A Texas sheriff made good on his promise to take action after he was made aware of a video taken by PINAC reporter Phillip Turner showing a complaint audit fail at his department that we reported about on January 8.
After viewing the footage of his department’s complaint process, Bee County Sheriff Alden Southmayd III told Turner in a subsequent telephone conversation he was upset his department fell short and promised to make changes to try to correct some of the problems apparent in the video, including making complaint forms available in the front of the department, which he since has done.
“Everybody says I’m supposed to be upset,” Sheriff Southmayd told Turner in the recorded conversation on January 10, which can be heard in its entirety below.
“Well . . . I am upset. But I guess I’m upset that we fell short. You came by to check our system, and it didn’t work. So now we gotta fix that. So that opens our eyes that we may have problems elsewhere and we gotta fix that,” the sheriff candidly told Turner.
Southmayd, who was elected in November 2016, said he thinks some of the problems he saw might have to do with training.
“The dispatcher knows how to get your information for a complaint form. But does she really know in depth what your rights are and what her limits are?” he ponders in the conversation, adding he planned to find a solution to the problems.
“And again, we’re looking into this, we’re going to look into it a whole lot deeper. But, I think initially part of the problem we run into on our part may be a lack of training.”
The video shows a dispatcher named Liz becoming angry with Turner after he attempted to clarify if she needed his name, phone number and address in order to file the complaint.
But Texas law only requires the complaint to be signed by the person filing the complaint.
After Liz becomes frustrated, walks away from the window and sits down, two deputies come from behind the window to greet Turner, but a supervising deputy stymies his request to file a complaint against Liz, the dispatcher working the front desk, for how she handled the process.
“Buddy that’s her job,” the supervisor says.
Upon seeing the video, Southmayd emailed Turner complimenting his professionalism, expressing his respect, saying, “that is a noble and respectful endeavor, and I’ll say a needed one. You have certainly caused us to look at how we operate.”
“I welcome further communication to address these matters,” Southmayd communicated to Turner in the email.
Ten days later, that’s exactly what the sheriff did.
On Friday, Sheriff Southmayd wrote again to inform Turner about a few updates stating that Liz is no longer employed by the Bee County Sheriff’s Office and the supervising deputy seen in the video received disciplinary action in addition to training, although the sheriff stated he’d get back to us on the specific disciplinary action taken after researching whether or not he could comment on a personnel matter.
The sheriff also relayed his office conducted, and is still conducting, office-wide training to improve public service adding the department has since adopted a complaint form, which is now available in the office and in the process of being made available on the Bee County website.
“The video speaks for itself. I really believe what you’re doing is an honorable thing, these audits. And to be honest with you, I’ve never even heard of you before until yesterday when I was made aware of the video. I started doing a little research as far as looking at a lot of your videos. And I see some good and some bad interactions,” Southmayd conceded in the January 10 conversation.
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I think y’all are doing is basically going around and, we’re going to use the word ‘held accountable’, but really that we’re doing things right and that we’re treating people right and not violating anyone’s rights,” he observed.
“And with that in mind, that’s a good thing. We all need a reminder. We just got a good wake up call.”
Sheriff Southmayd stated he could have even more respect for Turner’s endeavors if it wasn’t for some of the language used in phone calls apparently made to the Beeville County Sheriff’s Office complaining about employees seen in the video.
“But what comes with it is . . . oh my gosh, are your followers. It’s good. You’re obviously popular, but I haven’t seen anything negative from you yet. The video; it’s not negative. It’s what it is. But as far as the comments, the phone calls, the threats, the language, I don’t see any of that from you, and I want to thank you for that.”
“I really believe I would respect what you’re doing even more if it weren’t for the actions of other people. I understand you can’t control them.”
Apparently, the video kept dispatchers busy fielding calls pertaining to complaints over the video.
“This has caused us a lot of problems. Our office has pretty much been, I’m not going to say shut down, but I’ll just say it’s been busy. We’re a small department; we have one dispatcher working.”
“The phone calls the threats, you know, I don’t condone that.”
Turner followed up reports from Southmayd about threats, which have not been confirmed by PINAC, with a video (seen below) asking his followers to tone down threats, and to keep language in criticisms non-threatening and non-violent.
Sheriff Southmayd said he realized Turner could not control the actions of his followers.
“My whole point is, what you’re doing, I applaud you for that.”
“We all need to step back and take stock. We were running a little slow on that, and you kind of sped the process up.”
Before contacting Turner, the sheriff researched several of his videos on his youtube channel TheBattousai.
“I hope it sounds sincere, because I mean it that way. I’ve watched a numerous [amount] of your videos. And what I’m seeing is you’re basically going and testing the system. I don’t care if it’s video or as far as filing a complaint. You know what you should be able to do, so you go up and ask ‘what is the procedure?'”
“And we should be able to give you that procedure. And it should be a very simple procedure. And when that doesn’t happen, then it raises the question of why isn’t it happening.”
And in this rare case where a sheriff swiftly took corrective action in spite of internal political pressures, Turner published a video encouraging PINAC readers and his youtube followers to consider changing their negative reviews on Facebook to reflect more positively on the department’s social media page, which can be found here.
Videos of the original encounter, as well as the updates along the way, are included below.