Editor’s note: This article is the third in a series on the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy spring program. Each article will explore aspects of law enforcement and the sheriff’s office that are taught in the course’s weekly sessions.
Story and Photos By Alexandria Randolph
Citizens Academy participants had the opportunity to figuratively step into the shoes of officers on the street during last weeks’ class.
Kerr County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tommy Hall, a 45-year veteran law officer, and Cpl. Alex Monroe, a supervisory patrol officer with experience with urban street gangs, shared their stories with class participants on Wednesday.
On patrol — “Patrol covers anything you can imagine,” Hall said.
Patrol officers respond to calls about barking dogs and deer carcasses in the roadways, as well as to reports of family violence and robberies, he added.
“Someone told me when I first got into police work that it is 99 percent boredom, one percent pure terror,” he said.
This hold some truth, as much of patrol work, as it happens, is paperwork, Behrens said. There is a form for a variety of types of incidents, including missing persons reports, missing property, assault, animals at large, emergency protection orders and others.
Kerr County encompasses a little over 1,100 square miles, with a population of 50,000 people, Behrens said, and there are now — after recent budget amendments — six deputies assigned per shift.
“You learn you don’t always have back up,” he said.
That means officers must be prepared for anything. Officers typically carry multiple firearms in their patrol units, including a semi-automatic rifle, shotgun and pistol, as well as an extra gas can, rope and a variety of other tools.
Handling the extreme
Officers are also equipped to handle high speed chases, Behrens said. They all carry easily deployable road spikes in case they need to stop a suspect in a vehicle chase.
After being asked if he had ever seen an accident as a result of the use of road spikes, Behrens said he’d “never seen them lose control. Usually, the spikes deflate the tires so fast and the tires just come to pieces.”
Animal control officers are trained to handle different species of animals, which is an advantage for Kerr County, where officers in the past have been called out to handle emu, bison and other exotic animals on the loose.
“I’ve handled Indian water buffalo,” Hall said. “Several years ago, a member of the Bandido MC gang had a couple of tigers that got loose.”
In addition to members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, Kerr County deputies see a number of organized groups operating in the area that are considered criminal enterprises by the U.S. Justice System, Hall said.
“We haven’t seen any terrorism activity,” he said, “but we’re so close to everything else — San Antonio, Austin — we see a lot of gang activity.”
Gangs of Kerr County
Kerr County Cpl. Alex Monroe is at the forefront of gang related investigations for the sheriff’s department.
Monroe, who spent several years in law enforcement in communities just outside of Washington D.C., has seen the gamut of organized crime.
When he started working in his home county of Kerrville five years ago, he “saw the same things here that I saw there,” he said.
And are there gang members in Kerrville? Absolutely, Monroe said.
“As of today, we have 62 documented gang members currently in our area,” he said.
Monroe said there is gang activity in Kerrville because of it’s convenient location for drug trafficking.
“It’s not that far away from San Antonio. They come here because they think law enforcement won’t do anything about it,” he said. “That’s obviously not the case.”
Monroe said gangs are categorized in several distinct types, the two most prominent of which are prison gangs and street gangs.
“In the beginning of 2016, 32 percent of jail inmates — male and female included — were gang members based on tattoo identification alone,” Monroe said.
Gangs can form due to similar beliefs, such as racism or racial likeness, or in resistance to other gangs in economically oppressed neighborhoods, Monroe said. Local sets of large gangs with national reach can form within smaller outlying communities, as well as hybrid gangs, in which two gangs align with a common purpose.
“It’s believed that up to 90 percent of criminal activity in any given area is gang related,” Monroe said.