Q&A with Matt Coates for Erath County sheriff

Staff Writer
Stephenville Empire-Tribune
Matt Coates

1)   What are the duties of the Sheriff?

The sheriff’s first and foremost responsibility is to protect and serve the citizens within the county. The best way to accomplish this is by actively patrolling and investigating crime while closely working with public service agencies within our county and those that surround us. As the sheriff, it is imperative to keep the lines of communication wide open between myself and staff to ensure that the needs and the safety of the public, including the employees, are addressed and met. Finally, as the administrator of your sheriff’s office, I am tasked with the responsibility of staying within the budget set forth by the commissioners’ court while achieving the greatest value for the taxpayer.

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

Our most pressing challenges are the very same issues that are at the forefront of nearly every law enforcement department in America today.   The illegal narcotic industry and its associated crimes, sex trafficking, child exploitation, and property crimes are at the top of the list.  My strategy is to address the narcotics problem real hard, head on all the time. Most cases presented to the grand jury can, in some way, can be traced back to the destructive nature of the narcotics trade. When we make narcotic usage and trade very difficult in Erath County both our property crimes and crimes against persons will decrease dramatically.  I would also like to educate families on what red flags to be aware of when it comes to internet prowlers that seek to harm our children. My goal is to make it so difficult and undesirable for criminals to conduct business in Erath County that they will go out of their way to make sure they never step foot in our county. 

3) What is your background in Law Enforcement? 

I began my career in 1997 as a patrol deputy in Big Spring, Texas (Howard County). This county is equal in size and population to Erath County, but the amount and frequency of crime is much higher there. Being a part of a very active agency provided me with considerable experience dealing with hardened criminals.  While I was there, I rose through the ranks and worked as a narcotics investigator, investigator for property crimes, and investigator for crimes against persons.  I was on the SWAT team for 13 years where I became the SWAT team leader. I served as lieutenant in charge of training and investigations before finally serving as chief deputy. To make certain I knew all aspects of a sheriff’s office I also worked in dispatch and the jail in Howard County.  After moving to Stephenville, I was hired and served as investigator for District Attorney, Alan Nash. I have nearly 3,300 hours of training and hold both Master Peace Officer and Advanced SWAT certifications 

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

Yes, the county is heading in the right direction.  The commissioners’ court has been very accommodating to our needs and has made every effort possible to assist the sheriff’s office this past year. We had deputies in patrol vehicles that were unsafe for pursuit speeds.  The commissioners’ court stepped up and allowed us to update our fleet with six new patrol units consisting of SUV’s and trucks that are more useful in Erath County than the sedans that we replaced. Additionally, the jail’s camera system, which was inoperable when I took office, was updated.  The commissioners also budgeted to upgrade the locks

in the jail and throughout the sheriff’s office, at a considerable expense due to the quality and types of locks, to protect our staff and the public. We were also provided two new deputy positions to better serve the needs of our growing county. Together the sheriff’s office and the commissioners’ court are working hard to maximize the taxpayer’s dollar while providing for the needs of our citizens.

5) What strengths do you possess that would make you a good Sheriff?

I am a career lawman.  I have and will continue to fight crime through investigative work, case preparation, and on occasion with my own bare hands. I have been proactive in going after criminals that make their living by committing real serious life-threatening crimes. I am the only candidate that has SWAT team experience and investigative experience with the district attorney’s office.  I believe that experience is a crucial advantage over the criminal element. It is beneficial to know what the prosecutors and the court system need to hand down meaningful and crime-deterring sentences. I have been successfully managing the entire sheriff’s office, including the jail, the largest part of the county’s budget, for the past year. I am committed to making our homes, our workplaces, and our community, the safest place possible to live and work. I would be honored to continue my service working for the citizens of Erath County as your sheriff.