In 2013, the booking room started using civilian clerks to enter incoming inmates into our computer software. This not only frees up the officers in the booking room for other duties but it also allows a more thorough questioning of the inmates, eliminating errors. We have three Booking Clerks that stagger their hours so that the jail’s shift change doesn’t disrupt the pace of the booking room.
Richard and Charlotte Ashford have served as Chaplains at the Potter County Sheriff’s Office since September of 2013. They teach Bible-centered non-denominational services and are available to visit with the inmates when needed. They also make themselves available to the staff for support and counseling. What a true blessing they have been to our agency.
Courthouse Security is comprised of seven Deputies and is supervised by a Sergeant. The Court Security Officer oversees and maintains control of the security of the Potter County Courts Buildings. Those buildings include the Santa Fe Building, District Courts Building and County Courthouse. Two deputies are assigned at the Santa Fe Building, two are at the District Courts Building and three are at the County Courthouse. Their responsibilities include the security of the physical structure and the safety of all judges, attorneys, county employees and citizens. They answer calls of distress, assist with prisoner control, make arrests as needed and provide information to the public.
The Communications Division provides professionally competent public safety services to the residents of Potter County and our deputies. They are the first voice a citizen of Potter County will hear in an emergency. Communications handles all the dispatching duties of the Sheriff’s Office. It is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with at least two dispatchers on duty at all times. The communications department is comprised of one corporal and 10 civilian 911 communication operators. Texas law changed September 1, 2019 to include Dispatchers/Telecommunicators to be included as 1st Responders.
The Records Division consists of one Office Manager and seven Civilian Clerks. With the move to the LEC, the downtown ID & Records and the Jail File Management offices merged. Combining these two offices created a more efficient and centered location for all records – both current and past. Records is responsible for the maintenance and processing of over 150,000 inmate records, approximately 9,000 warrants and information requests from outside agencies and the public. This office works closely with other Potter County departments such as the District and County Clerks' offices, the District and County Attorneys' offices, the JP Courts and Probation.
Maintenance officers keep up with all physical aspects of the jail to keep it compliant with Jail Standards. Maintenance is staffed with one Supervisor and four Corrections Officers. These maintenance officers maintain the facilities in order for it to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year. The jail is basically a small city having a medical unit, laundry, and fully equipped kitchen. Maintenance must keep up with lifesaving equipment, a surveillance monitoring system, heating and air-conditioning, plumbing, lighting and the electronic door locking system along with intercoms and maintaining the grounds.
The Patrol Division is staffed with 29 sworn Deputies and one Lieutenant. There are three 8-hour patrol shifts (days, evenings and nights) and each is staffed with one Sergeant and/or one Corporal and at least five Deputies. The Potter County Sheriff’s Office provides Law Enforcement services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by patrolling and answering calls for service in all rural and residential areas within the 900 square miles of Potter County. Deputies provide quality Law Enforcement services to the citizens of Potter County and are the Sheriff’s Office first response to all calls for service.
Deputies assigned to patrol must be skilled in a variety of tasks such as mediating family disturbances, providing medical aid, maintaining order, enforcing traffic laws, arresting criminal-law violators, investigating all types of criminal offenses, serving legal papers and handling estray and nuisance abatement calls. Deputies also perform other tasks in connection with their initial investigation. (i.e. photographing crime scenes and collecting evidence.) Deputies take a proactive approach to their job, are cognizant of the law enforcement needs in the community and are up-to-date on the latest criminal trends.
The Support division serves the greater needs of the individuals in custody. The Sergeant that oversees the division keeps the jail in compliance with the rules and guidelines put forth by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. A Corrections Officer serves as the Inmate Programs Officer who handles specialized inmate sentences. A civilian GED Instructor and an Inmate Programs Instructor prepare inmates for their futures outside of the confines of jail. Finally, our Mental Health Counselor assesses our inmates for their specific issues and provides help for those in need.
SHERIFF'S RESPONSE TEAM
The Sheriff’s Response Team (SRT) was formed to conduct search warrants and respond to dangerous situations in which normal procedure is unsafe or inefficient. The team is comprised of deputies who are physically and mentally tested to ensure they are prepared to deal with any circumstance. These officers continuously attend training so that they are up-to-date on new tactics and are prepared to be deployed at any time.
TRAINING & PERSONNEL
The Training and Personnel (T&P) section coordinates the hiring and training of all Sheriff’s Office personnel. They are responsible for applicant testing, background investigations and issuing uniforms and equipment. T&P is responsible for ensuring all mandatory training requirements are met, whether the employee is a civilian or holds a state license as a telecommunicator, jailer or peace officer. T&P maintains all personnel and training records for the department, both past and present.
The Sheriff’s Office has 54 vehicles in its fleet. All vehicles are serviced at our new Barn and Maintenance Facility located west of the LEC. Keeping all vehicles in a safe and a good running condition is a major task. Our civilian mechanic Greg Breeding and CO Adam Bergara maintain those vehicles along with other Potter County departements' vehicles. They must perform monthly preventative maintenance and repairs in order to keep our personnel safe. Our vehicles are a key tool for our deputies to perform the many tasks asked of them. Keeping our vehicles in top running condition will ensure our deputies are able to protect and serve the citizens of Potter County.
The Special Operations Division (SOD) is comprised of a Sergeant, three Interdiction Deputies and a K9. Deputies work alongside each other in an effort to stop the illegal drug flow through Potter County. These deputies’ primary responsibility is Highway Criminal Interdiction along I-40. With their knowledge and expertise, they have been very successful in their efforts to slow the drug flow through Potter County.
Our K9 Officer is Tweet. Tweet is an eight-year-old Belgian Malinois and began training to be the new Narcotic Detection Canine handled by Deputy Joshua Newlun in 2017.
Due to Tweet’s narcotic detection training, he and Deputy Newlun have been available to assist other local Law Enforcement agencies with drug detection and investigations. Deputy Newlun and Tweet also provide drug detection service to both the Bushland and River Road Independent School Districts and, on occasion, present canine demonstrations to community organizations.
The Potter County Detention Center is an approximately 125,000 square foot facility that can house 599 inmates. It generally houses roughly 500 to 520 inmates daily. There are 480 male beds, 96 female beds, and 23 beds are assigned to the Medical Department. Employees assigned to work at the Potter County Detention Center are licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) as having completed the minimum educational requirements and training as mandated to perform the duties required by their positions. Officers have to continue their education and training throughout their careers to maintain licensing. The Potter County Sheriff has made educating officers one of his top priorities to enhance the safety and security of the officers and the inmates housed.
The Civil Process section of the Sheriff’s Office is comprised of a Sergeant, three Deputies and a Civilian Clerk. The Civil Section is responsible for the management, control and service of civil process received and the execution of writs on civil cases. The Civil Deputy is responsible for making a diligent effort to serve civil process and taking reasonable actions when executing court-orders. Examples of the types of process served by the Civil Deputy include notices of law suits, notices on evictions, tax suits, divorce papers, legal postings, publications, orders of sale, restraining orders, and temporary ex-parte protective orders. Examples of types of writs served include executions to collect on court-ordered judgments, garnishments and sequestrations, attachments of property/persons and writ of possession orders. Writs may require seizure of property or persons or the eviction of tenants. The Civil Deputy also conducts Sheriff’s Sales of property throughout the year.
Our Transportation division consists of eight officers. These officers’ main responsibility is to transport inmates to and from court not only locally, but statewide. They often take day trips and overnight trips to ensure someone makes it to court on time. Transportation officers also spend their days delivering paperwork, supplies and various necessities between the Sheriff’s Office and other County buildings.
WARRANTS AND EXTRADITION
The Warrants and Extradition Division consists of a civilian clerk and two deputies. These deputies are responsible for apprehending suspects who have outstanding Felony and/or Misdemeanor warrants. The warrants can range from a minor traffic warrant issued out of a Magistrates Court to a homicide warrant issued out of a District Court. Upon serving an arrest warrant, the arrested are transported to the Potter County Detention Center where they are incarcerated on their charge(s).
Extradition is also a large part of this unit. A person with a Felony warrant issued for them in Potter County Texas can be apprehended in any jurisdiction throughout the United States. Those arrested outside of the State of Texas must be brought back (extradited) to our county to answer to the charge(s) against them. The deputies in the Warrants Division routinely work with other agencies and transport companies to accomplish the extradition of fugitives from other states. At times this requires a Governor’s Warrant being issued for those who refuse or challenge the validity of the original warrant. Fugitives from other states arrested in Potter County require arraignment and are entitled to their due process of law. This requires them appearing before a judge from one of our justice courts.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS
In early 2013, the Potter County Sheriff’s Office placed full-time School Resource Officers (SRO's) at Bushland ISD and River Road ISD. The School Resource Officer Program is a nationally accepted program involving the placement of a law enforcement officer within the educational environment. In addition to providing law enforcement presence at the schools, SRO’s are role models for the students. The Potter County Sheriff’s Office currently has five deputies assigned to the School Resource Officer Program, two at Bushland ISD and three at River Road ISD. The SRO is assigned to the elementary, intermediate, middle and high schools in their school districts. We are very fortunate to have a strong relationship with Bushland and River Road Independent School Districts.
The Criminal Investigation Division is responsible for the investigation and follow-up of criminal cases within the rural boundaries of Potter County, Texas. The primary goal of CID is to investigate criminal activity through the development of cases initiated by the Patrol Division. The objectives are to apprehend offenders, recover evidence and stolen property, present cases to the appropriate prosecutor's office, testify at subsequent trials of those identified and arrested, look at current criminal trends and behaviors and to take a proactive approach to identify the criminal element within Potter County.
CRIME SCENE UNIT
The Crime Scene Unit (CSU) is responsible for documenting crime scenes through photographs and sketches, searching for and collecting physical evidence: latent fingerprints, hairs, fibers, and bodily fluids, documenting tire and footwear impressions along with tool marks through photographs, casting or tape lifts. Once work at the crime scene has been completed, CSU personnel are also responsible for the processing of evidence, to include the development of additional latent prints, DNA swabbing, presumptive testing of suspected narcotic substances, as well as fingerprint comparisons for both criminal and administrative purposes.
To aid CSU in their daily tasks, the LEC has a new evidence processing lab equipped for latent fingerprint development using traditional, magnetic and fluorescent powders, as well as more advanced chemical techniques such as fuming and dye staining. A forensic light source can be used to locate DNA and other trace evidence. Also available for use is the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) produced by SPEX Forensics. This AFIS system is connected to a local database maintained by the Amarillo Police Department and includes fingerprint cards submitted from the entire upper 26 county region of the Texas panhandle. There are currently 327,099 sets of known fingerprints in the database and the number grows daily. This has greatly enhanced our ability to identify potential suspects of criminal activities we investigate. The CSU is also responsible for collecting and submitting arrest data for the Uniform Crime Report, maintaining property and evidence and destruction of property and evidence. In 2012, the Sheriff’s Office purchased a small, portabWith the great amount of responsibility given to the CSU, training is always a vital concern. All CSU personnel consistently receive training that pertains to the forensic community. Training in the disciplines of fingerprint comparison, evidence processing, blood stain pattern analysis, shooting reconstruction, evidence management, arson investigation, and photography is updated annually. This gives ourinvestigators the resources needed to develop as much information as possible, while investigating crimes. Keeping investigators at a high standard is also a cheaper alternative to sending evidence to private processing facilities. le drug incinerator using seized funds to eliminate the need and expense of transporting illegal narcotics elsewhere for destruction, more recently purchased a forensic light source. The light source is used for locating, and enhancing evidence for documentation through collection or photography.
With the great amount of responsibility given to the CSU, training is always a vital concern. All CSU personnel consistently receive training that pertains to the forensic community. Training in the disciplines of fingerprint comparison, evidence processing, blood stain pattern analysis, shooting reconstruction, evidence management, arson investigation, and photography is updated annually. This gives our investigators the resources needed to develop as much information as possible, while investigating crimes. Keeping investigators at a high standard is also a cheaper alternative to sending evidence to private processing facilities.
SHERIFF'S RESERVE PROGRAM
The Potter County Sheriff's Reserve Program was established in 1980. The Reseve Program Deputies work in a wide varity of other career fields, but also hold an active Peace Officer license through TCOLE. Reseve Deputies donate thier time and effort to the citizens of Potter County in a wide variety of functions to include escorts, Make-A-Wish car show and extradition trips. They work in patrol and in the detention center. These are just a small function of the Reserve Program whose main roll is to support the Sheriff's Office in any and all areas needed. The members of the Reserve Program donated over 1400 hours of their time to the community in 2019.