|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
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New sheriffs ride into Livingston
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Sheriffs and Chief Deputies from the 12 counties that make up the Deep East Texas Council of Governments converged at the Polk County Sheriff's Office Training Center in Livingston Tuesday. DETCOG Executive Director Walter Diggles and County Judge John Thompson welcomed the group of law enforcement officials, pointing out that key areas that DETCOG can help them is with Emergency Management, helping pass needed legislation, training and grant funds. The current president and vice-president of the DETCOG Board of Directors, Jasper County Judge Mark Allen and Angelina County Judge Wes Suiter along with Polk County Judge John Thompson who serves as Chair of the Legislative Committee of County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas were all in Austin last week to testify before the County Affairs Committee for the Texas House of Representatives to return some of the millions and billions of dollars back to local agencies. "Judge Suiter, Judge Allen and Judge Thompson were invited to testify on behalf of the entire state of Texas, not just East Texas. That's the kind of leadership we have here in the COG," Diggles said. "Can anybody here use the funds to hire more deputies? I know my sheriff in Jasper needs a mental health officer. We are going to Washington and Austin to get the money funneled back to our agencies. What we fight for benefits our departments. Judge Allen pointed out that Sheriff Hammack had come to Polk County from one of DETCOG's demilitarized zones — Buna, Texas. Prior to being elected Sheriff in Polk County, Hammack served as Emergency Management Coordinator for DETCOG, a post previously held by another former Texas Ranger, Don Morris. Morris is now Emergency Preparedness Program planner for DETCOG. Diggles credited Hammack for creating a model program with DETCOG. "We are the only COG to have a $1 million line item appropriation, and we are going to get Sheriff Hammack back up here to tell you how he did that later today," Diggles said. "But we don't want him to teach you any bad habits," Thompson said. "Once he gets up at Commissioners Court, we have a hard time getting him to sit back down." Hammack advised the other sheriffs not to be bashful about asked for assistance from DETCOG. "If you don't get to the trough, you won't get anything," Hammack said. Hammack said he worked for DETCOG for 13 and a half months before he leaving to run for Polk County Sheriff for the first time — which he jokingly referred to as "getting fired" from DETCOG. Hammack informed the group that the expanded jail facility where the meeting was being held had been in use for not quite two years. "Some of the equipment was supplied by the COG," Hammack said. "You have t o ask to get something. All they can do is say no." He offered tours of the facility to attendees that included sheriffs and/or chief deputies from Shelby, Nacogdoches, Angelina, Tyler, San Jacinto, Sabine and Jasper Counties. Officials from Trinity County were not able to attend because a deputy suffered a stroke while on duty earlier in the week, leaving the department under-staffed. Not only is the Polk County jail available to house inmates, it is a licensed training provider through the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE), which cuts travel expenses for departments in the DETCOG area. "We will invite everyone in the area to upcoming training session to help ensure they have more qualified officers," Hammack said. All sessions are posted on the sheriff's website, www.polkcountyso.net. Registration forms can be downloaded there. Judge Allen told the group of sheriffs that several members of the DETCOG board had worked in the law enforcement board and understand their needs. "We try to help. We get moneys when the Feds filter it down," Allen said. DETCOG serves 315,000 people, then the state takes their share." DETCOG grants can help with 911 programs, TCLEOSE training programs, victims assistance, disaster funding and cohesive disaster response programs like the Multi-Agency Coordination Centers (MACCs) we have in Livingston, Lufkin and Jasper. Hammack proposed the meeting after several new sheriffs were elected in November in the counties surrounding Polk County. Then another new sheriff was added to the roll when David Clark was appointed by the San Jacinto Commissioners Court after Sheriff James Walters died on Jan. 9, just after being sworn in to another term on Jan. 1.