Thirty-three civilian detention officers got a badge and took the oath to become peace officers as detention deputies with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Nathan Gonzalez spent 5 years in the military and is now sporting a brand new sheriff’s deputy uniform.
“My ultimate goal is to be on patrol. I want to be on patrol and try to better myself as far as more knowledge and more experience in the field.”
His family was there for the occasion, including his uncle Chuck Gonzalez, who retired after 33 years with the Houston Police Department.
“I think he feels fantastic because originally, that’s what he wanted to be, a patrol officer. And I think now that he’s got that blue uniform, I think that he’s accomplished his dream and he’s gonna make it.”
The detention deputy position provides a step toward full deputy sheriff status.
Chief Deputy Mike Smith convinced Commissioner’s Court earlier this year to create the new position approved by the Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission.
“These people that passed today are full blown peace officers in the state of Texas. They are armed. They have arrest powers. People only think of the jail as being a wall, but I have to send people to the hospital 15-20 times a day. I have to move these buses around town full of very dangerous convicts. So there’s a lot of jobs within the jail that still require peace officer.”
Sheriff Adrian Garcia, who pushed for the new position, says in the past, there was no future for civilian detention officers.
“For years, we have had employees who dipped into their own pocket, sacrificed family time just to go to school to get their license, and you would have thought that this would have been appreciated as a cost savings to the organization. But instead, we let them leave to other organizations, who recognized their potential and their contributions.”
There will always be the need for deputies in detention operations, but Garcia’s goal is to move as many deputies as possible, out of detention and into patrol.
“These deputies want to get into patrol cars. They want to get to those calls. They want to help the citizens. They want to put the bad guys, they want to catch the bad guys and give them to their partners. And so it’s an exciting day, but this also stays with the promise that I made to the community. We are putting more boots on the ground today and this is an example of that continued commitment.”
A county-wide hiring freeze was lifted earlier this year. It had blocked the sheriff from filling vacancies since 2009.