Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Celebrating Our Differences

During the month of April, hundreds of our sworn personnel will proudly wear a commemorative blue badge on their uniform that prominently features the autism awareness puzzle piece to bring attention to Autism Spectrum Disorder and to support those living with it.

We are in our communities across Harris County every day, and this is a small way to send a big message: We’re here to serve all residents with compassion and understanding.

The distinctive light blue badge with the puzzle piece emblem and engraved words “Help Create a Kinder World” reinforces our promise to do all we can to improve our interactions with residents, including those with a developmental disability or those experiencing a mental health or emotional crisis. It serves as a reminder to residents of what we can accomplish together.

This is the first year of the Blue Badges for Autism Awareness program and the Sheriff’s Office ordered 734 commemorative badges, more than any other law enforcement agency in the nation!

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 54 children has autism. Just this year, deputies responded to more than 1,370 calls for service with a mental health component. Many of those calls involved a person with autism.

Last fall, we launched a new initiative called Project Guardian to help our deputies minimize stress by alerting them in advance that they’re about to interact with a person on the autism spectrum.

The initiative is one of many innovative mental health and outreach programs supporting our patrol deputies and making our neighborhoods better places to live.

A simple interaction with law enforcement could be a traumatic situation for a person with autism. Project Guardian encourages families or caregivers to provide a photo of their loved one and their interests or characteristics, such as whether the person is sensitive to loud noises or finds bright lights upsetting.

The online registry is free and equips deputies with critical information on a person’s special needs and proven calming methods. Families are also given a Project Guardian decal to display on a front window to quickly alert deputies someone is enrolled in the program.

Project Guardian and Project Lifesaver Coordinator Deputy Schubert

For Deputy Schubert, the most rewarding part of her job is speaking with and meeting families. “They all express how grateful they are that we truly care about their loved ones’ well-being,” she said. “Family members share their realistic fears of their child being misunderstood for their actions. A mother once told me, ‘I want people to know that there is more of my son than what meets the eye.’”

Since its launch, we’ve enrolled over 100 participants in the program. Our team follows up on incident reports mentioning autism, informing families of the potential for Project Guardian to be life-changing.

We’ve also helped our friends at Katy Police Department roll out Project Guardian to help individuals with autism in their area. Our Behavioral Health Training Unit shared their experiences and recommendations on how to design a program that is right for their community. We’re talking to other area law enforcement agencies about implementation.

We can’t do this alone. We work closely with advocacy groups, nonprofits, and mental health care centers, such as The Harris Center, NAMI Greater Houston, The Menninger Clinic, Autism Speaks, and Autism Moms of Houston. We’re always learning more about how persons with autism may react or shut down and continue to build on our crucial crisis intervention and de-escalation training.

We encourage you to come together to create a more inclusive community that celebrates our differences.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Celebrating Our Women in Blue

In honor of Women’s History Month, join me in celebrating the remarkable women in our agency who have dedicated their lives to serving others.

These women pursued careers in law enforcement for various reasons – many wanted to make a meaningful impact in the very community where they lived, to work toward building trust between peace officers and neighbors, and for their sheriff’s office to be as diverse as Harris County.

They don’t all wear our uniforms. They’re not all in the same division or do the same job. They work in all areas of our agency but have the same passion and drive for our mission. Whether on the front lines or behind-the-scenes, the work they do every day, individually and collectively, is important and helps make our neighborhoods a better, safer place.

At a time when our communities are growing more diverse, residents must meet deputies and police officers who look like them, who understand their community’s needs and challenges, and who share their experiences and perspectives.

We’re highlighting only a couple of the women who are taking us to new heights and leading us into a new era of policing rooted in partnerships, innovative strategies and approaches, data analysis, and proven training.

Meet Patrol Bureau Major Susan Cotter

Major Cotter oversees the largest and most visible component of the agency often tasked with providing the initial response to calls for service.

She joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1991 as a certified jailer. She has since served in several roles, including a juvenile probation drill instructor, patrol deputy, accident investigator, auto theft investigator, drug recognition expert instructor, and standardized field sobriety testing instructor.

Major Cotter’s passion for safe roadways has set the bar in traffic enforcement. She’s had a big impact in the fight against preventable crashes and deaths throughout her public service career.

Major Cotter speaks with urgency about the need for law enforcement to be in the community interacting with residents about the day-to-day happenings in their neighborhoods. She still enjoys being in a patrol vehicle and responding to scenes.

Meet Detention Support Services Bureau Major Eleanor Jones

Major Jones joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1989 as a certified jailer. She has since held many roles and assignments, including Motorist Assistance Program deputy, narcotics investigator, homicide detective, shift and unit supervisor, and division commander.

Major Jones now oversees a broad number of critical support functions that are an integral part of the Criminal Justice Command and serve the more than 8,000 incarcerated persons in our care. This bureau provides detainees with food, transportation to medical care, proper sanitation conditions for personal hygiene, clergy visitations, access to legal resources, and literacy and rehabilitation programs.

She understands the importance of investing in people to reach their full potential. These programs, resources, and opportunities empower people with the tools, skills, and support to be successful when returning to their communities.

Our women in blue are showing our young girls and future leaders that they, too, can succeed as a patrol deputy, investigator, detention officer, crime analyst, dispatcher, victim advocate, command staff member, or as any of the other essential roles throughout our agency. They have given the next generation a chance to see themselves in them and feel empowered to chart their own course.

Communities need more women in law enforcement. We’re seeking diverse perspectives and want to hire and promote those who embody our core values. If you’re looking to make a difference, learn more about our career opportunities here.

This month is a moment for us to pause and honor the hardworking women in our agency. We’re grateful for their daily dedication, countless contributions, and commitment to our profession.

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