By Kris Smith
The evolution of the Navarro County Sheriff’s office decade has grown exponentially with the leadership of Sheriff Elmer Tanner and Chief Deputy Morris Steward.
Sheriff Tanner began his career with Chief Steward in 1989, after being hired by now retired Sheriff Jim Hodge, as detention officers just after the Navarro County Justice Center became operational.
The pair worked in the jail division while attending night classes at the Navarro College Police Academy, both earning their Master Peace Officer licensing. To say this pair began from the floor up, is an understatement.
Moving from corrections to patrol, Sheriff Tanner quickly earned the patrol sergeant position and promoted from there. In 2012, Tanner had attained the leadership role in the Navarro County Criminal Investigations Division as Captain. He also served as Captain in Narcotics, as well as the NCSO SWAT division.
After Sheriff Les Cotten announced his intention to retire in 2012, Tanner decided to throw his proverbial hat in the ring for the top position. After an arduous election, Sheriff Tanner was sworn into office with his friend and Chief Deputy Morris Steward at his six in January 2013.
Sheriff Tanner urges, “Our role is far different from other agencies. We are more than typical policing.” The NCSO has many divisions – from bailiffs at the courthouse, patrol, courthouse security, corrections, communications, just to name a few.
In the last decade, the technology Sheriff Tanner has added to all divisions at the Navarro County Sheriff’s Office is tremendous.
With the addition of www.ncsotx.org, the NCSO now has information at the public’s fingertips. “Technology is the key to the success of the sheriff’s department,” stated Tanner.
Press Releases from the sheriff as well as a link to the Texas Sex Offenders website is as available as the inmate roster. On the inmate roster, you can access the offender’s name, date of arrest, what they are charged with, how much their bond is, and even their current mug shot (if available).
For example, if an offender is under the influence and unable to stand for the photograph, it will be taken when they are able to sufficiently stand.
The communications division, led by Captain Melanie Cagle, is the front line first responders of the Navarro County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Tanner said, “We don’t always give enough credit to our dispatchers.” During last year’s horrific county wide spree/suicide in which dispatchers worked the entire event from it’s beginning in Corsicana. Through their diligent work, the communications divisions from both NCSO and Corsicana Police Department were able to shut down the vehicle to prevent any further loss of life.
Sheriff Tanner stated, “It takes a unique individual to be able to assist callers and law enforcement personnel, while being able to control their emotions during such an event.”
The NCSO Criminal Investigation Division, is composed of 6 detective Sergeants: Jeff Harbuck, Robbie Jock, Randy Clay, Kevin Scott, and Travis Thurston; CID Lieutenant Clint Andrews, and Captain Stan Farmer.
After a report is filed with NCSO, the CID launches their follow-up investigation, processing evidence, and ultimately preparing affidavits for arrest and search warrants. CID detectives are responsible for interviewing victims, witnesses, and suspects. Working hand in hand with the Navarro County District Attorney’s office, the CID detectives are sometimes called to court during jury trials, etc.
Cases handled by CID range from illegal drug activity, thefts, home and commercial burglaries, criminal mischief, to sexual assaults, and homicides. Sheriff Tanner reminds, “Information obtained from the public is also very valuable in all types of investigations. We encourage anyone with information about criminal activity, or any ongoing criminal investigations, to contact the Criminal Investigation Division.”
NCSO Patrol Division, managed by Captain Jeramy Phillips and Lieutenant Keith Lewis, are responsible for patrolling all roads in the county, ensuring the safety of the citizens of Navarro County. The NCSO Patrol Deputies are committed to providing the services to the community with honesty and integrity without bias or prejudice.
The NCSO Estrays Division is responsible for picking up and providing care for estraying livestock animals, prior to the Livestock/Estray Auction held for those animals not picked up by owners.
The NCSO jail division is led by Captain Charlie York and Lieutenant Robin Woodall. The jail has consecutively passed the Texas Jail Standards annual jail inspection, conducted each year. Sheriff Tanner stated in a press release, “Again as with years past, I give credit to all of the hard-working supervisors and employees of our Detention Division as it is not easy to keep up with the regulations and state mandates all while trying to consistently maintain a 34-year year facility.”
The NCSO jail division does not just house inmates arrested out in the county, but receives subjects from Corsicana, Rice, Richland, Blooming Grove, Dawson, and Kerens municipal police departments, while receiving no subsidies from those municipalities.
Once an inmate is booked into the Justice Center, the inmate becomes the absolute responsibility of the jail staff. The NCSO Detention Division typically house more than 250 inmates daily and those deputies are responsible for maintaining a healthy environment for those incarcerated at the Navarro County Justice Center.
Like the rest of the country, The Navarro County Sheriff’s Office is suffering through a staffing shortage. With 25 positions open at the NCSO, Sheriff Tanner encourages those interested in a career in law enforcement to apply. With other departments offering more competitive wages, Sheriff Tanner believes that has been the issue with former employees of the NCSO leaving for higher paying positions in other departments, some even 25-30 miles away.