Q&A with Clell Murray for Erath County sheriff

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Clell Murray

1. What are the duties of sheriff?

The position is created by the Texas Constitution and each sheriff swears to uphold that constitution and the Constitution of the United States. The sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer for the county and is responsible for operating the county jail, security of the courts, civil process, bail bonds, and enforcing judgments. The sheriff and his deputies are also responsible for investigating crimes, enforcing criminal laws of the State, and maintaining communications with other law enforcement organizations. The sheriff is a primary contact for disaster and catastrophic events. The sheriff has countywide jurisdiction, but in practice, most sheriff departments concentrate their activities outside city limits or alongside the municipality officers when it is necessary to protect the public within the city limits. 

2. What is the most pressing challenge facing the Erath County Sheriff’s Office? How would you overcome it?

I will start by saying there is not just one single big challenge, but several major ones!  First and foremost, will be regaining the trust of the community and re-establishing the credibility as a top-level law enforcement agency and jail.  Secondly, the poor perception of law enforcement in general by the public requires holding ourselves accountable to a higher standard, increasing the level of service provided, and improving transparency in policy and procedures.  Allowing the public to know what we are doing and why we do things that way.  Thirdly, I would like to improve the overall certification levels of the deputies and jailers as this will improve pride, performance, and satisfaction. I believe training and education opportunities are a must for the deputies, the jailers, and the public. I would conduct a thorough assessment of current training, training needs and abilities, and re-allocate those with specific qualifications to the most appropriate position. Also, dividing patrol and investigation duties amongst more of the officers would get the most out of the department’s manpower.  I would like to increase the reserves and start a sheriff’s posse in preparation for major events, disasters, and better interaction with the public.  

3. What is your background in law enforcement?

I started as a Reserve Deputy for the Erath County Sheriff’s Office for David Coffee, while waiting for a full time position to open.  I was hired by Tarleton State University’s Police Department in 1991. I have loyally served with this department for 26 years, as a Patrol Officer for six years, then promoting to Sergeant in 1997.  I am currently working as the Day/Evening Shift Sergeant, overseeing the patrol duties of 4 full time patrol officers and 3 part-time officers. I was certified to work K-9 Narcotics and Weapons Detection Operations and Investigations from 1993 to October 2005.  In 2005, I took a leave of absence from Tarleton to work overseas for the Department of State and RONCO Consulting Security Services providing security for the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, with the aid of Explosive Detection Dogs. As Sergeant, I am the field training supervisor teaching defensive tactics, use of force, firearms, university policies and procedures, and acclimating new officers to the area. I also administer performance evaluations on a yearly basis, and have written standard operating policies and procedures, as directed by the Chief of Police. 

4. In terms of the county budget, do you feel the county is heading in the right direction or do you have specific ideas that would improve it?

I feel the budget is an area that needs improvement.  There has been long term neglect with communications.  Our radio system needs updating; there are areas in the county that are black holes both for the deputies and fire personnel.  A centralized dispatch partnered with the Fire Departments, and other local Law Enforcement Agencies could be a way to share the expense.  I would work within the current budget, but realign officers to increase patrol functions.  I will add myself into patrol and investigations to increase manpower.  I will listen to the needs of my deputies and the concerns of the citizens of the county, and evaluate where the current funds should be allocated.  As a graduate of the Leadership Command College held at the esteemed Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, I received training in Grant Proposal as well as Leadership Tactics, Law Enforcement Management, and Policy Writing.  I am certified to teach many Law Enforcement courses that will be helpful for the department and would be able to save money by teaching these required classes myself.

5. What strengths do you possess that would make you a good sheriff?

I have a Bachelors of Applied Arts and Sciences in Criminal Justice and have accumulated 142 credit hours in that major and Psychology.  I have 26 plus years of experience as a Peace Officer, with 20 of those years in the leadership role of Sergeant. During my time in Iraq, I supervised a team of 21 men and dogs to protect 4 major locations in the green zone. I had to fill in as program manager for two months when illness took our manager out of Iraq.  I will bring my experience, supervision and administrative abilities to Erath. Throughout my career I have taken 3,268 hours of Continuing Education in law enforcement related training from T.C.O.L.E., including training in Police Special Weapons and Tactics.   I received my Master Peace Officer Certification from T.C.O.L.E in 2004.  I am always interested and involved in Law Enforcement and continually want to learn all I can to be a better officer.  I pledge to be involved as a "Working Sheriff" for the citizens of Erath County.  I will promote a professional and service based department.  I want to reestablish the morale of the department, and work together to build a professional team environment.