COLUMN: Bad apples in law enforcement undermine public’s trust

Submitted photo.
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown.

Law enforcement isn’t the easiest of careers but for me and countless others who have chosen to serve our communities, there’s nothing we’d rather do. There’s plenty of other ways to make a living; however, this is the profession we’ve all chosen.

It’s a shame when a few bad apples get the press and at the same time give our entire profession a black eye. Whenever these cases come to light, all of law enforcement seems to come under question. One troubling side effect from these bad apple cases is when people feel they can’t trust law enforcement anymore.

It’s especially bothered me, with the recent cases come to light about the former Maypearl police chief, that people have said they were too scared to come forward because they didn’t think anything would be done and because they feared retribution.

Let me be clear and on the record: I want every Ellis County resident to know they can call the Sheriff’s Office and the right thing will get done. If someone makes a complaint, that complaint will be investigated, whether we do it or we get another agency like the Texas Rangers or FBI involved. We’re not in the business of washing something under the table. We don’t hide anything.

I don’t want anybody to believe they can’t come to law enforcement if they’ve got a concern or complaint – because there’s a chance we don’t know something’s going on if you don’t tell us. You are our extra set of eyes and ears in keeping the community safe. At the same time, we’re not going to tolerate people who try to file fictitious complaints. They’ll likely find themselves facing criminal charges for filing a false report.

Every agency has a complaint process and your Sheriff’s Office is no different. If someone has a complaint about one of my deputies, we will thoroughly look into it and that includes reviewing any video. If we find that the deputy did something wrong, he or she will face the consequences. Plain and simple, bad apples are not tolerated in your Sheriff’s Office.

The administrators at any law enforcement agency are responsible for ensuring their personnel are acting in accordance with policies and procedures – and within the law. In the case of the former Maypearl police chief, people who had every right to complain felt they didn’t have another option. I’m here to tell you that you do. I want people to know that you can come here to your Sheriff’s Office – and if we can’t assist you, we’ll find the agency that will.

Our job as law enforcement is to protect and serve you – and there are many, many more good people in law enforcement who are doing just that than there are bad ones who abuse their position. The bad ones may get some temporary media coverage but rest assured the vast majority of us continue to serve you 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s what we’re called to do.

Please, everyone, let’s keep our military and service personnel in our thoughts and prayers. We enjoy our rights and freedoms because of their service and safekeeping of our great nation. Y’all have a Blessed Week.

Johnny Brown has served as Sheriff of Ellis County since Jan. 1, 2009, and is a graduate of the National Sheriff’s Institute. He has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and holds a Master’s Peace Officer’s Certificate with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.