Chody determined to continue work
By ANTHONY FLORES
With November elections around the corner, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody is looking to remain in his current post leading the sheriff’s office for another term. The controversial sheriff is facing off against Democratic opponent Mike Gleason.
Having an often contentious relationship with media and other elected officials in the County, Chody believes the people of Williamson County should ignore the negativity and look at the results of his work.
“I think it’s important that the community sees the results of some of the changes that met with criticism and pushback that caused some negativity. I want them to see is the results,” said Chody. “Grade me on my report card in the aspects of not negative media but the results.”
One of the significant changes during his time in office is Chody’s claim of a reduction in response time from the previous administration, cutting response times almost in half. The Independent requested the data to confirm but has yet to receive a response.
“One of those results is the response time that you’re seeing from the sheriff’s office. When I came into office, the top priority calls, the calls when you need help right away, from a certain period were up to 28 minutes on average,” Chody said. “In 2019, I had those priority calls down to 11 minutes and some change. That’s almost cut in half. That’s something I want the community to know. We are getting there faster in an emergency because of some things our leadership has done. Don’t listen to the media on the negative things.”
The incorporation of new technology and social media is one of the critical focuses of Chody’s administration.
“Look at some of the technology we’ve brought in since I’ve been in the sheriff’s office,” he said. “We can talk about the sheriff’s app; we’ve modernized the sheriff’s office in the aspects of technology on transparency. When there’s a collision in the community, you know it through Twitter, Facebook, and the sheriff’s app.”
Along with the sheriff’s app and social media, the office is implementing a canine tracking program to aid with setting up perimeters during burglary situations. Drones are helping the office during searches for the elderly and autistic children.
“We have our drone programs where we have drones that are looking for elderly people as well as autistic children. All of our shifts have access to drones now,” said Chody. “Drones were not even a part of the Williamson County Sheriff’s office when I took over, and now, we have over 20 drones. That way, each shift has access to that. Those are some of the things I’m very proud of when we talk about technology in the sheriff’s office. They were nonexistent when I first got here.”
While Chody admits that he isn’t the first to attempt improving the county’s cold case unit, he believes the changes applied have created positive results.
“What used to be done in the past was that you’d have an active investigator working ten burglary calls they took yesterday and the cold case from ten or 20 years ago,” he said. “Because they’re working the ten burglaries, they don’t have the opportunity to work a lead or create a lead. Now, because I created a cold case unit of very qualified detectives, 26 of them, they are more likely to get results. How do I know that? We’ve got two great results, the identification of a 40-year-old case of a murder victim and a 30-year-old case of a murder victim.”
Stepping into the position, Chody immediately saw the need to reinforce the understaffed office, making his case during budget season.
“When I took office, there was an immediate need for personnel. I believe that the sheriff’s office has been understaffed and under budget for some time. I made that argument the first and second years that I was in office. We had eight personnel on patrol, and there was a lot of discussion about that,” said Chody. “The court has a separate duty to determine all of the other needs for the other departments. My needs may be great, and they may not appreciate the amount it is. I can not honestly look my constituents in the face and say we’re doing everything we can if I’m not asking for enough funds.”
The relationship between Chody and the Commissioner’s court is often tense. During a discussion with citizens from Liberty Hill’s Santa Rita Ranch neighborhood earlier this summer, Chody made no apologies for the requests to improve his office.
“The problem I have is that I have to go to the court for my positions. I have to have four commissioners and judge approve my budget,” he said “I even had one Commissioner complain because it was the highest budget that we’ve ever requested, and I make no apologies for that. If something happens, I will say that I asked, and you didn’t give this to us. I’m telling you what I need.”
Because of ongoing litigation, Chody had limited comments on the issue of Live PD and its relationship with Williamson County. The incumbent discussed some of the reasons he agreed to bring the program back to Williamson county despite the disapproval of the county commissioner’s court.
“I want to be careful because there’s litigation that I’m paying out of my pocket for because I don’t want the taxpayers charged for it,” said Chody. “What Live PD did was show what law enforcement did in Williamson County. There were many positives to Live PD. It helps us in our recruiting efforts. Live PD specifically helps us with our community engagement and it is one of the things that I appreciated about it. That’s all I’ll say at this point about Live PD because of things going on. Lots of positives but certainly some negatives with things that arose from it. It shows what police have to deal with.”
During his first bid for the sheriff’s position, Chody’s current opponent supported the sheriff’s run. Since then, things have changed between the two. Chody says that Gleason had ample time to improve response times during his tenure as a patrol captain but failed to do so.
“When he was patrol captain, he’s had many years to address the response times,” He said. “When you look at the average response times, which were anywhere from 21 to 28 minutes on average for priority calls. He certainly has a poor record when dealing with that while we were able to cut that in half.”
In criticism of his opponent, Chody brought up a 2015 lawsuit against Williamson County and the City of Georgetown Police Department alleging excessive violence against 81-year-old Herman Crisp.
“My opponent is good at talking about the things that are in the paper. He’s guilty of some of the very same things because sometimes things occur that are out of your hands or out of your control,” said Chody. “I think he’s been sued for things that occurred in that jail when we talk about violation of civil rights and things of that nature. He was in charge of the SWAT team for hurting an elderly man.”
Chody also accuses his opponent of having the support of organizations calling for the defunding of law enforcement.
“When I look at the organizations that are supporting and rooting for him, I see the defund the police aspect of it. When I see what Austin has done, if my opponent is elected, then I think that could be a danger,” said Chody. “When you talk about a candidate that is being supported by groups like Indivisible and other organizations affiliated with defunding the police, that is a dangerous area to be involved. I don’t believe in defunding the police.”
Despite being a controversial figure and sitting at the center of multiple lawsuits, Chody believes he is the best person to lead the Sheriff’s Office into the future. He hopes to bring more positive change and transparency to the people of Williamson County.
“I think people should vote for me because I think they have seen some positive changes in regards to their public safety. My passion is still to serve as their sheriff is as strong as ever. I want to finish the things that we’ve started.,” he said. “Are we perfect? No way. Do we deserve some of the criticism? In some aspects, yes. Do we deserve all of it? In some aspects, no. We believe in our community; we believe in what we do. We’ve never been more transparent. We’ve opened up our jail as far as tours, we’ve created the junior deputy academy. Williamson County Sheriff’s office has never been more open to the community, and we want to continue to do that.”