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Chief Jones explains role of social media

By Steven Jones 

This week I’d like to discuss some of the reasons law enforcement agencies often use social media -- I’ve always had a sense of pride knowing that the Trinity Police Department was one of the first. When we first began posting information, we received a lot of criticism and little praise.  The decision to utilize social media was a difficult one for me; however, I felt it could be a great resource to our department. Fortunately, that’s proven to be the case. 

Prior to social media, law enforcement only had a few ways of keeping the public informed: word of mouth, bulletins, newspapers, and broadcast news.   As one may expect, word of mouth was not very reliable since information tends to become blurred or incorrect as it spreads; bulletins were able to offer facts, but only read by those who sought them; and news outlets could offer more details, but were limited on space and time, which could cause them to omit certain details. Thus, when social media came into the picture, it was a promising platform for law enforcement to use for communicating with the public. 

In the past, law enforcement was at the mercy of the media for getting feel-good, do-good stories out there, or reporting on situations that were handled particularly well by officers. Unfortunately, news outlets didn’t always pick up those stories. Newspapers and broadcast media often had their attention caught by another story, or simply didn’t have the space or time. Additionally, the local media of the past seemed to focus on negative police news when agencies did wrong or made mistakes. 

Why does this matter?  Imagine this scenario:  A group of officers work all day and night investigating a felony (ie. drug raid, shooting incident, or sexual assault).  The group of officers do a great job, build a solid case, and ultimately make an arrest.  Afterward, the group of officers go to a local café to get some breakfast before they head home to get some sleep.  As they walk in, there is a group of men eating breakfast together.  One of the men says, “Who’s out protecting the city if you all are in here?”  The next man says, “That’s about right. My tax dollars are going to them sitting around and eating. They need to be out doing something about crime.”  

The group of officers hear this and think, “We just got finished doing a good job.  Why are these men complaining?  What else do they want from us?”  So, you have this conflict based on a breakdown of information between the two groups.  If and when the men eating breakfast found out what the officers had been doing all day and night, they probably would have been thankful and not so judgmental.  It’s not just the men’s fault, though. How are they to know if the officers don’t tell them or communicate the good job they have done?  The public cannot know what they aren’t told, and that is why the officers cannot rightfully be upset with the men. 

An up-to-the-minute social media platform helps bridge the gap between law enforcement and the public, enabling agencies to be informative and transparent. With the way social media is used in the status quo, it’s likely that the men in this scenario would have seen or heard about the officers’ good work and would have responded with thankfulness instead of ridicule. The officers who feel appreciated end up working harder, crime decreases, and the community benefits. 

There are still some critics of law enforcement who use social media.  Some do not believe we should post the mug shots and information regarding those who get arrested.  We understand the potential for embarrassment when we post someone’s arrest, but that doesn’t outweigh the benefits of posting. I partly attribute the dramatic decrease in crime (including burglaries and property theft) to our use of social media. People simply don’t want their mistakes aired on Facebook or Twitter, so they think twice before committing a crime in our community. One of the first things people ask when arrested is, “Will this being going on your social media pages?”  This isn’t always the case, because some people just don’t care.  If they don’t care, that’s also fine.  Our use of social media allows us to give you information that helps keep you safe and allows for informed decision-making when you’re out with your family in the community.

 

Officials voice conern over proposed treatment center

By Chris Edwards

In what is proving to be a controversial issue among both city and county leaders, a proposed residential treatment facility to house troubled children has met with a great deal of opposition.

The facility, which is proposed as a for-profit residential treatment facility, is to be located in the old Headstart building in Groveton. It would be operated under the auspices of Hands of Faith, a Huntsville-based operation owned by Lawrence Benson and aims to provide housing and a variety of treatments for 13 girls, ranging in age from six to 17.

The issue has already been addressed publicly by Mayor Byron Richards, who has spoken strongly against it, and has urged citizens to write letters in opposition. A public meeting is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. in the Groveton ISD auditorium. A hearing is scheduled for Monday, August 17, at the location of the proposed facility. Richards said that aside from taking intoconsideration the safety of the community, it is the children who would be housed in the center also of concern. “I do not feel that they’d get the professional help they deserve.”

GISD Superintendent Don Hamilton is another community leader who has voiced concern about the possibility of such a facility being opened in Groveton. 

“There are several issues that I have. The resources that it would take to adequately provide services for these kids would take away from the kids who are already in our community,” Hamilton said.  

The type of treatment and care the residents of the facility would require includes specialized services for children with emotional disorders, such as mood disorders, psychotic disorders or dissociative disorders. Criteria listed on the website for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services also notes that specialized and intense care classifications (the types of care that would be provided by the facility) comes at a cost of $148.11 and $260.17, respectively, per child, per day. 

Initially, Hamilton said, the proposal was presented to him as a foster home. “They chose to apply as a residential treatment facility,” he said, citing a certified letter that came to him. An e-mail from Jamie Fox, an inspector with the Dept. of Family and Protective Services, verified that the children who are to be housed in the center are “special needs as far as emotional disorders…(and) considered to be a specialized to intense level of care”. Fox’s email went on to note that the communication on the end of Hands of Faith was not informative enough to the public, insofar as public notices go, and the application process had to be re-started by the organization.

Pamela Freeman, one of the initial contacts for Hands of Faith, is no longer listed on paperwork involving the proposal or the hearing. Freeman, who is under indictment for tampering with government documents (a third-degree felony), was whom Hamilton initially spoke with concerning the matter. Lawrence Benson, the director of the facility, is now listed as its principal. According to Hamilton, his communication with Benson has also been limited. “I offered to Mr. Benson the opportunity to speak at the meeting; he told me he was planning on being here. I wanted to give him the opportunity to present his side and his plans and he declined (when offered the chance to be included on the agenda).”

One of the biggest concerns that has been brought up by officials and citizens alike pertains to the safety of Groveton residents. Hamilton noted that the facility is to be an open facility without on-site security. “Most of the kids would be physically aggressive with criminal charges and destructive behavior. Therefore, a risk for other kids,” he said.

“We have many elderly people here in Groveton and many kids who could potentially be exposed to the types of problems these children would bring,” Hamilton said. Richards echoed Hamilton’s concerns about the security of Groveton residents, and said that the lack of security at the treatment center could cause problems with children walking out in the middle of the night and potentially scaring residents.

Fox’s email notes that the children housed in the facility would either come to it from the care of CPS or by way of a judge’s ruling.

Hamilton noted that most facilities of a similar nature are typically located in larger areas, with more ready access to healthcare and more law enforcement. The reason why Hands of Faith chose the Groveton location, Hamilton said, was that Freeman spotted the vacant building while driving through town and thought it would be an ideal location. The building has already been retrofitted to meet state criteria for the facility, and initially the intent was to house more children, but by the state’s determination, 13 is the maximum for the building.

Because the children would have to be integrated into GISD, Hamilton said that he had estimated that it would cost around $400,000 annually to provide the services needed for emotionally troubled students, and the only way to offset such expenses would be to cut existing programs. “It’s really the school folks who would really bear the expense and frustration,” Richards said. “The school district would really take a hit.”

At the county level, Trinity County Judge Doug Page presented a resolution for the county officials to state their opposition to the facility. Page called the facility “burdensome” to local and county resources, and said that state senators Robert Nichols and Trent Ashby had both voiced opposition to it as well. 

Recently, Mayor Richards and Hamilton met on the campus of GISD with Sheriff Woody Wallace, Judge Page and Elementary Principal Rachel Galloway to discuss the matter. “We got together after the application was re-filed,” Richard said, “to try to pull people together to get support to defeat this thing.”

Hands of Faith has a deadline of September 24 in which a decision must be made as to whether or not they will locate their facility in Groveton. Pending approval, Mayor Richards said it could take as few as 30 days to have the facility open.

“It doesn’t appear to be a positive situation,” Richards said. “The children are the pawns in this whole thing.”

 

100 year Centennial Celebration scheduled

GROVETON — The 100 year centennial celebration of the Trinity County Courthouse will commence on Saturday, September 13 with festivities beginning at 10 a.m. in the District Courtroom located on the second floor of the courthouse in Groveton.

The County held a contest to design a flag representing Trinity County in which all four school participated. The winning flag will be officially raised on September 13 and will remain flying on the flag pole in front of the Courthouse.

Trevor Barron of Trinity High School won the flag design contest and a $1,000 prize obtained from a private donation.

A secure display area will be set up in the parking lot of the Courthouse if anyone has an old tractor, wagon, car, buggy, or any other exhibit.

If anyone is intersted in selling or exhibiting handmade quilts, crafts, canned goods, or any additioanl items they can contact the Courthouse at 936-642-1746 for more information.

Activities for the children are planned, refreshments will be served and tours and photos can be taken inside and outside the Courthouse. Trinity County officials are hoping for a fun-filled day with a great turnout.

100 year Centennial Celebration scheduled

GROVETON — The 100 year centennial celebration of the Trinity County Courthouse will commence on Saturday, September 13 with festivities beginning at 10 a.m. in the District Courtroom located on the second floor of the courthouse in Groveton.

The County held a contest to design a flag representing Trinity County in which all four school participated. The winning flag will be officially raised on September 13 and will remain flying on the flag pole in front of the Courthouse.

Trevor Barron of Trinity High School won the flag design contest and a $1,000 prize obtained from a private donation.

A secure display area will be set up in the parking lot of the Courthouse if anyone has an old tractor, wagon, car, buggy, or any other exhibit.

If anyone is intersted in selling or exhibiting handmade quilts, crafts, canned goods, or any additioanl items they can contact the Courthouse at 936-642-1746 for more information.

Activities for the children are planned, refreshments will be served and tours and photos can be taken inside and outside the Courthouse. Trinity County officials are hoping for a fun-filled day with a great turnout.

Cloptin-Brisco to Wed May 23

clopton brisco Enagement

Wedding planned—Larry and Missy Clopton are proud and excited to announce the engagement of their daughter, Katy Elizabeth to PFC Blake Andrew Brisco, USMC. The couple who were high school sweethearts attended Trinity High School and graduated in 2013. After a dream proposal at Disneyland, a May 23 wedding is planned. The couple will then reside in Oceanside, California. Congratulations KatyBeth and Blake!