By Grayson Edds
Police officers – and other first responders – risk their lives every day for the sake of those who choose to live in their jurisdiction. While Belton may have been called the Mayberry of our time, it’s not without its interesting days.
As we look back at 2013, let’s take a look, first, at some of the most unique events.
In January, BPD became the first agency in the country to file criminal charges against a subject responsible for Walmart jewelry thefts in multiple states.
In March, a homeowner found a five-foot python hanging out on their fence. Animal Control safely recovered the reptile.
In April, I-35 was shut down for three hours because a load of televisions fell off of a truck. BPD officers assisted with the first annual Army marathon by closing down Lake Road and the dam to keep runners safe. The department also held their first annual physical fitness assessment for tenured officers in April.
In May, two BPD officers were assaulted when they responded to a traffic accident on I-35. The suspect seemingly was in an altered mental state and purposely turned his car into the structure of the overpass.
In June, there was a bomb threat at the courthouse in reference to the Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan case.
Three suspects were arrested when they were caught in the act of a burglary at Frank’s Marina.
In July, BPD went to a citizen’s house in reference to an aggravated assault with a sword.
Samuel Baker was convicted of the murder of Shelly Latham in a 1989 cold case. Baker was sentenced to 55 years.
Also in July two bodies were found in a home, later determined to be a drug overdose. Another bomb threat was called in to 100 S. Main.
In August, BPD assisted with the final movement of Hasan following his murder conviction. Chief Ellis said all area law enforcement agencies were relieved to escort him out of Bell County.
Also during that month, law enforcement had to respond to a suicide case where the victim stepped in front of a semi truck on I-35.
In September, BPD had to arrest one of their own when David Jessup was taken into custody for a family violence assault.
In October, the City’s Emergency Management Team assembled at the police department in response to flooding and high wind damage after a severe storm passed through the Yettie Polk Park area.
BPD Detective Raul Montes assisted the Bell County Ogranized Crime Unit in October during a four-pound methamphetamine arrest.
In November, a person under the influence of alcohol fell over the rail at Dead Fish Grill, and BPD responded along with Belton Fire Department. Also in that month, the City Finance Building was broken in to.
In December, BPD responded to a stolen City of Gatesville truck, which was later recovered. Officers also responded to a fatality on FM 1670 and a workplace fatality accident at TARCO.
Throughout the year, two CEFCO convenient stores in Belton were robbed, one of them hit twice.
As with any civil service duty, honor is part of the job – whether it’s heartwarming or heartbreaking, and there were both types this year. On the heartwarming side, a new round of police officers joined the force to protect our citizens: Josh Cox, Cody Hammock, Mario Guevara, Anthony Adame, Ben Rieves, Gabriel Barnett and DeAmber Minuet. Larry Berg and Allen Fields were promoted to lieutenant; William Hamilton, Daniel Aguirre, Daniel Ontiveros and Doug Taylor were promoted to sergeant. Officer Kelly Murphy retired after 22 years of service – his career as an officer began and ended in Belton. Sergeant Jerry Simpson also retired after spending 10 years with the department.
BPD assisted with the funeral processions for Navy Seal Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle, attended the funeral for slain Killeen Oifficer Robert Hornsby, assisted with the funeral procession for Bell County Deputy Adam Davis.
Officer Daniel Ontiveros was recognized as Officer of the Quarter for the first quarter, Officer Dane Kantro received the lifesaving medal and Officer of the Quarter award for the second quarter, Detective Robert Prestin and Lt. Allen Fields received the Officer of the Quarter award for the third quarter, and the fourth quarter awardee will be named in early 2014.
BPD was honored to participate in the Bell County Peace Officer Memorial event held at Killeen Police Department as a part of National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day in May. BPD Honor Guard participated in the dedication ceremony of Patriot Plaza on Veteran’s Day.
Detective Robert Prestin was honored and recognized as Officer of the Year by the Knights of Columbus at their annual peace officer awards banquet. Officer Robert Gatewood was recognized as the Officer of the Year by the Temple Elks Lodge at their annual public safety awards program.
On the subject of programs at the Belton Police Department, there’s also quite a bit worth mentioning over the last year.
The department continues to participate and achieve the public safety elements of the City Strategic and also completed and implemented the BPD Strategic Plan. The department also implemented the Belton Explorer Program and held the first Police Explorer Academy for the program’s youth.
The department maintained accreditation through the Texas Recognition Program, and increased membership in CHIPS volunteer program. CHIPS participated in such activities as Christmas on the Farm, Christmas on Chisholm Trail, events at the Expo Center, events at the Belton Senior Center, the funeral for Deputy Davis, and are the “backbone of the R U OK? Program,” said Chief Ellis.
The department held their 4th annual Citizen’s Police Academy graduation in March for 21 attendees. Belton cleared 244 warrants during the statewide warrant roundup.
BPD also had volunteers at One Community One Day, and assisted in cleaning the yards of two homeowners.
They developed the Crime Awareness Alerts, Hide-Lock-Take car burglary deterrent program, began using “ghost squads” and other crime prevention initiatives as a part of the department’s revised Geographic Policing model.
National Night Out continues to grow, and 2013 saw the largest number of parties held around town.
The department also launched the R U OK? Program for senior adults, a program run by the department and its volunteers.
Five BPD supervisors graduated from the Developing Leaders management course, which is based on the West Point Military Academy leadership training program.
Technologically speaking, it’s important for police departments to stay up to speed, and here’s how BPD is staying in touch with the ever-evolving technological changes: a new digital video system was purchased with a Texas CJD grant, a new police records management software (CAPERS) was implemented, and funds were received for bulletproof vests and a cell phone forensic evidence extraction device.
Along with the aforementioned four-pound meth arrest, BPD also arrested a subject with 27 grams of meth and a firearm, and arrested another subject with 37 grams of meth.
As a part of this year’s Capital Improvement Plan, the department looks forward to the expansion and addition to the Public Safety Facility. Chief Ellis said the goal is to create two separate lobbies and entrances for the police department and the municipal courts in an effort to create a separation of justice. Architects Design Group was selected in December as the architect for the project.
2014 will also see the full launch of the commercial burglar alarm ordinance, a program designed to help benefit the business owner and the department by simply registering the commercial burglar alarm with the city.
As we jump into 2014, join me in wishing the fine men and women of our Belton Police Department a safe and productive new year.