Hewitt – In today's economy, where working men and women live close to the edge and the buck is always tight, part time jobs that pay as much as $30 per hour are hard to come by.
That's why working the McLennan County Courthouse metal detectors at that rate was a key issue among members of the Hewitt Police Association last night as they heard Parnell McNamara and Randy Plemons explain their positions on a laundry list of issues.
Over the course of this week, the association intends to vote to give their endorsement to one or the other of the GOP candidates vying for the nomination to replace retiring Sheriff Larry Lynch.
Since District Attorney Abel Reyna and the judges of the 19th and 54th Criminal District Courts doubled up on Grand Jury sessions at the first of the year, there are twice as many docket calls, plea and sentencing hearings that call for each courthouse visitor to be screened for deadly weapons and other prohibited items before they can enter the first floor controlled access point.
Many Hewitt Police Officers work part time screening visitors at the check point, dressed in the uniform of a Hewitt Patrolman.
There is an alarming rumor afoot among their ranks. It seems some people believe that if elected Sheriff, Parnell McNamara will replace the part timers from Hewitt with McLennan County Patrol Deputies and Corrections Officers.
These folks say the rumor came from the camp of Chief Deputy Randy Plemons.
But it's old news that Parnell McNamara, a retired U.S. Deputy Marshal, is already on record in previous discussions with other associations that since the Sheriff has the power to deputize certified peace officers as Deputy Sheriff's Officers, the issue could be easily cleared up through an adroit management technique at least a thousand years in the making from the forests of Nottingham to the blood-spattered plains of Europe.
As such, they would be seconded to the Sheriff's Office, dressed in the uniform of the McLennan County Sheriff's Office, while wearing the badge of their home agency.
Why is it such a crucial question?
Some folks are inclined to say it all comes down to the votes, but wiser heads insist it's all about the insurance – workers' compensation insurance.
Serving as a peace officer is dangerous work. One runs the risk of injury, inadvertent infection with dangerous sexually transmitted diseases in the case of bites or punctures, or assault while serving on such a high voltage assignment as Courthouse security.
One of the 5 constitutional duties prescribed for Texas Sheriff's Departments is providing courtroom security for jurists, prosecutors, the defense bar, defendants, plaintiffs, and spectators.
If a certified peace officer is injured on the job and not covered by McLennan County's workman's compensation insurance policy, the coverage would devolve to their home agency's carrier – but not without a protracted and bitter fight between lawyers armed with dueling word processors.
Someone is thinking ahead.
Naturally, security at the Hewitt VFW post was tight when The Legendary showed up to cover the story. A news source had offered assurances that the meeting was open to the public, but Officer John Tucker, president of the Hewitt Police Association, was quick to straighten out that misperception. He said whoever in Woodway's Public Safety Department said that is true was sadly mistaken. It was moment - albeit frostbitten and matter-of-fact.
We live and learn.
Officers said even the venerable Dean of McLennan County Courthouse reporters, Tommy Witherspoon of “The Waco Tribune-Herald,” had called ahead and had been denied access to the confidential and private endorsement meeting.
Somehow, it just doesn't bode well for he public's need to know all about the risks inherent with security, worker's compensation, and the expense of manning a high security screening checkpoint with part time employees from another agency.
One is denied access to even the most basic information regarding offenses and arrests – and all other matters pertaining to law enforcement.
What a pity.
The three-judge panel at San Antonio that has been studying the redistricting of Congressional District 25 just ruled the new multi-county territory that stretches from Hill County to Dripping Springs is constitutional and legal. That's a big story.
The Legendary is off the McLennan County Sheriff's race. Somehow, I don't think it will make a whole lot difference.
I always get my story, no matter who calls ahead to make discreet inquiries amongst the friendly natives.