Williamson County deputies get tactical gear, equipment back

Gear that was about to be shipped out was secured Tuesday afternoon by Williamson County deputies. Tactical robots, Night vision goggles, and laser targeting equipment.

Deputies had to turn it in last week but now all of it is staying.

“A great feeling it’ll be a better feeling when we’re actually giving it back to the deputies,” said Deputy Jason Johnston with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Officer.

The equipment is staying with the sheriff's department after Williamson County Commissioners heard from several people urging them to reconsider a decision they made in July.

“I kind of got the feeling that the commissioners while they were trying to excuse maybe they voted no previously that they finally heard the voice of the citizens and decided to put politics aside,” said Luis Rodriguez with the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders who spoke during the commissioners meeting.

Commissioners, in a rare turnaround, voted to sign off on an agreement to receive surplus gear from the department of defense. The program is free and has been approved for nearly a decade with little to no controversy.

Many of those who spoke Tuesday noted how this year was different. “Your judgments and decisions have been clouded by a politically motivated vendetta towards our sheriff,” said Cedar Park resident Regan Pendley.

Commissioners Valerie Covey and Russ Boles voted against the renewal in July. At the time, both raised concerns about maintenance costs and if there was a need.

She did not know the ramifications of her vote at the time for the deputies. "No, I would have supported the item if I had known the items would have to be returned,” said Commissioner Covey.

The vote to renew the free equipment program Tuesday was unanimous.



But before that happened there were some tense exchanges. “We just need information and that’s cheap for you guys to give us, just give us the information none of us have to spend time with this,” said Commissioner Terry Cook to the deputies in the court meeting.

Judge Bill Gravell interjected that Cook also had a responsibility to know what’s on the agenda. “Commissioner, if you would let me speak, perhaps you should use your staff and do a little research, you have voted on this three years previously,” said Judge Gravell.

Lt Mark Luera who is with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Law Enforcement Association was the focus of much of Cook’s comments and also responded. “Commissioner Cook I almost feel scolded at this point like I was sitting before the principal and I hate to feel that way,” said Luera.

The urging to cooperate more was also directed toward Sheriff Robert Chody, who was not at the meeting.

“Miscommunication in the United States I think, is our biggest issue,  if we can fix that even a little bit with a couple of commissioners,  I think we will have made a giant leap forward regardless of the politics,” said Deputy Johnston.

In voting yes the commission is expecting something in return. They want deputies to do a full inventory. Not only from the federal surplus program, but they also want a list of items they have recently purchased for the sheriff's office.