Candidate profile: Johnny Brown

Submitted photo.
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown.

ELLIS COUNTY — Learn more about incumbent Johnny Brown in his own words as he runs for re-election as Ellis County Sheriff in the 2016 Republican primary.

Election day voting will be held on March 1, 2016 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Click here for a list of election day polling locations. Early voting will take place February 16, 2016 through February 26, 2016. Click here for a list of early voting locations and times.

Click here to view and compare all County Sheriff candidates' answers on one page.

Johnny Brown questionnaire responses

1) What is your current age?

56

2) What is your city of residence?

Waxahachie

3) How many years have you lived in Ellis County?

30+ years

4) Tell us a little about your family.

I have four daughters and 10 grandkids.

5) Describe your education.

After being elected sheriff for my first term starting Jan. 1, 2009, I attended the required school for new sheriffs and have since graduated from the National Sheriff’s Institute. I hold a master peace officer certification (the highest possible) and a basic jailer’s certification with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. These certifications are based upon years of service and number of training hours. As a law enforcement officer, I continue to meet the required continuing education requirements and avail myself of other training opportunities as those arise. Prior to my law enforcement career, I served and trained four years in the U.S. Air Force (active and reserve) after obtaining my high school GED.

6) What public office experience do you have?

I have held the office of Ellis County Sheriff for the past seven years and am in my second term in that capacity.

7) What is your occupation?

Ellis County Sheriff

8) Describe your church and civic involvement.

I was a founding member of the Cowboy Church of Ellis County and have since become a founding member of the Wagon Wheel Cowboy Church here in the county. I am a member of the Midlothian Masonic Lodge and serve as an advisory board member for the Navarro College Police Academy. I volunteer hours as a mentor for at-risk youth, working security for the Ellis County Youth Expo and assisting with the Ellis County Toy Drive.

9) Please provide a biographical narrative.

Johnny Brown was elected Ellis County Sheriff in 2008 and was sworn in Jan. 1, 2009. He has been a Texas Peace Officer since 1982. Having graduated from the Dallas Baptist University police academy, he is both a licensed Peace Officer and Detention Officer (jailer). He holds a Master Peace Officer Proficiency Certificate with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Raised in Fort Worth and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Sheriff Brown has lived in Ellis County for more than 30 years. He has four daughters and 10 grandkids.

Sheriff Brown’s wide array of experience includes, but is not limited to, patrol, SWAT, narcotics investigator, K-9 and criminal investigations. He has successfully bought, operated and sold several businesses.

Always staying actively involved in his community and profession, Sheriff Brown participates in the North Texas Crime Commission, Sheriff’s Association of Texas and National Sheriff’s Association. He sits on state Boards and or Committees for Legislation, Jails, Technology and the North Central Texas Major Case Investigative Team (MCIT) Board of Directors.

During his career he has been named Officer of the Year twice, and received a Citizen of the Year award from former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm.

10) What motivated your interest in running for Ellis County Sheriff?

When I ran and won my first term in office, I believed I was the best qualified individual for the position. I felt the same when I successfully ran for a second term – and I believe the same today, that I am the best qualified person to serve as Ellis County Sheriff. I have the most to offer the citizens. I have a love for law enforcement and my profession that allows me to provide the best possible service.

11) Briefly and succinctly define the job responsibilities of the office you are seeking.

The Texas Constitution establishes the office of county sheriff, which is elected to a four-year term. Each of our state's 254 counties has an elected sheriff, whose duties include serving as a peace officer and enforcing criminal laws. A sheriff also has the responsibility for his or her county's jail, civil process and courts' security.

12) What qualifications and professional experiences do you possess that are applicable to law enforcement responsibilities the position you are seeking requires? Be specific.

I have 23 years of experience as a Texas peace officer. My experience is broad and across a number of areas, including patrol, SWAT, narcotics investigator, K-9 and criminal investigations. I have twice been elected Ellis County Sheriff and have seven years of experience with this position. I attended the required school for new sheriffs and have also graduated from the National Sheriff’s Institute. I hold a master peace officer certification (the highest possible) and a basic jailer’s certification with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. I have met all continuing education requirements and avail myself of other training opportunities. I am a graduate of the Dallas Baptist University Police Academy.

13) What qualifications do you possess that will enable you to manage a budget of over $8 million for the Sheriff’s Office and over $10 million for jail operations? Be specific.

I have successfully overseen these budgets for seven years now, working with our County Commissioners Court to provide them with the information they need so that, together, we can best serve our citizens while maintaining fiscal responsibility. I am an active member of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas and stay abreast of best practices in our field that help us make informed decisions about our agency and operations.

14) How has your education prepared you for this office?

With 23 years of broad-based law enforcement experience, along with the requisite training in those different areas and seven years service as Ellis County Sheriff, I believe I am the best qualified person for the position and can best serve our citizens.

15) Have you declared bankruptcy or have had any liens placed upon you in the past 10 years? If so, please explain.

Prior to my first term of office, a bookkeeper’s error at one of my businesses led to an IRS lien that was subsequently settled.

16) What distinguishes you from your opponent(s)?

My 23 years of service distinguish me from my opponent. I have experience in multiple areas of law enforcement: narcotics investigations, patrol, canine, criminal investigations division, jail and supervision. I am in my second term as Ellis County Sheriff and have successfully handled the responsibilities of this office for seven years now.

17) Is there any additional training that you plan to seek to assist you in the duties of Sheriff?

I maintain my continuing education hours and will continue to avail myself of additional training opportunities that come my way.

18) What are the three greatest challenges facing Ellis County related to the position you are seeking? If elected, what measures would you propose to resolve them?

The three greatest challenges we face here in Ellis County relating to the Sheriff’s Office include population growth, jail operations and budget. Ellis County is growing; there is no doubt about that. Some of the population growth is in the rural areas; however, much of it is in the cities, which also are taking in more land. As sheriff, I don’t need more deputies, but there will be a need for more jailers as the jail population goes up. While Midlothian, Red Oak and Ennis have jail facilities to handle their class C inmates, the city of Waxahachie contracts with the county to handle its class C inmates. We also house class C inmates for the other small communities for a fee. Because all county jails are under a state-mandated, jailer-to-inmate ratio, we are diligent in our management of jail operations. As the cities seek to place more class C inmates in our jail, we will be working closely with our County Commissioners Court to provide them with the information they need when setting budgets for personnel. Through increased and enhanced hiring procedures established when I first took office, we have worked hard to hire quality people into our available positions. We also want to ensure that we are able to keep them by paying them a competitive wage when compared to local and area agencies. Again, we are working closely with the County Commissioners Court to address these concerns.

19) If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you work with other elected officials and county staff to achieve them? Be specific.

As Ellis County Sheriff, my top three priorities are 1) the safety and security of our citizens, 2) maintaining jail staffing and 3) ensuring our personnel have the training and equipment they need to provide our community with the service it expects and should have. We work hand-in-hand with our County Commissioners Court and our other county and elected offices, along with our state agencies, by providing them with the information they need from us so that informed decisions can be made by all. We are transparent with, and accountable for, what we do.

20) If elected, what is the number one change you hope to accomplish in the Sheriff’s Office or jail? Please explain.

Since taking office seven years ago, I have worked to not only build upon the foundations laid by the sheriffs before me but also to make additional improvements as those were needed. I will continue to look at where we can improve our agency and make those adjustments when necessary. This is an ongoing process that began when I first took office and will continue as long as I am Sheriff of this county. Seven years ago, we established a mission statement for this agency that holds as true today as it did then:

The mission of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office is to provide professional law enforcement services to citizens and visitors of Ellis County. This Office will strive to enforce the law and maintain order in a fair and impartial manner.

The Sheriff and his Deputies recognize that no law enforcement agency can operate at its maximum potential without supportive input from the citizens it serves. This Office actively solicits and encourages the cooperation of all citizens to reduce criminal activity and within legal limits, to assist in bringing to justice those that prey on the person and property of others.

21) What will happen to the current staff if you are elected Sheriff? Will there be sweeping changes, or will you retain people in leadership? Please explain.

There are no plans to change staff or the current leadership.

22) What is the appropriate budget size for the Sheriff’s Office and why should the current budget be cut, remain the same or increased?

The Sheriff’s Office budget is prepared and presented to the County Commissioners Court, where we provide information, answer their questions and discuss our requests. Ultimately, the decision on the county budget is made by the Commissioners Court. We were pleased that this last budget provided a raise for employees; however, there was a cut to the operations side. We will continue to work with the Commissioners Court and do our best to answer any questions they have so as to provide them with the information they need to make the most informed decision possible.

23) What is the appropriate budget size for the jail and why should the current budget be cut, remain the same or increased? Please explain.

The county jail budget is prepared and presented to the County Commissioners Court, where we provide information, answer their questions and discuss our requests. Ultimately, the decision on the jail budget is made by the Commissioners Court. We were pleased that this last budget provided a raise for employees; however, there was a cut to the jail operations side. We will continue to work with the Commissioners Court and do our best to answer any questions they have so as to provide them with the information they need to make the most informed decision possible.

24) Technology is constantly changing and advancing; what technological advances would you like to introduce to the Ellis County Sheriff's Department?

Since taking office seven years ago, we have worked diligently to bring as much technological advances as possible to the Sheriff’s Office. We have GPS trackers on all units and our deputies have laptops in their units that have connectivity. We’ve added radios and issued handhelds to all deputies and have issued Tasers to all deputies and jailers. We have body cameras on our jailers. During my tenure, we have added two IT specialist positions that provide technical support for all of our equipment and personnel; we also have added a crime scene technician. Our training division has been expanded into a full-blown service that provides training to not only our personnel but to other agencies’ personnel as well.

25) Do you support body cameras for Sheriff’s Deputies? Please explain.

I am a proponent of body cameras and support their use as a law enforcement tool. With that said, there is a cost to implementing those. We are researching how best we could fund this equipment and will be working with our County Commissioners Court to make an informed decision.

26) If elected, what will you do to ensure accountability from your employees?

I start by employing the best possible personnel, which is achieved by their going through the more rigorous hiring process I set into place after taking office seven years ago. Once they’re employed, they receive the training they need to be successful and they’re supervised. If there are any complaints, we listen to those and investigate them. If my employees have done their job, I back them 100-percent. If it turns out this isn’t the job for them, it’s addressed. I lead from the front and not from the back.

27) In 2013, some Ellis County elected officials were actively and aggressively looking into the possibility of privatizing jail operations at the Wayne McCollum Detention Center before the idea was rejected. What is your position on privatizing the county jail and what actions would you take to fulfill that position?

Awhile back, we were looking at the possibility of renting jail beds to Johnson County with the thought it could put some dollars into the county general fund. During the course of that research, the idea came up to look into privatizing the county jail, as some other counties have done. After looking into it, we determined it was a bad idea for Ellis County. My position is that we continue to maintain our county jail as a county facility. We have passed every jail inspection; we have a clean jail; we have dedicated employees who serve there. I will continue what we have.

28) What resources will you use to address the mentally ill population in custody and charged with criminal offenses? What steps do you plan with mental health and alcohol and other drug abuse services?

As part of our contracted medical services for the jail, we provide inmates with the services of a medical doctor who is also a psychiatrist. Inmates also have access to a counselor. We continue to safeguard those inmates in our custody who have a mental illness and attend to their needs as necessary.

29) What is your position on using inmates for labor? Please explain.

I am all for using inmates for labor needs as arise on government-owned properties, such as county roads. To the extent that our manpower allows, we will continue to use them for this purpose.

30) In your opinion, what are the most important qualities that a Sheriff needs to have?

The most important qualities a sheriff should have are integrity, accountability and a strong work ethic.

31) Where do you believe a citizen's rights come from?

I would quote from our great nation’s Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

32) How will you defend the right of citizens to carry firearms, as defined in the Constitution of the United States of America?

I am an active member of the Sheriffs' Association of Texas and would note our collective statement on this topic: Every Texas Sheriff, upon assuming their office, took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the great state of Texas. Of course, the Sheriffs of Texas are committed to uphold their oath of office. It goes without saying that Texas Sheriffs recognize that Amendment II of the Constitution provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” and that Amendment IV provides that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

33) What is your opinion on asset forfeiture for individuals who have not been found guilty in a court of law?

I would note that asset forfeiture is a separate, civil proceeding to any criminal case going through the courts and that any concerns on this would have to be addressed through the state Legislature and courts.

34) Federal, state and local laws sometimes conflict with the original intent of the Constitution of the United States of America. If elected, how do you plan to enforce laws which may conflict with the Constitution?

There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, and my deputies are allowed to use their judgment and discretion when making a decision. We are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the laws of our state, and recognize that conflicts do arise that are identified and then addressed by our lawmakers and our courts.

35) How can the office of Sheriff best serve the citizens of the county?

The office of Sheriff can best serve our citizens by being active within the county and promoting crime prevention programs such as Neighborhood Crime Watch. Our Training Division, which includes our crime prevention specialists, is involved in continuous outreach to the community to provide them tips and other information they need to keep themselves and their property safe. We’ve seen these efforts pay off with a significant reduction in crime these past seven years.

36) What is your opinion on local law enforcement agencies employing military style training, equipment and tactics?

The Sheriff’s Office has an Emergency Response Team that has received specialized training to utilize if the need arises. We have not obtained any equipment from the military, but instead purchased a BATT armored vehicle with drug seizure money. In a day and time when we see law enforcement being outgunned, we feel the specialized training we are doing and the service vehicle we have acquired meet our agency’s needs in saving lives and protecting our citizens.

37) If elected, how will you foster an environment that ensures fair treatment of all people that are served by the Ellis County Sheriff's Office? Please provide an example.

This is part of our mission statement that was established when I took office seven years ago and which we continue to abide by: “The mission of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office is to provide professional law enforcement services to citizens and visitors of Ellis County. This Office will strive to enforce the law and maintain order in a fair and impartial manner.”

38) If elected, how would you reach out and form relationships with residents of Ellis County and how would you reach out to those residents in the outlying areas of the county?

Since my first term in office, we have worked hard to reach out and form relationships with the people we serve. We have personnel at local events, such as National Night Out and other festivals, where our deputies can meet people and visit with them one-on-one and answer any questions they might have. We embrace our citizens as teammates in working together with us to ensure we have a safe county to live in. They are our extra eyes and ears – and we acknowledge the important role they play in helping us.

We are active engagers in community outreach by providing information on setting up Neighborhood Watch groups; after my taking office, we set up the first-ever Sheriff’s Office website and Facebook page to provide information. Our website provides news releases and contact information for all divisions; it also includes an inmate lookup feature. Our deputies are assigned to beats, which allows them and the citizens in those areas to get to know each other. They’re out there talking to people and answering questions on a regular basis. We serve all areas of the county and we do our best to know every inch of it.

As a way of reaching out to our next generation, we maintain a thriving Explorer program, where our deputy advisors work with an outstanding group of young men and women who are considering making law enforcement their profession.

I feel absolutely blessed by the relationships we have cultivated these past seven years and I look forward to developing more of those relationships in the future. As your Sheriff’s Office, we are here to serve and will continue to provide our community with the most professional law enforcement agency possible as we work together to ensure Ellis County is a safe and secure place to make our home.

39) If elected, what are the factors on which you will base your decisions as Sheriff?

All of my decisions are based on review of all of the facts.

40) Why should voters choose you?

I am asking for the voters continued support because I am the best qualified candidate for this office. My training and years of service far exceed that of my opponent. I have successfully done this job for seven years and I look forward to serving another term as Ellis County Sheriff.