Why are you seeking office?
It has been my lifelong ambition to become a Texas Sheriff and I feel compelled by a sense of duty to serve my fellow citizens. I have spent my entire professional career in the service of the law, striving to make a difference in the lives of those whom I served. Today, we live in a time when too many public officials willingly choose to ignore the Rule of Law and are willfully ignorant of the freedoms that our constitution enshrines. As your Sheriff, you have my commitment that I will stand to achieve order and respect for our constitutional rights and to do what is necessary to protect these rights for everyone. I believe that my experiences as a peace officer, a prosecutor and an attorney have equipped me with the tools necessary to successfully lead the professional men and women of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office. Cognizant of the public safety issues associated with the County’s steady population growth, I believe I am the best-qualified person to take this organization into the future, working together to make a tangible difference in the lives of our fellow citizens and always striving to make our community a safer place to live.
What is your vision and goal for this office? What do you want to accomplish?
We are blessed to have an outstanding Sheriff’s Office in Collin County, led for over 30 years by Terry Box, a tremendous Sheriff who started with fewer than 50 employees in 1985, and built his Office into a large professional organization that now employs almost 500 personnel. As the population of the County continues to grow, the Sheriff’s Office will face new challenges, new changes, new technology and an increased demand for even greater transparency. My vision for the Collin County Sheriff’s Office is for it to be recognized as the most professional and competent Sheriff’s Office in the United States, providing the best service possible to every citizen across the county. My goal is to have every deputy and detention officer trained to the highest standard, and then create and maintain those organizational practices and programs that support and reinforce the concepts and practices that are advanced in the continued professional education that we will provide for every employee. All citizens, whether living within a municipality or in an unincorporated area of Collin County, have the right to expect their deputies to be as professional and well trained as any state or local officer within this County. Carefully selected, well trained, well equipped, and well led employees, translates into safer communities. Sheriff Box has excelled in developing this professional force over the past thirty years and I am committed to continuing this tradition into the future to meet our growing needs.
What is the most pressing issues facing Collin County over the next 5 years, and how will you address these issues?
From a law enforcement perspective, several of the major issues that could have the biggest impact on the County are those with unintended consequences. An example of this would be unfunded federal mandates requiring the Collin County Sheriff’s Office to abide by various federal laws/mandates without the resources necessary for proper implementation. The unintended consequence would cause a financial burden on the Sheriff’s Office. Likewise, unfunded state mandates requiring law enforcement organizations to enact new policies and procedures, such as recently proposed legislation regarding body cameras for patrol officers, would also have a fiscal impact on the County. While I believe such technology will increase transparency and reduce complaints against officers, purchasing the equipment, developing SOPs, providing mandated training, securing electronic storage of video data, complying with Open Records Act requests and responding to discovery requests by prosecutors and defense attorneys will be cost prohibitive. This is an example of an issue that should be carefully considered and planned on the local level so as to dovetail the needs of each community with the fiscal capabilities of their respective law enforcement agencies.
Another important issue facing the County is the limited number of mental health facilities for inmates throughout the State, which could cause the Sheriff’s Office to house inmates longer than needed, thereby causing a financial burden on the County. Currently, the Collin County Commissioners Court is pulling together all stakeholders necessary to properly evaluate how mental health services can be addressed in the County. With the expiration of NorthStar looming, this is the perfect time to do so. If Collin County has a mental health facility and services available, then more mentally ill defendants may be given the opportunity for a diversion of their criminal cases, thereby reducing the size of the county jail inmate population. These types of services will also help reduce the recidivism rate.
Maintaining the professional standards of detention officers and staff, while providing for the safety and well being of 900+ inmates in the county jail will be one of our most pressing issues as we look ahead to the future. As the County’s population increases, we will likewise experience a growth in the jail population. Planning for growth in the jail, setting and exceeding high standards, and providing quality professional education and training for deputies, detention officers and staff must be a continual process to ensure the safety of the officers, inmates and the citizens of Collin County.
From a community standpoint, the most pressing issues facing the County will likely center around our population growth, concerned that this will cause a strain on existing law enforcement staffing as calls for service from the Sheriff’s Office increase. The work being done throughout the County on our transportation infrastructure may require deputies to handle an increased volume of calls for service as road construction almost always causes a variety of unexpected problems, i.e. road hazards, traffic congestion, breakdowns, and accidents.
Unfortunately, chemical dependency continues to be a problem across the Unites States. One specific problem in this area is the reported increase in the use of heroin. With enforcement efforts aimed at curbing the prescription drug epidemic raging throughout this country, many addicts have turned to heroin as a substitute for the prescription painkillers they now find much harder to acquire. With increased use of heroin, we could see a rise in the number of overdoses, deaths, and property loss, as people turn to crime to support their drug habit. As the Collin County Sheriff, I would continue the tradition of working with other stakeholders from every community to coordinate efforts at education, treatment and enforcement designed to help reduce the use of narcotics and dangerous drugs.
What is the role of the County Sheriff?
The Sheriff is a constitutionally created office in the State of Texas with duties prescribed by the legislature (Texas Constitution Article V, Section 23). The Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer for the county and is responsible for investigating crimes and upholding Texas state laws, enforcing judgments, and maintaining communications and the sharing of criminal intelligence with other law enforcement organizations. The Sheriff’s deputies have countywide jurisdiction, but in practice, most Sheriff’s Offices concentrate their activities outside the city limits where municipal officers do not have jurisdiction to operate. In Collin County the Sheriff also aids in the security of the Courthouse. The Sheriff and his staff operate the jail and provide for the safety and well being of over 900 inmates on a daily basis. The Sheriff and his staff ensure that quality jail standards are maintained in order to pass the annual TCJS jail inspection. The Sheriff and his deputies provide law enforcement services in the unincorporated areas of the County and they liaison with other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to develop crime reduction strategies. Lastly, the Sheriff and his staff work to enhance the Training Academy to ensure that all participants are receiving current, state of the art law enforcement training.
If given the privilege to serve as your next Collin County Sheriff, I will make you the following promise: to maintain justice at all times, while honoring the rule of law; to maintain the peace; to protect our citizens; to constantly work to improve the professional standards of the Sheriff’s Office; and to lay myself under the most solemn oath to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the State of Texas.
Describe two law enforcement positions that you have held, which you believe best qualify you for Sheriff?
For 7 ½ years, I was the Chief Investigator for the New Mexico’s 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Throughout that time I prepared, coordinated and implemented training programs for local law enforcement officers with an eye towards prosecution of homicide, rape, robbery, burglary and white-collar crime defendants. I organized incoming investigative files, made assignments and coordinated major investigative cases between state/local law enforcement agencies within the District. Additionally, for four years, I was assigned as a law enforcement liaison to the Los Alamos National Laboratory and supported federal and state law enforcement agencies in the investigation of high technology crime. I have assisted local agency investigators with major felony investigations, and participated in the district-wide Homicide Task Force. I have experience conducting public corruption and Internal Affairs investigations and on numerous occasions assisted the New Mexico Attorney General‘s Office and federal agencies on special investigations. During my tenure as the Chief Investigator, I acted as adjunct to prosecuting attorneys in all phases of bringing cases to trial. I supervised the District Attorney Support Staff Division as well as the Criminal Investigations Division. In 1987, I briefed the Vice President of the United States, U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of the Department of Energy on my proposal suggesting the use of DOE laboratories to perform forensic analysis on seized computers.
In 2011, I served as the Second Assistant District Attorney and Chief of Special Prosecutions for the Collin County District Criminal District Attorney’s Office. I managed all operational aspects of the District Attorney’s Office as directed by the District Attorney or First Assistant and I directly supervised and managed the Special Prosecution Division, Law Enforcement Liaison Program, Hot Check Department, Bond Forfeiture Section, Asset Forfeiture Program, and Civil Division for Open Records Act responses and mental commitments. I compiled, correlated and analyzed all statistical data related to each area of responsibility and tracked jail population data in order to adjust in-house systems to increase the efficiency of district attorney office operations. I managed the District Attorney’s website, collecting and sending data to the Webmaster for monthly updates. I developed and conducted Continuing Legal Education training for presentation to 65-plus prosecutors and assisted the District Attorney in developing policies and systems for District Attorney operations. I reviewed the Texas Rangers investigations of all police related shootings and then conducted Grand Jury presentations on these matters. I also coordinated with the Fusion Center for analytical support in criminal prosecutions. At the direction of the District Attorney, I prepared press statements for distribution by the County’s Public Information Officer (PIO) and communicated with the media on an as-needed basis. Lastly, I directly handled citizen complaints and/or allegations of criminal wrongdoing and then took the appropriate steps to address those matters.
My experiences described here, and as a uniformed police officer, a narcotics agent and task force coordinator, a detective, a SWAT team member, a Special Prosecutor, a deputy sheriff and a lawyer have given me a unique perspective with which to view the criminal justice system. My career experience has given me a variety of skills that uniquely qualify me to serve as Collin County’s next Sheriff.
What qualities and experiences make you the best candidate for the position?
My parents raised my siblings and me to live our lives worthy of the sacrifices that others have made so that we might enjoy the freedoms and liberties that we do in the United States. I was raised to believe that self-knowledge, attitude, courage, determination, and resiliency matter. I believe that I possess each of these traits and that I have the professional knowledge, competence and character to successfully lead the men and women of the Collin County Sheriff’s Office into the future. I know the sting and crushing sadness that comes with the death of a friend and fellow police officer, yet I have also experienced the joy and pride of serving well and making a positive difference in the lives of fellow citizens. I believe that I possess the maturity, the knowledge, and the leadership skills to lead this professional law enforcement organization into the future as their next Sheriff.
What is the duty of a Sheriff to protect citizen’s rights?
It is the duty of a Sheriff and any every other duly elected public official to protect every citizen’s inalienable God given rights that are guaranteed to him or her in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Tell us about your values and belief system. What is it based on and how did you develop it?
My mother was an elementary school math teacher and my father was an American soldier who served our Nation in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. We were raised to love God and Country, to work hard, respect others, to be courageous, resilient and determined, and to be disciplined in mind, body and soul. We were raised to believe that serving others is an obligation due for the privilege of living in the greatest nation on Earth.
We were taught that we could make a difference in the lives of others and that we could succeed in all things if you are willing to accept responsibility, fulfill your duty, tell the truth, remain faithful to your word and seek God’s guidance. The military taught me to lead from the front and great law enforcement leaders taught me to always act as a steward, working to leave my command, just like others have done before me, a bit better than I found it.
To what extent will you enforce any of the gun restriction laws coming from Washington, DC?
To the extent that the federal government would insist or mandate that our deputies enforce federal laws related to restrictions on guns, I would rely on the 2008 Supreme Court decision in Printz v. US, 521 US 898 (1997) and refuse to allow any Collin County Sheriff’s deputy to participate in any such activities.
In Printz, two Sheriffs challenged the constitutionality of the Brady Act’s provisions, objecting to the use of congressional action to compel state officers to execute a federal law that required them to do mandatory background checks on gun purchasers. The Printz case allows local and state officials to refuse to enforce federal regulations curbing individual rights. This ruling was in agreement with an earlier 1992 US Supreme Court decision that held “[t]he Federal Government may not compel the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program.” New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 188 (1992).
In 2008, the Supreme Court in Heller v. District of Columbia, 554 US 570 (2008), held in a 5-4 decision that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to federal enclaves and protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The decision did not address the question of whether the Second Amendment extends beyond federal enclaves to the states.
Two years later, in McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 742 (2010), the Supreme Court held that “the right to keep and bear arms,” protected by the Second Amendment, is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment and applies to the States. This ruling protects these rights from infringement by local governments.
I would not allow any Collin County Deputy Sheriff to participate in any unconstitutional gun confiscation scheme. If faced with this untenable situation, in accordance with my oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, I would seek relief through the Courts to stop such activities.
What challenges will the continuing growth of Collin County present to the Collin County Sheriff’s Office, and how would you address them?
An increase in the County’s population will likewise result in a larger jail inmate population. Sheriff Box and his staff developed and implemented a long-range plan that has been in place and working well for several years. Continuing to follow this long-range plan will help ensure that high standards are maintained in the quality management and condition of the jail as it grows. Any jail expansion and subsequent staffing must always be approached on a long-range planning basis. The safe and efficient operation of the county jail is an integral component in any efficient criminal justice system, and an absolute necessity when providing for the security of the citizens of Collin County.
Building the force as the population grows enables sufficient resources to be on hand to deal with an expanding crime and inmate population. This should be done prudently and with care, recognizing that poor planning that results in staffing shortfalls will have a negative impact on the services the Sheriff can provide. The lack of appropriate manning levels could result in the withdrawal of inter-agency task forces cooperation, can put lives at risk in the Jail, and allow for the degradation of basic law enforcement services throughout the County. I believe that inter-agency cooperation between law enforcement agencies is critical to successfully providing the most efficient and effective law enforcement services to the citizens of the County. I recognize the importance of sharing technology, assets, ideas and enforcement strategies that are designed to apprehend and deter criminals and to improve the public’s safety.
As mentioned earlier, unfunded state and federal mandates will require compliance, however, the funding to ensure compliance will in most cases not be provided. The use of asset forfeiture funds can help ease this burden, as Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows for these funds to be used for a “law enforcement purpose.” In my view, asset forfeitures can be an effective crime-fighting tool, when accompanied by a common sense forfeiture policy that dictates a sensible application of this law.
As your Sheriff, I will work to enhance the tradition of your deputies forming close-knit working relationships with citizens in the communities they serve. All deputies, regardless of their division assignment, will interact daily with citizens in every community in order to foster an understanding of the community’s needs and to identify what problems law enforcement should be focused on.
Pol. Adv. paid for by the Jim Skinner Campaign, Charlie O'Reilly, Treasurer.