom know the final results of a call.
Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Captain Billy Knox, who was recently accepted to attend the FBI Academy and leads the criminal investigations division (CID) of the sheriff’s office, followed the dispatchers’ brief but informative presentation.
Knox spoke about the sheriff’s office investigative capabilities and touched on certain tools (interview techniques & cell phone dumps) and crime labs often used in solving a crime. Knox explained that no two crimes, such as burglary, are committed exactly the same. In one burglary, investigators may not have a suspect or witnesses, while in another burglary, the officers may have really good evidence to close a case.
Knox conveyed the extended time frame in regard to processing DNA evidence and related that it’s not surprising that it could take up to two years to receive a laboratory analysis of DNA simply because the crime lab is completely inundated with a backlog of evidence to be analyzed.
Knox detailed the sheriff’s office caseload by showing that, since March of 2017, there are still 467 active felony investigations that remain open while, during that same time frame, 516 felony cases have been closed. Knox pointed out that the magnitude of this work has been done by himself and 7 investigators.
Knox, who said that he should be referred to as “Billy,” spoke about how certain cases have affected him and he realizes that, while clearing these cases may bring closure to the victims that he works to help, all too often he and other officers will experience the cases that they will never forget.
Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Sergeant and K-9 Officer Michelle Deshotel changed the pace of the meeting just a bit by introducing her canine partner, “Jack.”
Deshotel, a 17-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, explained that Jack, as well as several pieces of crime lab equipment, had been purchased with money that was seized from drug dealers.
“People sometimes mistakenly believe that all purchases made by a law enforcement agency are made with taxpayer dollars but this isn’t the case,” said Deshotel.
The sergeant further related that many of the sheriff’s office purchases are made by utilizing funds that were seized during a narcotics investigation.
The crowd responded with laughter when Sergeant Deshotel added,”So be sure to thank your local drug dealer.”
The final presentation was made by two members of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Interdiction Team who spoke about how interdiction officers utilize the most modern methods to locate and identify narcotic couriers along the highways and byways of Liberty County. They spoke of the manner in which criminals use technological devices and sophisticated hidden compartments to move currency and drugs and the sheriff’s office even provided two examples, vehicles that had been altered to effectively move contraband in a manner that would, in many cases, afford the least opportunity for detection by law enforcement. The officers covered a vast majority of topics in a very short time which included acting on anonymous tips, narcotics investigations, search warrants and seizures.
“I’d like to thank all of those in the community who came out and joined us for an evening with our Liberty County Sheriff’s Office,” said Chief Parrish, “and I’d really like to express a debt of gratitude to Sheriff Bobby Rader and his staff for such whole-hearted participation. Thus far, I believe that the Behind the Badges series of meetings have been serving their purpose very well.”
Parrish extended an open invitation to the public to join law enforcement for the third installment of the “Behind the Badges” gatherings which will be held on Monday, Oct. 8, 7 p.m., at the Hull-Daisetta Volunteer Fire Department located at 703 S. Main Street in Daisetta. Week #3 will feature three different sergeants of the Texas Department of Public Safety; Rob Willoughby (Highway Patrol Sergeant), Troy Dyson (License & Weight Sergeant), and Boyd Lamb (Narcotics Sergeant & K-9 Handler).