Image: Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson (left) with corrupt local political boss Marc Davenport.
Conroe, March 11 –
Every citizen concerned about the future of our community should read the entirety of the letter at the end of this article.
Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson has experienced a very rough first fifteen months in office. The honeymoon didn’t last very long, because Henderson created an island unto himself in his so-called Executive Office in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. The insularity of Sheriff Henderson has created substantial unhappiness within the Sheriff’s Office to the degree that literally more than one hundred of his deputies have contacted The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, to share their insights and complaints during the past four months. Many of those deputies have said they weren’t requesting anonymity, although this newspaper will continue to treat the comments as anonymous in order to protect the careers of those courageous women and men who put their lives at risk every day they go to work to protect the citizens of this community.
Although Henderson, Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal, and Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley have publicly bragged about putting “53 new peace officers on the streets” since the current budget received Commissioners Court approval, in reality, Henderson’s practices have resulted in a loss of more than one hundred peace officers countywide in the Sheriff’s Office and elsewhere. Today, Montgomery County actually has fewer peace officers on duty as a result.
At the same time, Rand Henderson has the potential to be a fine Sheriff. He needs, however, to get completely away from local political boss Marc Davenport and the Davenport Ring of corrupt politicians and elected officials who take their direction from Davenport. The March 6 Republican Primary Election results should reinforce that message. That’s only a first step. More importantly, he needs to listen to the peace officers who work for him and create open communications with them. Sheriff Henderson may want to consider rescinding his approval of Davenport’s May 23, 2017, letter that cut Henderson off from open lines of communication. He may also want to reconsider his involvement with Phonoscope and some questionable purchasing and capital programs that are occurring within the Sheriff’s Office.
The following letter has an important history. According to several confidential sources within his Leadership Team and the top levels of his Office (Lieutenants and higher), Henderson has come to recognize that he has a morale problem in the Sheriff’s Office. Sadly, Henderson came to this recognition far slower than many others outside of his isolated executive office. The Publisher of this newspaper heard about many of the problems beginning in early autumn 2017.
Henderson has solicited anonymous feedback from his officers. The Golden Hammer received a copy of this letter right before the March 6 Election. Since then two others have provided a copy of it. This newspaper presents the letter in unedited form. The “…” indications you see in the letter were in the letter itself, as this newspaper has not removed anything from the letter.
It’s an interesting letter not only for the problems with Sheriff Henderson’s administration but also for the insight it provides to the public about how the Sheriff’s Office does its work. Anyone interested in the Sheriff’s Citizens Academy would enjoy the insights contained in this letter even though they’re presented within a critical context. Obviously, the author of the letter is both articulate and a fine peace officer.
While one individual wrote the letter, several patrol officers from one Sheriff’s District within Montgomery County have endorsed it and submitted it anonymously as feedback to Sheriff Henderson. The letter discusses some major problems within the Sheriff’s Office, but please note that there are some adult themes from which parents might want to protect their children.
“There is a general and powerful lack of confidence in this current administration that has proliferated every level of the Sheriff’s Office at this point. People will always have bitches, grips and complaints, and a lot of them are not legitimate or warranted. However, I personally have always been a ‘yes-man’ and have stood up for some very unpopular decisions that were made because I did see the future and the ultimate goals that we were trying to achieve.
“However, I can no longer support the decisions being made until some major changes take place and I believe based on the conversations that occur at the bottom of the pecking order, that this belief is held universally.
“Here is the first that you all in the administration need to consider. There were lieutenants, captains, chiefs and sheriffs at this agency before you were here and there will be those filling those positions long after you’re gone. You can and will be replaced, and you will be replaced by someone who intends to do better than you did as you now intend to do better than those who preceded you. This is a fact of life, just like death and taxes. You cannot escape it. You all have plated the political games of power well and have achieved your current status, and many of you have abused your power repeatedly and have forgotten whaat your oath was to your community. Remember that no matter what political affiliations you have, your games of power will be your downfall. We, the employees and line-level troops, are the ones who put you in office and supported you. We will also be the ones who remove and replace you. If you intend to stay and succeed and earn the respect of your staff you need to stop what you are doing now, and make some major changes within your administration. Practice what you have been preaching and actually show us that you intend to do the righteous thing and we will support you. However, the time for talking is done. When you sent this request to us to provide our honest and anonymous opinion, you entered into a contract with us, which you are now beholden to, and you will be expected to act. Failure to do so will be your failure not ours.
“You have have been preaching this P.A.C.T. oriented ideology. Which in and of itself is a great concept. Except for that we all see you administrators are not following your own PACT ideology. Let’s start with the first letter.
“‘P’ for Professionalism – Does a professional police administrator (captain) have sexual relations with his subordinates and have numerous upheld accusations of sexual harassment? Does this individual continue to engage in said behaviors even after numerous complaints to the degree that most of your employees know this about him? Should this person even been a position as an administrator when this person has been made to sign civil litigation agreements stating that he is not allowed to act as a supervisor in any capacity in Montgomery County because of these upheld allegations? Is it professional for a chief and a sheriff to select someone with this history to a position of captain knowing that this is likely to continue and in fact has continued? Can an employee or member of the community accept this decision making as reliable or trustworthy, knowing that it is likely that this person was only promoted to this position due to to the fact that he aided in the degree that he did with the campaigning for Rand for sheriff? Doubtful.
“‘P’ for Professionalism – Does a professional police administrator (captain) have domestic disturbances at his home with his wife? And is it professional that knowing that this was the case, that our current administration would allow this individual to continue acting in his role as executive captain, when the entire community knows this about him? Is it professional that our administration should allow a Chief of Police within Montgomery County to tell the responding officer not to document the incident in hopes that it should never become public information…that way when it does become public information, that Chief of Police should tender his resignation from his command? Would this same decision be made, professionally, at any family violence call between two citizens of Montgomery County in any fashion at any time, as if it were normal business? Or would our patrol staff be held accountable for ensuring that in accordance with the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, that this be handled in a certain way? Doubtful.
“‘A’ for Accountability – Does it seem that our administration is demonstrating that they are accountable for their actions? A police administrator should resign from his position if he or she should ever engage in the aforementioned behaviors and the agency should be up-front about the short-comings of that individual and pledge a commitment to the citizens of the county and other employees of the sheriff’s office that these behaviors will not be tolerated no matter what rank or position you hold in this agency. This kind of accountability would help the community and employees begin to restore their faith in this agency. However, that is not what has happened. And your employees and community know this.
“‘A’ for Accountability – How many employees have we had in recent years who have had a personal crisis and have made an outcry to a fellow officer that they were thinking about committing suicide? I personally know of quite a few, and I know there are probably more that I don’t know about. There have been those that have made these statements demonstrating that they need to be detained and forced to undergo a mental health treatment in accordance with the law. We take someone to PETC or a local hospital probably once a day out in our community for this based on statements and behaviors they exhibit. Why is it that we seem to have an issue with forcing our own people to undergo the same treatment? Given that suicide runs rampant in our profession and it is largely due to the fact that we are treated in a manner that does not promote communication of these issues and we all know that it is likely that we will lose our jobs if that information becomes public. So when we have an employee who is suffering from mental illness, that employee keeps that to themselves and we are only aware of the issue once the problem has reached a critical point. In this day and age, our employees, regardless of rank or position they occupy within the agency, cannot be allowed to continue performing their job duties once we become aware of their mental illness until they pass a very rigorous mental health evaluation process. If they don’t comply with that or don’t pass, they should not be allowed to come back to work. You take on a massive liability issue when you do not handle this process appropriately. And it is likely that on the heels of the Randy Eaves suicide, that you all will face some serious criticism that you cannot fade because of a serious lack of policy and action on this front.
“‘C’ for Compassion – If you have an employee that reaches out to you, no matter if you are the chief and sheriff or a lowly entry-level employee, that person should be treated with dignity and respect and should not be ignored. You all are having to fade some heat because of the allegations that Randy Eaves reached out to you at the top and you didn’t speak with him. If this is true, that is disgraceful. If it is not, you need to understand that many people will believe that it is true anyways, because you all have made yourselves completely inaccessible at the top. We do not see the sheriff hardly ever. We have to make an appointment to see anyone and your chain of command has always gotten extremely sideways with people for not observing this process just to come and have a conversation. Your obligation is to your employees and your communities. And you asked for this position you now hold, so you need to understand that you have a giant burden that has been bestowed upon you and you no longer have the luxury of refusing anyone…especially an employee.
“‘C’ for Compassion – There are many at this agency right now that compare Rand to Tommy. There are many that thing that when one of these major incidents occurred, Tommy would have made the scene without a doubt. However, many people are concerned by the fact that Rand has not been making those scenes and has seemed to disassociate himself with these incidents. This is extremely bad for morale and would make it appear as if the sheriff has zero compassion for his employees. By the way, this is going to continue to be a theme…
“‘C’ for Compassion – Don’t think for a moment that your current staff didn’t take serious notice of all the ‘old-hands’ that jumped ship within this first year. Several comments were made at division meetings by the chief and sheriff to the degree of ‘if you don’t like what we are doing, get off the bus.’ If you all truly believe your employees are expendable…then shame on you. Your employees, their strength of character, their commitment to excellence and service, their continued drive and desire to promote the well-being of the citizens of Montgomery County…it is on their backs and their labor, their sweat and blood and tears, that you stand perched in your ivory tower of executive leadership. You need to understand that you came from this place too. You need to understand that there are good men and women who do not appreciate that they are universally being treated as if they don’t matter. Do you not understand that this is a difficult time to be a police officer? The community distrusts us more than ever…social media is killing us universally…the news media promotes the idea that we are running rampant and killing people right and left. All we have left is our family and each other. You are supposed to be a part of that support network, but instead of making us feel at home you make us feel like we are unnecessary. Well guess what…you are just as replaceable as any one of us…down to the lowliest of detention officers.
“‘T’ for Trustworthy – What are the hallmark characteristics of a trustworthy person? I bet if you took a look around you’d see that the general population has a general distrust for politicians. Remember that you administrators are politicians by and large. And for that reason and the lack of action to demonstrate otherwise…we don’t trust you. We will not trust you until we see that you aren’t acting like politicians. We have a problem with political affiliations with Davenport. We all know why Rand was in bed with the Davenport camp and we all see that it is self-preserving. It’s definitely not in the best interest of the County or the Agency. You all keep talking about one team…this team…REALLY? WHAT TEAM???!!!
“You all are in your team and we are in our team over here. We are not on the same team. We may be playing the same game but you guys are not on our team by any stretch of the imagination. There is more division within our agency now than there has ever been. And it is because of you all. There is unhealthy competition between the division captains to see which one is better than which. They are making decisions that negatively affect their troops just so that they can look better on paper. There is a general lack of communication and efficiency everywhere and all of this division was created by you administrators. So thank you for that.
“We all see these changes and the promotions and most of us just have to laugh or compartmentalize our grief. The decisions you have made for Sergeants was laughable. These are not guys who are effective leaders these are young, ‘yes-men’ who will not speak out against you. They are not good Sergeants. They are inexperienced and unfit for their positions. Some of the decisions you all have made for Detectives are equally as laughable. These are people who need to be thorough and team players. Some of them are wildly inexperienced not only in life but in law enforcement. These are people who will be putting charges on folks in our communities that carry serious time. They need to be thorough and detail oriented people who are not afraid to admit when they are wrong. It is as if you all did zero research into how these Sergeants and Detectives worked in their previous job assignments. Your most recent list of Crime Scene Investigators is the same. Do you have to promote people just because they try out, or can you say no…we will wait for a better candidate? Many believe that you all do not factor in experience into your decisions anymore as administrators. it is as if you are looking at a person’s education level, the courses they’ve taken and the books that they have read. Many of whom have read books that they have zero experience in the subject matter and now they are thrust into a job they are wholly unprepared for. This is a disservice to not only that person but the community as well.
“If your administration is completely unwilling to suggestions from the bottom-up, how can we trust you or have any measure of confidence in your leadership? Do any of you remember how to work a crash or write a report? Do you even know how Spillman works? Your line-level troops are dealing with this stuff in real time and for them to be combat effective in the field you need to listen to what they have to say and you need to provide them with they support that they need. If you do that, you will have their trust and confidence and because you have their trust you will have the community’s trust as well.
“Which brings us to the elephant in the room…Community Oriented Policing. I’m sure you guys have had a lot of training in this and you subscribe to it to a high degree. The problem with that is that you haven’t practiced it in the setting you are try to reply it in. You are in uncharted territory here. To a large degree, your line-level troops see a major conflict between Community Oriented Policing and just plain Common Sense and Efficiency. In this day and age, we should be leaning more towards an ‘Intelligence-based Policing” model which it appears that you all have been moving towards. The issue is this…if you plug some information (garbage in) into a computer and you expect the computer to tell you where to patrol more effectively (garbage out) you are going to run into some issues. There are two fundamental flaws in this logic the way you all have it orchestrated. Firstly, to tell patrol to go stop cars and conduct police business in a hot spot (usually an intersection given) due to heat spots in COMPSTAT, your patrol guys who are given daily quotas for traffic contacts and a list of other things to do…will only stop vehicles that they KNOW will to lead to an arrest because they are trying desperately to keep up with the demands that you are placing on them daily. They also have to answer calls and take reports, and remember that this takes time to do if done correctly. If our patrol staff is being made to do things like go pump people’s gas for them at a gas station, you need to understand that this deputy will see this as a demeaning task. The deputy will not interact with the public and exude the kind of confidence and professionalism that you want him to because he will be upset that he has to do this in the first place. Also…this patrol officer is an expensive community asset. What crimes are we solving or preventing by having him pump gas? If you aim is to make effective contacts with the community then make better decisions on how we will do that. Have a better, more established and intelligent design for your community oriented policy.
“So…having said all of that…there is a better mouse-trap. here is what needs to be done. Establish your heat-mate so to speak…not based on COMPSTAT (do we really have patrol guys who don’t know where the bad areas are?/) but on our own experience and knowledge of the area. Furthermore, have your investigators and detectives routinely supply patrol Sergeants with information that allows patrol officers to look for SPECIFIC vehicles and persons (targeted, intelligence-based patrols) in those areas and don’t require for them to make all of these contacts. Tell them that you want these people and vehicles found and those people arrested. If done correctly, this will ACTUALLY make an impact on the crime we experience because we won’t be “shooting with a shotgun” we will be “shooting with a rifle”. Also your patrol staff will be motivated to do proactive policing that has a good law enforcement objective in that criminals will be arrested and taken to jail.
“The nuts and bolts of the frustration that your staff feels right now is that there is pretty clearly a division created by the administration that seems unhealthy and elitist. Your employees feel like they are being treated like commodities and are worthless. Your employees feel like the ‘new regime’ has put focus on areas that are working against the common good and that your captains are competing to look good instead of getting a good job done.
“Some things to take away from this…
“A. Your employees know you. Many of those people who have been here and who have stayed have done so because they like working here and in some form or fashion do not want to abandon ship but want to see this agency succeed and thrive. The same people who feel like you think they are expendable are the ones who supported you and helped put you in office. They are the same ones who volunteered their precious time so that you could run this show. They know that people, including and especially administrators, make mistakes…that people have a hard time admitting when they are wrong and have messed up…but ultimately the best course of action is to admit when you are wrong and take appropriate action to correct it.
“B. Your employees know you. They know your secrets. They know your successes and failures. To think for one minute that you can conceal or hide anything from them is ignorant. And if they choose to at any time they can release those dirty secrets to any and all who will listen. You wouldn’t have employees going to The Golden Hammer or other media sources with things if you were conducting business worthy of your PACT ideology.
“C. Your employees know you. They know that they will be targeted and harassed if they speak their mind and it be in opposition to you. They know that this culture is unhealthy in an organization and it promotes secrecy and dishonesty. Your employees fear repercussions for things that they ought not to fear.
“D. Your employees know you. They have a reasonable certainty that even if they participate in this anonymous letter writing that you will still ultimately do nothing and take know action. Prove to us that we are wrong. Prove to us that it wasn’t a mistake helping elect this ‘Team’ and putting them in the positions of power that they currently occupy. Commit yourselves outwardly to transparency, to owning those mistakes even if it’s uncomfortable and ugly, even if you think it make you look bad in the public eye. Embody that PACT mentality and lead from the front. If you do, we will follow. If you do not…we will not.
“E. Your employees know you. They know that all of those that helped to campaign all ended up in better job assignments or with promotions to positions that they are wholly unqualified for and unfit for. Some were good decisions, and you know that others really were not. Make better decisions and you won’t have to just find warm bodies to fill spots…you will actually have a very high-quality force that brings praise to your name and to the name of this agency.
“I hope you know that this is sent to you in the hopes that you truly consider it as constructive criticism only. You are capable of doing this thing right. There are those of us who still have faith that you can turn this ship around. Unfortunately it means that you will really need to start by getting rid of some of your captains permanently and starting fresh with a new perspective on how to organize this agency and operate it efficiently and effectively. I think your citizens of the county will look favorably on you for being bold like this and will hold you in higher esteem for it. Remember that Tommy Gage always made us feel like we were important to him, and we loved him for it. Even if he didn’t feel that I as a person was important to him…HE made me feel like I was and he gained my admiration and respect for it. He may have had his own unique set of flaws and imperfections but he was effective in making us feel valued. It is my hope that you will continue this legacy. Make us feel like we are in fact all on your Team and that this is one group of tightly-knit folks. It is my belief that if you succeed in this, you will succeed in all of your other endeavors as well.
“Thank you for reading.”