Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Happy Independence Day!

This year is truly special as we celebrate our independence as a nation and cherish this important holiday, together as neighbors and a community. We can take in this year’s Fourth of July festivities with traditional cookouts, fireworks, and get-togethers, marking not only our freedom as a nation but the beginning of our freedom from the virus.

For many, Independence Day represents the birth of our great nation, equality, democracy, and community. It’s a time to reflect on our nation’s history and everything it stands for. It is a picture of who we are and what we strive to become.

We hold this holiday near and dear to our hearts. It marks the day America launched a bold experiment, testing the ideal that the best government derives its power from the people — a country rooted in the belief that everyone here is created equal and that everyone has fundamental rights. We must remember our founding principles and put them front and center as we face today’s challenges.

Celebrating Responsibly

Drunk driving continues to be a scourge on our community, destroying lives and devastating families. Most of us know someone who has been personally impacted by drunk driving.

We are committed to making a meaningful change on our roadways through joint efforts and multi-pronged approaches that include extra enforcement and public awareness campaigns.

Our DWI Unit and Traffic Crimes Unit joined forces ahead of the Fourth of July weekend to conduct a nearly week-long traffic enforcement initiative aimed at curbing impaired driving and illegal street racing offenses across Harris County.

Additionally, our Patrol District III deputies are participating in a multi-agency DWI initiative over the weekend with several public safety partners. Drivers suspected of being impaired will be subject to field sobriety tests and no-refusal blood draws. The District Attorney’s Office will be available to fast-track the process of prosecuting a drunk driver.

Let’s rally together and do our part to put an end to drunk driving. Designate a sober driver, call a taxi or rideshare service, use public transit, or arrange for someone you trust to pick you up. Report drunk drivers to law enforcement officials immediately.

Every single injury and loss of life caused by drunk driving is preventable.

Have a fun filled and safe Fourth of July holiday weekend with your loved ones. Happy Independence Day!

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Our Telehealth Program Receives International Recognition

Our Clinician and Officer Remote Evaluation (CORE) telehealth program — which provides our patrol deputies with in-hand access to a behavioral health clinician via an iPad — received the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Michael Shanahan Leadership in Public/Private Cooperation Award. The award recognizes partnerships between law enforcement agencies and private industries that have collaborated to build community trust and enhance public safety.

Launched in 2017 with an eye toward the future, our CORE program has been a game-changer. This partnership with The Harris Center started as a pilot program with three deputies and has since become the largest of its kind in the nation with 250 trained deputies across Harris County. Deputies can connect with a clinician within five minutes for support on mental health calls. Since its launch, several partners have been involved in its success: JSA Telehealth, Cloud 9, Verizon Wireless, Arnold Ventures, University of Houston-Downtown, and The Harris Center.

Last month’s issue of IACP’s Police Chief Magazine, Telehealth Solution for Mental Health Calls, included program highlights from an evaluation funded by Arnold Ventures and conducted by the University of Houston-Downtown. Our agency is the liaison for the CORE program in our county, with seven constable offices on board along with other jurisdictions joining the program.

We were the first law enforcement agency in the nation to pilot a telepsychiatry program for patrol deputies. It evolved into using masters-level clinicians instead of psychiatrists. Please visit our site for more information about our CORE program. Please remember, if you are in a mental health crisis, know that you’re not alone. Help is always available. Call 911 or 713-221-6000.

National Safety Month

We are wrapping up National Safety Month. For the past several weeks we have been addressing concerns we have every summer: water safety, kids in hot cars, pets and heat, and hurricane preparedness.

Water Safety

Summertime is when families plan vacations, staycations, and excursions to the pool, beach, and water parks. Drownings and heat stroke are often the last things on people’s minds while having fun in the sun, but they pose a real threat.

These simple steps from printable parents implemented into your family’s routine could save a life:

  • Do not be overconfident around water. It only takes seconds for someone to drown. Know that any depth of water is dangerous.
  • Place barriers around the water.
  • Watch your kids closely and always have a responsible designated adult to watch them while in the water.
  • Use floaties and life jackets.
  • Learn water rescue skills and CPR.
  • Take formal swim lessons.

Look Before You Lock

Hot cars can kill. Do not leave kids or pets inside a hot vehicle for any amount of time. Vehicles can quickly heat 20 degrees in only 10 minutes. Nearly 44% of vehicle heatstroke deaths occur because the caregiver left the child in the car unintentionally. Nearly 30% of deaths occur because a caregiver intentionally left the child. For more tips and facts, visit Wheresbaby.org.

We have created a vehicle flyer to remind you to check your backseat. Download the flyer and place it in your car as a daily reminder.

Pets and Heat

We have touched on hot cars being potentially deadly for pets but there are other safety concerns to look out for during the summer:

  • Watch the humidity. It is common for heat indices to be more than 100 degrees.
  • Limit exercises on hot days and check how hot the asphalt is.
  • Do not rely on a fan to provide adequate relief from the heat. Provide ample shade and water if your dog is outside for a time playing or exercising.
  • Watch what your pet eats and drinks at barbeques and pool parties. Many foods and drinks can be poisonous to pets.
  • Watch for signs of heatstroke and know how to treat a pet suffering from it.
  • For a full list of hot weather pet safety tips, check out the ASPCA.

Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane season is here through the end of November. Houstonians know better than to disregard warnings. However, many people are still not proactive and currently do not have a hurricane supply kit ready to go. When a disturbance is brewing in the Gulf there is always the inevitable rush to stock up on water and supplies. Instead of panicking and making last-minute preparations, we ask that you put together a hurricane supply kit and plan for your family now and not wait for the next tropical system to pop up in the Gulf.

The Houston Office of Emergency Management has a great preparedness guide that has suggestions for your custom hurricane supply kit.

Thank you to all of our readers who pause every week to see what our agency is doing for the residents of our county. We value your support. Let’s work together to have a safe, happy, and memorable summer.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – End of Watch Ride to Remember

Motorcycle riders and a memorial trailer pulled into the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Training Academy parking lot on Thursday to pay tribute to our fallen peace officers who lost their lives in the line of duty last year: Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski, Deputy Juan Menchaca, Deputy Johnny Tunches, and Honorary Deputy Cornelius Anderson.

Beyond the Call of Duty, a nonprofit organization founded by a former deputy sheriff to support the families and communities of fallen first responders, is traveling more than 22,000 miles across the nation as part of its End of Watch Ride to Remember campaign. The national touring memorial visits departments where law enforcement personnel died in the line of duty.

Founder Jagrut Shah says the group’s mission is to show departments and families they are not alone – and will never be forgotten. It’s named after the last radio call made by a dispatcher to a fallen peace officer. Surviving officers or deputies in that department hear the call and observe a moment of silence in remembrance of the fallen.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski
End of Watch | 5/6/2020

On May 6, 2020, Sgt. Raymond Scholwinski passed away from COVID-19 complications. He is the first Sheriff’s Office employee to die after contracting the virus.

Sgt. Scholwinski began his service with the Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy in 1979, serving for 14 years before becoming a full-time detention officer in 1993. From there, the 39-year agency veteran worked his way to patrol where he served until his final days. His last assignment was as the Day Watch Contract Sergeant in District II.

He is survived by his wife, Rynda, and four adult children. Sgt. Scholwinski was the 46th member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to die in the line of duty.

Deputy Juan Menchaca
End of Watch | 6/13/2020

On June 13, 2020, Deputy Juan Menchaca passed away from COVID-19 complications.

Deputy Menchaca was a 14-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office. His last assignment was the courts’ division. He began his law enforcement career with the Nacogdoches Police Department and later served 18 years as a Texas parole officer.

Deputy Menchaca was born to protect and serve. He and his wife, Melissa, had seven children. Deputy Menchaca was the 47th member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to die in the line of duty.

Honorary Deputy Cornelius Anderson
End of Watch | 7/12/2020

On July 10, 2020, Cornelius Anderson was completing his first week of training as a cadet in the Basic Peace Officer’s Course when he experienced a medical emergency that tragically took his life two days later on Sunday, July 12, 2020.

Cornelius Anderson joined the Sheriff’s Office in June 2019 as a detention officer with aspirations of dedicating his life to protecting and serving our communities. The Sheriff’s Office posthumously named him an honorary deputy at his memorial service.

Honorary Deputy Anderson was the 48th member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to die in the line of duty.

Deputy Johnny Tunches
End of Watch | 11/2/2020

On November 2, 2020, Deputy Johnny Tunches passed away from COVID-19 complications. Deputy Tunches was a 29-year veteran of the agency who was assigned to Patrol District 2 in northeast Harris County as a Contract Deputy for the Timber Hills neighborhood.

He was a proud U.S. Navy veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm. Deputy Tunches began his public service career in 1991 at a former detention center in the Atascocita area.

His brother, Randy, retired with the Sheriff’s Office as a Lieutenant. He is survived by his wife and three daughters. Deputy Tunches is the 49th member of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to die in the line of duty.

The trailer departed from Washington State on May 28. For 84 days, six riders will lead a trailer covered in photos of the 329 peace officers and law enforcement personnel who died while serving their communities in 2020. The long journey is a solemn reminder that behind each picture displayed on the trailer – and each stop – are family members, teammates, and a community. They were husbands and wives, sons and daughters, partners and public servants, mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters.

We’re grateful for the coordinators of the End of Watch Ride to Remember campaign for their strong commitment to honor each of those lives on the memorial trailer. This gives our deputies and teammates another chance to reflect on their legacy.

To learn more about our fallen heroes, please visit our Sheriff’s Office Memorial Site. And to see all of the communities the End of Watch Ride will be visiting this year, visit the organization’s website.

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Message from Sheriff Ed Gonzalez – Working Together

Last week, we launched a workforce development program in collaboration with Harris County Precinct 2 and Career and Recovery Resources, Inc. that supports those experiencing homelessness in east Harris County.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, nearly 4,000 people in the Houston area are experiencing homelessness. This innovative partnership – rooted in community development – empowers our most vulnerable neighbors with the tools, skills, and support to help them overcome barriers to success. It connects program participants to affordable housing, employment resources, and other critical services through Career and Recovery Resources, Inc. It also allows them to earn an income by completing community development projects.

Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s Office funded the six-month pilot program, which actively recruits participants and provides them with transportation, meals throughout the workday, personal protective equipment, and the necessary training and tools to properly remove graffiti from bridges, roads, and buildings. Weather permitting, participants will have the chance to work on a first come, first served basis Monday through Thursday for about $50 a day.

Our Homeless Outreach Team deputies are in the community doing all they can to help those without housing. We have dedicated Deputy Medina to the program to coordinate with our partners on worksite locations, crew schedules, transportation needs, and other important logistics. He is serving as the program lead.

On the first day of the program, participants removed 28 graffiti tags at four different locations in east Harris County.

Graffiti Abatement

Large Signal Box at 16931 Eastex Frwy
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Asian Food Company at 14215 Eastex Frwy
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Abandoned Building at 13111 Eastex Frwy
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Their work continued this week in the Channelview and Cloverleaf areas and will eventually expand to other quality-of-life and community beautification projects in east Harris County, such as removing trash from illegal dumping and maintaining clean parks.

On Thursday, participants started their day with warm showers and fresh clothes at Hope Center Houston before attending a Resource Day at Career and Recovery Resources, Inc. There, staff and volunteers shared more information about their comprehensive services, which range from job training to counseling and peer support. Participants also received on-site health screenings from UTMB Health and assistance applying for a Texas Identification Card and Harris Health’s Gold Card, a lifeline for affordable medications and clinic visits.

Homelessness is among the most important, complex issues facing our criminal justice system today. We must work together to address these issues through multi-faceted strategies and compassion.

This workforce development program is an example of community policing and what can be accomplished when law enforcement agencies and the community come together.

We are proud to be part of this collaborative approach setting a viable path forward for those experiencing homelessness. Although our partner agencies have different missions, we’re all united around the call to serve our most vulnerable neighbors and keep everyone safe.

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