Feature Stories from the Sheriff's Office

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gas plant scenario



Human trafficking

La Salle Fire Rescue & EMS Chief Daniel Mendez, Cotulla ISD Superintendent Dr. Jack Seals and Texas Highway Patrol Sgt. JD Rodriguez are heads of the La Salle County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)

Approving bylaws, establishing committees...

Emergency planners cover response times, training, communication

By Marc Robertson
Members of the La Salle County Local Emergency Planning Committee met at noon Wednesday, November 17 in the Larry Griffin Emergency Operations Center to agree on new meeting groups, receive updates on training and reinforce communications between responders and the energy industry.

The LEPC has been meeting quarterly for the past year to establish stronger ties between the oil and gas industries and local government, fire and law enforcement, medical and community services, to coordinate efforts in the event of a disaster or an incident affecting the health and safety of South Texas residents, infrastructure and environment. The organization’s chairman is Cotulla ISD Superintendent Dr. Jack Seals; vice chairman is Texas Highway Patrol Sgt. JD Rodriguez. La Salle County Fire Rescue & EMS Chief Daniel Mendez is the secretary/treasurer. Reporting and scheduling is handled by Jeanette Ramirez for Supt. Seals at Cotulla ISD Central Office.

In a brief presentation to the committee at its recent meeting, Soteria Solutions representative Michelle Joseph said she believes continuing education is vital to the organization’s development and success, and reiterated that those who attend LEPC meetings will garner “nuggets of information” that will contribute to a greater understanding of the purpose of the organization and its capabilities.
Attendees were reminded of the reasons for the establishment of emergency planning committees and the organizations that led to the creation of incident management systems, namely the 1984 leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, which resulted in the deaths of thousands living in a community downwind of the facility. The Bhopal incident and others in the same decade, Joseph said, threw light on a need for improved communication between industries and emergency responders, and the drafting of comprehensive plans for response in any incident, particularly those involving hazardous chemicals.

Creation of LEPCs across the country has been mandated by law; La Salle County falls within its eponymous district and is part of a regional emergency response organization. Each committee receives updates on technology, communication systems, training, grant funding for new equipment used by responders, and word from the schools and communities that will be affected in the event of a disaster or other form of emergency. Mass evacuation, monitoring of conditions, accurate reporting to the media, public advisories, safe response and preparedness for hazardous materials, and identification of all threats are key topics of discussion by LEPC members while separate committees specializing in specific areas of expertise focus on pinpointing assets and capabilities.

All members of an LEPC should encourage their agencies to attend training courses on hazardous materials, Joseph said; education opportunities are being coordinated by Fire Chief Mendez. Tabletop drills and mock scenarios, she added, are often vital in promoting a better understanding of an emergency response on a minute-by-minute basis.

An emergency plan reviewed by the LEPC should include critical information on how to respond to specific hazards, Joseph said, and may be the plan already established by a city or county if it meets the guidelines laid down by the state. All emergency plans, she added, should also include identification of evacuation and supply routes – road, rail and air – and designate an emergency coordinator. Identification of all equipment available to responders in the event of an

"You have to prepare for all hazards...
A good example of that was Hurricane Harvey, which was definitely a threat to pipelines and chemicals"
- Michelle Joseph
Soteria Solutions

emergency will be critical, she said, as well as communication with other jurisdictions whose
responders may assist and must be adequately trained in hazardous materials and other threats.

“You have to prepare for all hazards,” Joseph said. “A good example of that was Hurricane Harvey, which was definitely a threat to pipelines and chemicals.”

“Six thousand people came to La Salle County from the coast at that time,” Chief Mendez said of the storm that swept the Gulf Coast at the end of August, coincidentally within days of the quarterly LEPC meeting. “They should have gone to San Antonio, but they came here. Companies immediately stepped up to the call by freeing up rooms they had booked at local hotels, so a lot of evacuees were accommodated.

“We also have to keep the roads clear in the event of an emergency, and that includes an incident like Hurricane Harvey,” the fire chief added. “We were able to do this as a direct result of having coordinated our resources and discussed this type of response at these LEPC meetings.”

Committee members went on to approve the creation of state-mandated standing committees encompassing the various branches of an emergency response network and incorporating the former locally developed committees that represented government, law enforcement, industry, technology, healthcare, the media, and community groups. Only four committees are required for an LEPC but include key players from a range of industry, responder, government and community groups. Committees approved by the membership on Nov. 15 include right to know, public education and information, hazardous materials facility liaison, and emergency response and resources.

Those attending on Nov. 15 also approved the LEPCs bylaws, which were drafted based on state standards.

Local committee reports were submitted to the organization, covering the period from August to November, and included comments by Fire Chief Mendez on the number of calls his firefighters and medics have responded to in recent weeks as well as the accomplishment of a goal he had set for the department, namely to log a response time of less than five minutes. Mendez also noted that the department has taken delivery of a new ladder truck that will give responders access to all structures in the county – including multistory hotels – and that the vehicle’s deployment is expected to help lower the county’s ISO rating, meaning a decrease in property insurance rates for home and business owners because of the fire department’s increased capability.

Mendez noted that a small number of seats remain available in a four-day training course on advanced-level incident command, December 19-22.

The La Salle County LEPC will hold its next meeting in the Emergency Operations Center at noon on February 21. Lunch was provided at the Nov. 15 meeting courtesy of Orozco's Crane & Towing.  

Honoring our Veterans

La Salle County Sheriff's Office salutes its personnel
who served their country in the armed forces

By Marc Robertson
In advance of Veterans Day this year, the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office is recognizing its law enforcement personnel who served the United States in the armed forces, including active duty in conflicts overseas and in peacetime.

The following sheriff’s officers are US armed forces veterans:

Deputy Jose Avila – Lance Corporal, US Marine Corps; two years of service.

Lieutenant Michael Lynn Bostwick – Master Sergeant, US Army Special Forces, Army Rangers; 21 years of service; Vietnam (three tours), Dominican Republic, Grenada.

Deputy & Court Bailiff Eddie DeLeon - Specialist E4, US Army; three years of service; Korean border Demilitarized Zone.

Deputy Rolando Flores - Staff Sergeant, US Army; 15 years of service; Korean border Demilitarized Zone (two tours), Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq (two tours), Afghanistan.

Sgt. Rickey Galvan – Master Sergeant, US Marine Corps; 21 years on active duty, Pacific Islands; nine years in reserves.

Capt. Jose D. Garcia Jr. – Specialist E4, US Army; four years of service; West Germany.

Deputy Julian Lopez – Specialist, US Army; four years of service, currently in US National Guard; US Army paratrooper, Alaska.

“We are grateful to all those who have served their country in times of war and peace and who have helped defend the liberties we enjoy as Americans,” Sheriff Rodriguez said. “As a law enforcement community, we are proud of the discipline, high standards of duty and dedication to service that our officers have demonstrated in their careers, and as a community we are indebted to those who have answered the call to stand in the face of danger and protect our American values from all enemies, for the sake of their homeland and for the American people.”

It's been a pink month...

Emergency responders promote cancer awareness with color

La Salle County firefighters, medics and other emergency responders have made a visible statement of support for this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October by wearing bright pink shirts on the job each day.

The project was funded by the county and approved by the commissioners’ court as part of the nationwide ‘Real Men Wear Pink’ awareness campaign for the American Cancer Society. La Salle County’s shirts this year featured the fire and rescue service’s logo and distinctive cobra-themed ‘strike back against breast cancer’ artwork.

The brightly colored shirts are designed to attract attention to the need for increased awareness of cancer intervention and the need for a cure; American Cancer Society representatives have pushed for increased publicity in 2017 and accomplished it by garnering the support of local governments, law enforcement, firefighters, medics, schools, and community groups.

"I'm proud of our fire department for taking part in the ‘Real Men Wear Pink’ campaign and excited to see so many leaders across the country do the same," La Salle County Judge Joel Rodriguez said. “Our county commissioners’ court was happy the county could purchase the pink t-shirts to allow the Fire Rescue & EMS team to promote breast cancer awareness.”

The American Cancer Society reports that an estimated 252,710 people across the country will have been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 alone. In addition, 2,407 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year. The society also reports that it believes huge strides have been made towards better treatment and finding a cure. Breast cancer death rates have declined by 38 percent from a peak in 1989 to 2014, representing 297,300 fewer breast cancer deaths today.

In addition to community and business leaders who support the American Cancer Society in its efforts to diminish the pain and suffering of breast cancer, communities across the country united in ‘Making Strides Against Breast Cancer’ events during October.

The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of nearly two million volunteers dedicated to saving lives, celebrating lives, and leading the fight for a world without cancer. From breakthrough research, to free lodging near treatment, a 24/7/365 live helpline, free rides to treatment, and convening powerful activists to create awareness and impact, the society reports that it is the only organization attacking cancer from every angle. For more information, go to www.cancer.org.

"Sheriff's Office immediately
stepped forward..."

Houston DEA office thanks
La Salle for hurricane aid

La Salle County Sheriff
Miguel Rodriguez and
Chief Deputy Earl Heath receive the gift of a Houston skyline art print from the
Drug Enforcement Administration for the county law enforcement agency's assistance to Gulf Coast law enforcement after
Hurricane Harvey.
By Marc Robertson
The Houston Division of the US Drug Enforcement Administration has extended its thanks to the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office this month for support and manpower provided in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which wrought devastation to the Gulf Coast in late August.

Presenting an art print of the downtown Houston skyline to Sheriff Miguel Rodriguez, DEA Special Agent in Charge Will Glaspy noted in a letter that he and his staff appreciate the La Salle County support on behalf of the officers and residents of the regions affected by the hurricane, noting that he believes the sheriff and his officers exhibited charity and goodwill at Houston’s time of need.

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 26 near Rockport as a Category 4 storm, the first to strike Texas since 2008 and the strongest since 1961. Over a short period of time, the hurricane devastated the Corpus Christi, Houston, Galveston and Beaumont areas as well as several small towns and cities in the coastal region, destroying critical infrastructure and hindering emergency services and law enforcement.

“At one point, more than seventy percent of Harris County was under eighteen inches of water,” Glaspy noted in his letter to Sheriff Rodriguez, “over 40,000 individuals were displaced in shelters across the state, and 190,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a report in the aftermath of the storm showing that Hurricane Harvey had caused estimated damages of as much as $180 billion, making it the second most expensive natural disaster in US history.

“Hurricane Harvey severely affected a number of Houston Division families, including DEA employees, Task Force officers, and contractors,” Glaspy wrote. “As word of the damage spread, the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office immediately stepped forward to gather and send critical supplies. These thoughtful and direct actions exemplify who we are in law enforcement and how we take care of each other.”

Sheriff Rodriguez and his staff dispatched funds and equipment to the affected law enforcement agency in an effort to offset the urgent need among Houston officers who continued striving to do their duty and to maintain law and order in the wake of the storm. At the same time, officers and community volunteers gathered donations of food and housewares to transport directly to the families in the affected area and to provide assistance in the clean-up.

“There are times in our life when the words ‘thank you’ are just not enough,” the DEA special agent in charge wrote in accompaniment to the gift, “when someone goes the extra mile or is there for you without being asked. It is with our deepest gratitude that I send you this gift in recognition of the honorable service that the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office provided to the families of the Houston Division.”

Sheriff Rodriguez was joined by Chief Deputy Earl Heath in expressing continued support for law enforcement officers working through natural disasters and other emergencies.

“We often forget that the first line of support, the first line of defense and the first call from residents in a seriously affected area is the law enforcement officers who are responsible for protecting the innocent, the victims and the needy,” Sheriff Rodriguez said. “When we learned of the many ways that help was needed after this devastating storm, we knew immediately that there were going to be many officers who would be called on to continue their duty and to accomplish great feats in the face of extraordinary hardship.”  
PROCLAMATION for October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month was made in La Salle County on Tuesday, October 3, by La Salle County Judge Joel Rodriguez with Commissioners Raul Ayala, Erasmo Ramirez Jr., Jack Alba and Noel Niavez; Wintergarden Women’s Shelter Executive Director Erica Bustamante, Program Coordinator and Shelter Manager Zee Flores, and Sexual Assault Primary Prevention Facilitator Aricelia Cruz; Victims’ Advocate Rosario Morales; Justice of the Peace Frank Weikel; Constable Guy Megliorino; La Salle Fire Rescue & EMS Chief Daniel Mendez and Head of Department Don Smith; and Tax Assessor Dora Gonzales and Treasurer Thelma Trevino.

County supports Domestic Violence Awareness Month with proclamation

By Marc Robertson
La Salle County Judge Joel Rodriguez and county commissioners were joined by representatives of the Wintergarden Women’s Shelter, law enforcement and community activists Tuesday, October 3, in proclaiming Domestic Violence Awareness Month and promoting education and intervention.

Addressing an audience in commissioners’ court Tuesday afternoon, the county judge read from his proclamation and encouraged all citizens to take action in helping put an end to violence and abuse in the home.

“The crime of domestic violence violates an individual's privacy and dignity, security and humanity,” the county judge said, “due to systematic use of physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and economic control and abuse, including abuse to children and the elderly.”

According to the Wintergarden Women’s Shelter, domestic violence is not confined to any one group of people but is “spread across all economic, racial and societal barriers, which are supported by societal indifferences.”

The impact of domestic violence is wide ranging, the judge said, and directly affects individuals and society as a whole, both locally and nationally.

“The Wintergarden Women’s Shelter is here to provide services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Judge Rodriguez said, “and the survivors of domestic violence have been at the forefront of efforts to bring peace and equality to their homes, neighborhoods, and city.

“The majority of Texans believe that they can make a difference in efforts to end domestic violence,” the county judge read from his proclamation. “Abusive behavior is a learned behavior, and children who live in domestic violent homes are at a higher risk of becoming abusers or victims.”

The judge signed his proclamation for October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in recognition of the work done by the La Salle County Commissioners’ Court, the Wintergarden Women's Shelter, law enforcement and other agencies working to end the cycle of abuse, neglect and physical harm in the home.

“I urge all citizens to participate in the scheduled activities and programs, to work toward improving victim safety and holding perpetrators of domestic abuse accountable for their actions against individual victims and our society as a whole,” Judge Rodriguez said.

The 24-hour crisis hotline for the
Wintergarden Women’s Shelter is 1-800-363-9441.

For more information on awareness and prevention, for educational resources, and for information on help available to victims of domestic violence, call Wintergarden Women’s Shelter Executive Director
Erica Bustamante at (830) 876-5676
or, in La Salle County, outreach office representative
Diana Gonzalez at (830) 694-2173.

La Salle County, 81st & 218th Districts
and Justices of the Peace Courts
Code of Conduct for all proceedings 

The following code of conduct and rules for the courts of La Salle County are applicable and enforced as per the Texas Government Code and the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, and the constitutional, statutory and inherent powers of the courts to regulate proceedings before them and to provide for the orderly and efficient dispatch of litigation.

All persons entering courts in La Salle County are subject to the following
code of conduct, including members of the public visiting the courtroom:

DRESS - All persons shall be appropriately attired for court proceedings. All persons entering the courtroom shall be dressed in clothing reasonably befitting the dignity and solemnity of court proceedings. Tank-tops, shorts, thongs, and clothing that is tattered or soiled are among those items of clothing not considered appropriate courtroom attire. No hats, caps or sunglasses shall be worn in the courtroom.

PROPERTY – No person shall bring packages, suitcases, boxes, backpacks, duffel bags, shopping bags or containers into the courtroom without the prior approval of the bailiff; and no person shall bring into the courtroom any radios, tape recorders, cameras, cellular telephones, pagers, or any other recording equipment unless the devices are turned off, or unless they are required for the court proceedings and prior approval has been given by the bailiff or the court.

TOBACCO – No tobacco products are to be used in the courtroom in any form, including chewing and smoking.

FOOD & DRINK – No gum chewing is allowed in the courtroom at any time. No bottles, beverage containers, paper cups, or any edible items are allowed in the courtroom, except as permitted by the court.

SEATING – No one may prop their feet on desks, tables, benches, chairs or other furnishings at any time in the courtroom.

NOISE – No talking or unnecessary noise which interferes with court proceedings is permitted in the courtroom.

COMMUNICATION – No one is permitted to express approval or disapproval of any testimony, statement, or transaction in the courtroom by any facial expression, shaking or nodding of the head, or by any other conduct or gesture; and no person shall be permitted to make any verbal or physical contact with a prisoner without the prior approval of the bailiff.

ETIQUETTE – All persons shall rise when summoned to do so by the bailiff when the judge or jury enter or leave the courtroom, and at any other times as the bailiff may direct.

The code of conduct for the courts of La Salle County and for the 81st and 218th Judicial Districts is enforced by the bailiff of the court, who is a peace officer of the state of Texas, and by the court itself.

Those who violate the code of conduct are subject to immediate removal from the court and may face prosecution.