HUTTO, Texas - For the past several days, Williamson County deputies have been returning to a training center in Hutto to turn in equipment.
Night vision gear used by the SWAT team is among the items returned and collected Thursday by Jason Johnston, who is also the spokesperson for the Williamson County Sheriff's Law Enforcement Association.
“I don’t understand why this year, this political year, they’ve denied nearly every request the sheriff's office has put in, including training software for detectives, tools that would’ve addressed burglary of vehicles which is one of the hot button items across every community. They just flat out denied them," he added.
An ongoing feud between the sheriff and the county commissioners is the most likely cause according to Johnston.
“We want to work with them we don’t want this animosity between us and it’s hard to work when your bosses don’t like you, so we want to fix that relationship,” said Johnston.
The equipment is part of a federal program that provides free Department of Defense surplus gear to local law enforcement agencies. Along with the night vision goggles, the sheriff's office has received things like rifles, dozens of targeting optics, and two tactical robots, all now packed up.
Replacing what’s lost, according to officials with the sheriff's office, could cost more than a half-million dollars. The county has been part of the federal program for more than a decade. Typically it’s been renewed with simple paperwork and with no objection.
In late July, however, a motion to renew the agreement was killed by Commissioners Valerie Covey and Russ Boles. They have been fighting with the sheriff over LivePD, use of force issues, and during the commissioners court meeting in July, questioned the need for the equipment.
“They have more stuff than people,” said Commissioner Boles explaining his no vote during the July meeting.
With no agreement in place, the equipment is to be returned to the state and re-distributed to other agencies. However, one last effort to save the program will be made on Tuesday during the Commissioners Court meeting. County Judge Bill Gravell told FOX7 he got a extension from the feds.
“It at times it reminds me of my grandkids fighting, there’s an African proverb that says when the elephants rumble it is the grass that is hurt, well the grass in this metaphor are our local deputies and our residents here in Williamson County. And if the elephants wanna fight they need to make sure that they’re not trampling on other people in that process,” said Gravell.
Commissioners have also made other recent cutbacks to the sheriffs office. A list provided to FOX7 by the sheriff’s office includes the elimination of four corrections positions, on-call pay cut, and a budget item to install air-conditioning equipment on K9 units to protect the dogs.
“We feel punished, we feel defunded, we feel like our commission is taking out their feud with the Sheriff Chody out on the employees and the deputies,” said Johnston.