Conroe, April 9 – April 10, 2017, will mark the 100th day of the administration of the new Sheriff in town, Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson. Henderson has brought a spirit of teamwork and instilled an attitude of community policing in his team of 487 sworn peace officers and 360 civilians who work for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, Sheriff Henderson will present his “Strategic Plan” during the meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court at 9:30 a.m. (Agenda Item 12A).
Henderson has brought in a young and energetic group of leaders. If one refers to the Sheriff’s Department Captains as his “command staff,” the phrase that previous Sheriff Tommy Gage had used to describe them, Henderson will rapidly correct with a big smile. “They’re the leadership team,” Henderson tells people. He means it and he emphasizes the difference between “commanding” and “leadership.” Unquestionably, Gage ran a fine Sheriff’s Office. Nevertheless, Henderson has brought a positive outlook and verve that is new and refreshing.
Montgomery County Jail
The Jail is the biggest responsibility of any County government in Texas. Not only is the Jail Division a major expenditure (at $40,110,531, the Jail is the single biggest line item in the County’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget) but also it’s the biggest responsibility of the Sheriff, because it houses on average more than 900 inmates. The capacity of the Montgomery County Jail is 1,253. On Thursday, April 7, 2017, The Golden Hammer‘s Publisher joined a tour of the Montgomery County Jail when the population was around 950. The tour was a remarkable experience.
Three features stood out about the Montgomery County Jail and the team of peace officers who lead it from the Sheriff’s Office. The first striking feature of the Jail team in Henderson’s Office is the high quality of the officers. The County’s Jail Administrator is Captain Oliver Coward.
Sheriff’s Deputies within the MCSO speak of Captain Coward with a great reverence. Coward still serves as a mentor to many of the Deputies. Henderson told The Golden Hammer that Coward was the officer to whom Henderson looked up as Henderson went through training in the Sheriff’s Office.
The second striking feature is the extraordinary degree of training of all of the officers. The image of jailkeepers from movies is that they treat people with bluntness. In reality, Henderson’s and Coward’s team of five lieutenants and 16 sergeants lead a staff of 266 sworn and civilian personnel who are trained in how to operate the Jail as a safe environment despite the difficulties which the inmates might face or cause. Just listen to the manner in which a Jail sergeant describes the process of bringing a violent inmate to restraint. It’s a careful procedure, not some sort of blunt beating.
That’s brings us to the third striking aspect of the Montgomery County Jail. Captain Coward and team make clear that they are trying to provide safety and calm to the staff and inmates. MCSO’s job is not to punish, as Coward and his staff explain. The Courts punish by sentencing the inmates to incarceration. The incarceration, rather than the manner of treatment, is the punishment for inmates. It’s definitely a very different tone and environmental than what one sees and imagines in Hollywood depictions of jails and penitentiaries.
According to Lieutenant Scott Spencer, MCSO’s Spokesman, the population of Montgomery County as of March 30, 2017, was 556,203. That means that the number of local peace officers patrolling for the County is substantially below the national average of 2.7 officers per 1,000 population, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Henderson has reorganized the Patrol Divisions in MCSO a bit during his first hundred days. He and Chief Deputy Ken Culbreath have divided Montgomery County into three Divisions: Patrol East, Patrol West, and The Woodlands Township Patrol. The Woodlands Township, under Captain Allison Allen, is the largest Patrol Division, because the Township pays Montgomery County substantially under a written contract for extra patrol officers and equipment.
The Patrol West Division, under Captain Melvin Franklin, covers two districts (southwest and northwest) and a motorcycle unit.
The Patrol East Division, under Captain Kevin Ray, comprises three districts (unincorporated south Montgomery County outside of The Woodlands, the northeast area, and the southeast area). Captain Ray’s Patrol East Division also has a livestock unit.
The Executive Division includes Warrants and Records, Recruiting, the Training Academy, Internal Affairs, the Chaplain program, Human Resources, and the Media Team. Captain Bryan Carlisle leads the Executive Division.
Captain Jimmy Malmay commands the Criminal Investigative Division. Henderson has made a significant change in the manner in which investigations occur by placing investigators into the District Offices within each Patrol Division. Malmay’s Division includes the Auto Theft Task Force, Cold Cases, the Crime Laboratory, Detectives, the Sex Offenders Unit, Special Investigative Unit, Narcotics Enforcement Team, and Gang Investigations Unit.
Captain Damon Hall heads the Homeland Security Division, which includes the SWAT Team, K9 Unit, Special Response Group, Crisis Negotiations Team, Honor Guard, Drone & Aviation Unit, Water Rescue, and Joint Terrorism Task Force which works closely with the FBI.
Captain Randy Eaves heads the Law Enforcement Services Division, which includes the Alarm Detail, Dispatch, Fleet Operations, and Radio Shop.
Outside of the Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery County has a department with the name “Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.”
That office claims to have the following mission:
“The Montgomery County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (OHSEM) is responsible for the planning, coordination, and implementation of all Homeland Security and emergency management related activities for Montgomery County. The Mission of the OHSEM is to lessen the loss of life and reduce injuries and property damage during natural or man-made incidents through mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery in accordance with the Montgomery County Emergency Operations Plan. OHSEM also coordinates the activities for the County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC, when activated is a central location where representatives of local government, non-profit partners, and private sector agencies convene during disaster situations to make decisions, set priorities and coordinate resources for response and recovery.”
The County’s OHSEM seems to overlap the same functions within the Sheriff’s Office, except that the Sheriff’s Office personnel have far greater depth of training. The County’s OHSEM only has four employees but spends $15,476 in administrative expenses and supplies with a total budget of $418,718.
Wouldn’t it make sense from an efficiency perspective to move all of the OHSEM functions to the Sheriff’s Office which could absorb those functions far more cost-effectively?
The Bottom Line
Henderson and his entire team of 487 peace officers and 360 civilians are making great strides to make this community a safer place. Clearly, it’s time for the County government to provide them with the resources they need to make that happen.