Gleason sets sights on restored image

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By ANTHONY FLORES
Staff Writer

With 24 years of experience in Williamson County law enforcement, Democratic candidate Mike Gleason is looking to top current Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody on Nov. 3.

In that more than two decades, Gleason understands the inner workings of various departments that comprise Williamson County law enforcement.

“I was there for 24 years. I started as a corrections officer on the midnight shift. I worked in every capacity as either an employee or a commander in every section of every bureau at the sheriff’s department until I retired as assistant chief deputy,” said Gleason. “I ran all the major budgets. I fired, I hired, and I built the field training program. I built the crisis intervention team, swat team, and swift-water rescue. I’ve done everything in that agency.”

All that experience is why Gleason believes he’s the right man for the sheriff’s position.

“This is a natural fit for me because the last four positions I held were command positions, budgeted positions. With my last position, I worked in the corrections bureau, and I had a $23 million budget there,” he said. “We almost ran a hospital there. Along with caring, feeding, and transporting up to 800 inmates. When I was on the patrol side and a patrol commander, I had to order and know what we needed to be prepared for. It takes a lot to run something like that, and I have the educational experience, and I have the hands-on experience from many numbers of years of doing that. My opponent does not, and that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in now.”

He believes Sheriff Chody is undoing years of progress and efficiency, saying Chody is failing to keep promises made during his campaign for office and is responsible for almost 300 people being fired or resigning from the office. The Independent reached out to the county to confirm the number of firings and resignations since Chody took office in 2017 but has not yet received a response.

“Sheriff James Wilson retired and turned over the keys to one of the best, if not the best, sheriff’s office in the state of Texas. It was a well-oiled machine and my opponent came in and said he was going to keep going in that direction,” Gleason said. “That’s what he promised to everybody, and when he won the primary, he lied to everybody. He lied the entire time. He used everybody to get elected and now has summarily come in and fired, let go, runoff, or made life miserable for almost 300 people. Half of the workforce is gone. We did an open records request and did the math. He’s run off 1,800 years of experience in the sheriff’s office that taxpayers paid to train.”

In an interview with The Independent, Chody claimed Gleason failed to get backing from his predecessor. A claim Gleason says is true, because at the time he supported Chody’s bid for office. Gleason, in retrospect, regrets supporting Chody.

“My predecessor did not back me because he backed Mike Cowie, a fellow DPS friend of his. To be quite honest with you, my predecessor didn’t back me because I was backing Robert Chody,” Gleason said. “I regret backing Chody, and most of the county does. He sold everybody a bill of goods. He’s a snake-oil salesman. Look at the guys he brought in, Tim Ryle, the disgraced chief of police from Round Rock who left them with 23 excessive use of force lawsuits that they’re still paying off. The list goes on.”

Chody also claims that Gleason is supported by organizations calling for the defunding of law enforcement and has those same intentions should he win the election. Gleason says it would be counterproductive to defund the organization he intends to run and that Chody opened the door to calls for defunding with recent controversies.

“Robert Chody had never heard of the word defunding until he started this mess on a national scale himself. All these calls for defunding came when Javier Ambler was killed. Robert is to blame for this not me. Why would I want to run for an agency that I’d want to defund and cripple? I was there 24 years and helped make the place the agency that it was. It was the greatest in the state of Texas,” said Gleason. “We had the greatest CIT program, the greatest SWAT team. Why would I do all that work and then have my master plan of 24 years be to come in and finally tear it all down? Robert is the one tearing it up. We’re bankrupt and the taxpayers are paying his bills now. We’re about to lose our insurance. The entire county insurance is about to go away because of the lawsuits that we’re paying. We’ll have to go back to being self-funded all because of him and his inability to run his agency.”

Gleason says that if he takes office, he’ll have to do the opposite of defunding and seek more funds to repair the damage he believes has occurred under Chody’s watch.

“I have to come back in and not defund the police but find more funds because we have a state-of-the-art training facility that’s sitting dark because of his scandals,” he said. “That place is shut down by the state of Texas. I’ve got to go back in and rebuild that. I was the one who built it before he took office and then he came in and did take all the credit for it.”

One of Gleason’s major goals is to repair the reputation of the Williamson County police training facility. The facility is a center of controversy, with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement launching two investigations into allegations centered on the use of racial, homophobic, and misogynistic slurs against cadets by a now-departed trainer. Along with those claims, there are claims of test score manipulations and elevation to valedictorian status for one cadet who failed multiple tests. Gleason’s goal is to reopen the facility.

“I have to personally go and meet with each chief, some who I’ve had a lifelong relationship with, and I need to meet with each one and ask them to give me their trust. I have to deliver, and they need to know the quality of the staff we’re going to provide,” said Gleason. “I’ve got a plan, and I am going to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and having the court fund a position. Even if I have to give up a training position so their employee can come to work in the academy and keep an eye on us. We’ll do everything by the book. They will guide us and direct us. With that reassurance, I hope we can get these other chiefs back on board.”

Gleason wants to bring back some of the former employees he claims Chody pushed out in favor of his own “yes men”. He also plans to focus on crisis intervention, mental health, and substance abuse.

“I want to bring back all the good people that got let go. All of those 300 people want to be there and take it back. They are competent in doing their job and want to get it back to where it needs to go again,” he said. “The crisis intervention team he dismantled on day one needs to be put back in. Anyone believes that mental health and substance abuse issues are not a priority for any law enforcement agency in this day and age, are in for a rude awakening. He has ignored crisis intervention in jail and on the street.”

Gleason says Chody is focused on being a television star, and he intends to clean out the officers that are lacking qualifications. Gleason claims several employees in the sheriff’s office are without personal history statements on record. The Independent reached out to the county to confirm the claim but is still waiting for a response.

“Live PD is the only thing he wants to deal with. He wants to feed his urge to be a movie star. We need to get training standards back up,” said Gleason. “We need to get rid of the cancers he’s brought in with no background in investigations and no qualifications. They need to go. They’re not qualified. Half of them don’t have personal history statements on file, and that’s against the occupation code. State law requires you to have an application on file, and they don’t.”

One of the biggest campaign points Sheriff Chody touts is the improvement in response times to priority one calls. He claims he cut times in half. Gleason says it’s a manipulation of the numbers and breaks down why it’s not possible to cut times by 50 percent and how they can are easily manipulated.

“The response times are manipulated. First of all, he claims he cut priority one response times down by 50 percent, and that’s impossible. You have to understand how the process works. There’s the time the call is picked up at a home and hits the dispatcher. The dispatcher has to forward it to the correct agency, then they have to forward it to fire, EMS, or what department it needs to go to,” said Gleason. “Then it’s sent to the deputy’s computer in his car. Then the deputy has to click on and recognize it and respond to it and arrive. Do you see where there are 15 steps there and the different points where you can pick the time you want to highlight? Is it the time from when I call the dispatcher, and there’s a deputy on my porch, or is it the time the deputy receives the call and hits the button in his car and is on my front porch? There are 20 minutes there, and the numbers can be manipulated easily.”

Gleason believes that he can foster a unified environment in the county because he has maintained relationships Sheriff Chody is damaging during his term as sheriff. The law enforcement veteran believes this will be key in bringing positive change to the county.

“Those relationships are strained with Robert Chody. They aren’t strained with me. I continually talk with people every day, except for Bill Gravel, but he’s got to go too,” Gleason said. “I talk to the commissioners almost every day, and they support me. They’re voting for me. I talk with the county attorney and have a letter of recommendation from when I retired. I talk to the district attorney’s staff all the time. All of those relationships are great to me.”

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