The Gillespie County race for Sheriff is the only contested countywide race on the ballot ahead of the March 5 primary vote. The two candidates are profiled here through five questions with the League of Women Voters.
1. What do you think are the most important responsibilities of the Gillespie County Sheriff and what qualifications do you possess to meet those responsibilities?
Mills: As Sheriff you must possess the desire to help people, maintain the highest level of trust and approachability. Be able to combat crime on all levels within your county ensuring that local, state and federal laws are followed. My extensive training, supervisory and people skills in conjunction with 39 years of law enforcement experience enforcing laws have enabled me to effectively perform in my position as Sheriff.
Brooks: The most important responsibility is the safety of our schools and citizens. I have been fortunate to work alongside experienced local, State and Federal law enforcement officers throughout my career. This has allowed me to gain a vast amount of experience on a level much broader than a local level. I regularly conduct safety trainings for places of worship, office settings and schools. A ssisting community members in being prepared for emergency situations is extremely important.
2. What are your priorities for effective allocation of resources to meet ongoing public safety/law enforcement issues throughout Gillespie County i.e. drug use, alcohol related traffic accidents?
Mills: I have insured that our employees are professional, well trained, and service oriented. We use community oriented policing by applying the most advanced technology, cutting edge LE practices, continuous training and state of the art equipment. I provide all of this while staying well within my allotted annual budgets.
Brooks: I will attack the source of the current drug problem, while also partnering with community groups to educate the public on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Utilizing my experience working narcotic investigations on the local, State and Federal levels, I will restrict the flow of drugs into our community.
3. With the ongoing threats of mass shootings in schools, churches and public spaces, what plan(s) do you have to better prepare both officers and targeted areas for this potential?
Mills: All officers are expected to and fully supported by me, to be ready to combat any crime anywhere anytime. We have extensive involvement with schools, churches and large mass gathering events. We have provided LE knowledge, training, engagement in tactical scenarios and set up plans to assist in mass shootings. Active shooter training, techniques and practices for hardening these targets have been established, and are in place.
Brooks: I currently conduct safety trainings for places of worship, office settings and schools to assist them in preparing for situations such as these. I will continue to train with school resource officers, school marshals, school staff as well as Fire and EMS personnel to prepare a plan if such incidents do occur. I will seek out grant possibilities to assist schools with funding for equipment used to protect the children and staff.
4. What is the latest technology for officer safety and accountability and what do you see as a priority for Gillespie County?
Mills: Safety vest with ballistic armor and helmets are issued. All patrol vehicles are equipped with Watch Guard systems for recording all vehicle stops, also issued are body worn cameras. I have also issued the
same body worn cameras to the detention officers in the jail. We are totally accountable to the citizens of Gillespie County. I always have and will continue to operate this office with an open-door policy for transparency and accountability.
Brooks: From my understanding Gillespie County currently employs Computer Aided Dispatch technology. If the software does not currently provide deputy accountability, I would seek out software to address this issue. Software that includes GPS availability as well as speech recognition technology would be beneficial to assist with the safety and accountability of Deputies. I would also provide officer safety training to Deputies utilizing the most current and advanced technology available.
5. What trainings do you have and/or propose to deal with mental health issues which come under law enforcement purview?
Mills: For years I have received training courses on how to address mental health issues in LE and over the last ten years in jail settings. I work with our local and regional mental health providers. Tela-Med station is provided where inmates can be connected to mental health providers.
Brooks: I would immediately begin scheduling Deputies to attend a Mental Health Peace Officer Course to become certified in this area. Understanding mental health issues is essential to the Deputy’s safety and the safety of any person they encounter. I would also reach out to community members and encourage anyone who has children or family members with mental health issues to notify the Sheriff’s office so we are aware prior to responding to a location.