Gleason brings immediate change to Sheriff’s Office

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By ANTHONY FLORES
Staff Writer

Two weeks into his term, newly-elected Williamson County Sheriff Mike Gleason is wasting little time making changes in the Sheriff’s Office.

Gleason’s first move as sheriff was the evaluation of command staff in the office. With the exception of one individual, Gleason released 19 officers from the previous administration.

“It was a matter of the community losing trust in any leadership. There was no leadership,” Gleason said. “That was apparent in the lawsuits, and the staff was doing what it wanted to do. Live PD was a priority, being on TV, and things of that nature. It wasn’t serving the community or having an adequate number of officers in the neighborhoods working calls. CID wasn’t working cases; nobody was working; they were all riding around collecting a check. So, I made the decision I was not going to be inviting back the entire command staff, which was everybody from the rank of lieutenant and up in law enforcement and corrections.”

Following a history of offenses and issues, immediate removal of command staff at the jail was Gleason’s top priority.

“Your jail was shut down numerous times by the state regulatory commission, and the training facility was shut down. We had two in-custody deaths. We had a young man who was held in a jail cell for six months and never got to see the light of day or fresh air,” said Gleason. “We had people who were just inhumanely treated in the jail because there was no leadership with any experience at all and didn’t know how to run a jail. It was the adage that if you don’t like it, don’t come to jail. Some people might believe in that. We have a big fat book and an oversight committee called Texas Jail Standards that tell us we have to treat people humanely, and they weren’t doing that.”

After filling out his command staff with handpicked individuals, Gleason is moving forward with his goals. He is in talks with the commissioners court, the sheriff’s association, and the Texas Municipal Police Officers Association. The meeting is to modify or bypass the mandated civil service sets in April to allow entities to come together and discuss employee discipline, promotion process, and employee
contracts for pay.

“It’s my opinion that John Q Public or Jane Q Public that come to work each day are rock stars and perfect employees. Civil service never helps them through their career. They move right along through their department; they retire and then go away,” said Gleason. “Then you have the ones that are cancers, come to work late and complain. Civil service benefits them and doesn’t let you get rid of them promptly. We want to keep the good parts and discard the bad. We can come to a contract and set the renewal dates bi-annually. You can renegotiate or not. We’re in talks right now, and it’s something we’ve been chasing for years.”

After the previous administration fired many individuals, Sheriff Gleason said he wants to give employees a fair chance to defend themselves before any action.

“We have revamped our entire internal affairs process, so we guarantee due process for all of our employees,” he said. “It won’t just be ‘hey you’re suspended, or hey you’re fired’ without getting a formal charge of what you’ve done wrong or get to say your piece. We saw that happening several hundred times throughout the last administration’s tenure. People were just fired willy nilly for anything.”

One thing Gleason focused on during his campaign was bringing back individuals who were fired or left the sheriff’s office under Robert Chody’s administration.

“We’ve done that. We had a lot of detectives that self-demoted because they felt that they were on the chopping block. They went and hid on patrol or as the school resource officer, all while Chody turned around and promoted,” said Gleason. “Robert promoted a lot of young people that were not ready for those positions. We, unfortunately, had to move them back to their positions and give the people who were let go their jobs back. We put them back on the street to get a little more seasoning, and they’re eligible to test for the positions again.”

Another part of Gleason’s campaign was the promise to get the Williamson County Sheriff’s Training Center reopened. The facility closed after several controversies during the previous administration.

“We are up and running as we speak, and I’ve already had initial conversations with Kim Vickers, the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement,” he said. “We have dismissed all of the people that were accused of cheating and using racial epithets against cadets. The ones mistreating them. They’ve all been dismissed or left on their own.”

With accusations against the previous administration of police brutality and the in-custody death of Javier Ambler, community trust has been tested. Part of Gleason’s mission moving forward is rebuilding the office’s relationship with the community.

“A lot of what we want to do is returning some normalcy and continue with the community meetings we’re having. We’ve already met with the NAACP and met with a lot of groups out there asking the same questions,” said Gleason. “A lot of it is baby steps right now. It getting officers back into the community and rebuilding trust. Not just by driving down the street and letting them see the car, the officer has to make a concerted effort during the day to get out and talk to people. The best eyes and ears you can have is a friend you’ve made. We’ve got to rebuild trust because it’s just not there. People have to know you as a human being.”

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