Bell County Sheriff Eddy Lange talked about his transition from the commissioners court to chief lawman at the Harker Heights Kiwanis Club meeting Feb. 26.
He also discussed department funding issues and changes he implemented since taking office in January.
But first, Lange praised former sheriff Dan Smith for his 28 years of service.
“Being in public service myself for the past 21 years, I genuinely understand the challenges that were faced by Dan,” he said.
Police departments in Bell County cities mostly meet the industry standard of one officer for every 550 residents, Lange said, and the need for additional staff is a top priority for him.
“If you look at just the incorporated areas outside these city limits in the county, our sheriff’s department currently employs one officer for 1,300 citizens,” he said. “That means we are 2½ times below the standard of what’s needed to serve the needs of the Bell County population, which has tripled in size in the last 20 years.”
When cities and incorporated areas are added together, one sheriff’s office deputy is available for 6,000 Bell County residents, Lange said. Research conducted by Lange and his staff also showed the need for 4.2 officers to cover jail inmates every day.
Last year, $500,000 was budgeted for jailer overtime, but the actual expense was $1.3 million, Lange said. “That’s how shorthanded we are.”
When Lange was a commissioner, no pay raises were requested other than what all county employees received, he said, and jailers who are trained and certified to put their lives in peril every day are paid just $25,000 a year.
“That makes it understandable that turnover has been tremendous during the last decade,” Lange said.
Since he took office, Lange implemented some changes. Patrol cars now have video cameras and officers and staff are sporting new uniforms.
“I did away with those ugly, antiquated green, yellow striped pants — they are gone,” he said. “Departments also have some flexibility on shirt colors in hopes to promote new pride in the workplace.”