The Ellis County Sheriff’s Office started a new chapter Jan. 1 with the swearing-in of new sheriff, Brad Norman, who said he’s honored to serve the county once again. He recently visited with the Sun about his plans to improve the agency’s operations, while addressing needs and areas in need of improvement.
“This place is filled with excellent professional men and women in law enforcement and I am happy to be a part of this organization and running this organization,” Norman said. “For me, as you know, I was here from 2001-2017, and I just came back this last week. This is home.
“Most of the people here I either worked with, hired, and know them well,” he said. “There are probably 15 or so deputies that have come to work here since I left in 2017 that I did not know. We have got a good group of people and I am tickled to death to be here.”
A peace officer since 1998, Norman previously served the sheriff’s office from 2001-2017 in several positions that included chief deputy, operations captain, and lieutenant of the narcotics task force. Before he was elected sheriff, Norman was with the Tarrant County Constables Office and the Methodist Health System Police Department, where he served as the lieutenant overseeing operations at the Methodist hospital in Mansfield.
One of the areas Norman wants to improve is in providing deputies with training. In particular, he wants to train them in the identification of a person experiencing a mental health crisis.
“One thing that is a big deal to me is mental health,” Norman said. “The mental health system in Texas is broke. Not damaged. It is broken. I think being able to identify people when they are in crisis and get them the help that they need vs. potentially just putting them in jail for instance is important.
“I am not saying that there are not people that need to be put in jail,” he said. “What I am saying is, if a person is truly having a mental health crisis, jail might not be the best place for them. The best place for them is a place that can help them get the help that they need for whatever their mental issues are.”
Norman is looking to have every deputy go through the 40-hour mental health officer peace officer certification course. The sheriff’s office is in the process of determining who has and hasn’t been through the course.
Norman also is looking to create a dedicated unit of investigators whose focus would be those individuals who target children.
“Right now, there is not anyone currently targeting those types of offenders in Ellis County,” he said. “Every agency here in the county will deal with those cases if they are made aware of them. I am not saying nobody is not touching those cases, but we don’t have anyone here targeting those types of offenders. That is a goal of mine.”
The sheriff’s office is looking into participating in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 287G program.
“287G is a program with ICE that would allow Ellis County detention officers or deputies to be deputized through ICE to be able to put a detainer on somebody that is in this country illegally that is in our custody,” Norman said. “This does not target people that are here illegally to go and take them from their homes or their jobs. This involves people who have been incarcerated in this jail for a crime.
“It would allow us to do a background on that person through ICE’s computer database, which we would end up having a terminal here at the sheriff’s office in the jail to find out for sure if someone is here legally or illegally,” he said. “If they are here illegally, a detainer can be put on that person and ICE can come and pick that person up and put them in federal custody after their punishment is dealt with for whatever they did here in our county. (ICE would) eventually deport them to whatever country they came from.”
The program would have to be approved by the Ellis County Commissioners Court. Norman said he has spoken with Ellis County Judge Todd Little and plans to meet with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, which participates in the 287G Program, for more information.
While not active for the past several years, the Sheriff’s Posse has already held its first meeting. Norman said he looks to use this group of civilian volunteers to assist the agency in several non-law enforcement functions, such as searching for missing people. In the past, the group played a role during the aftermath of the December 2015 tornado that hit Red Oak, Glenn Heights, Ovilla, and Midlothian by blocking off roads and distributing water.
More structure has been added with the addition of several supervisory positions. The criminal investigations division has been divided in half, with one lieutenant and two sergeants. One sergeant oversees property crimes, while the other is over the crimes against persons section.
A sergeant’s position has been added in the civil and warrants division, where 25 deputies were previously overseen by a lieutenant and a sergeant. One sergeant is now over courthouse security and bailiffs, with the second over civil warrants, animal control, and transport.
Wayne McCollum Detention Center saw its first outbreak of COVID-19 in July, with a second outbreak in early December, with the state’s report showing 21 inmates and nine staff members confirmed COVID-19 positive as of Dec. 28.
Norman noted that, as of Wednesday, Jan. 13, there were five positive inmates, with four pending test results. Eight staff members/detention officers were positive, with one pending a result.
“I think that COVID issues are being addressed,” Norman said. “Masks are now required. If you are in the jail you have got to have a mask on.
“I think the jail has done an outstanding job of keeping (the COVID cases) to a minimum with the things that we have in place,” he said. “When we have a new person being booked into the jail, they automatically go into a segregated area where they are segregated from the rest of the population That is in case they are COVID positive, they don’t immediately spread it to people in their unit.”
Norman asked the public for prayers and good thoughts for one detention officer who has been in the hospital for quite some time battling the virus.
He not only wants the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office to protect the community but to lend a hand to anyone when it can. These feelings are expressed in the agency’s new mission statement, which reads, “For the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office to be the premier law enforcement agency in the state and a model of excellence in policing by creating partnerships, building trust, reducing crime and improving the quality of life for our community.”
Norman added, “That is why we are here.”