FROM STAFF REPORTSFormer Hays County Sheriff Tommy Ratliff (R-Kyle) — running to regain the office he lost in 2010 — had the stage to himself at the Hays County League of Women Voters’ primary candidate debate on Feb. 8.
Incumbent sheriff Gary Cutler (R-Driftwood) did not attend the forum, leaving his Republican Party primary opponent to speak without interruption or fear of contradiction. The winner of the GOP race faces former state trooper Rodrigo Amaya (D-Kyle) in the Nov. 8 general election.
Ratliff and Cutler answered questions for the Austin Area League of Women Voters’ primary voters guide:
Gary Cutler (R-Driftwood)
Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Sam Houston State University; Masters and instructors certificates, Texas Commission On Law Enforcement
Experience: Hays County Sheriff, 2010-present; Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, 2004-2010; Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, 2001-2004; Travis County Sheriff’s Office 1974-2000
Tommy Ratliff (R-Kyle)
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Texas State University.
Experience: 35 years law enforcement experience. 33 years with the Texas Department of Public Safety, including 21 years as a Texas Ranger. Two years as Hays County Sheriff.
Q: How does the Sheriff’s office work with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and what improvements or changes, if any, will you make?
Cutler: Typically, our inmate population does not regularly meet Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) criteria, so I do not see any changes in the near future. This being said, I will stay fluid and make changes only if warranted. I enjoy a positive and professional working relationship with ICE as I do with all law enforcement agencies.
Ratliff: While I was the Sheriff of Hays County we worked with ICE on a regular basis regarding inmates housed in the Hays County Jail that admitted to being illegal in the country. Once confirmed we held the inmates until ICE made arrangements to move them. The process worked well. We had a good working relationship.
Q: How will you train officers to deal with diverse populations, including those with mental issues and the transgendered?
Cutler: Officers receive continuing education in the areas of mental health and cultural diversity as mandated by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement. Usually, deputies encounter people and make the proper assessments in the field and alternatives other than jail are located for those in need. When jail is the last resort, we have mental health professionals, housing and psychiatric treatment strategies in place for safe and humane incarceration.
Ratliff: While I was the sheriff the deputies and jail personnel underwent continuous education in diversity training. At that time there was no specialty training for transgendered, however I did then and would expect now that they arebe treated fairly under the law and with dignity like any other citizen. We also had a full time mental health unit that responded as needed across Hays County.
Q: What measures or programs do you propose to reduce crime in our community?
Cutler: I encourage proactive measures in the use of technology to not only deter and solve crimes but to communicate with our citizens in Hays County. We use mass communications during law enforcement operations to keep our citizens safe. We have implemented programs using modern technology to locate fugitives, stolen property, and registered sex offenders. We will continue to research and evaluate options to improve and develop programs.
Ratliff: If elected I would restart the critical programs I had initiated when I was the Sheriff that Gary Cutler disbanded shortly after he became the Sheriff.. This included the drug and burglary interdiction units that had such great success across Hays County. I would also be more proactive with the Sheriffs Office Facebook account that I implemented, in informing and educating the public on criminal activity across Hays County.