Pubdate: Tue, 12 Aug 2003
Source: Athens Review (TX)
Copyright: 2003 Athens Daily Review
Author: Art Lawler


Sheriff Ronny Brownlow Finally Has His Fully-Funded Task

Just don't call it that. The governor's office is kind of sensitive on
the issue.

Better to call it the Henderson County Narcotics Enforcement Unit. A
task force by any other name is fine with county authorities, so long
as the current drug problems some much-needed attention.

Brownlow went before the Henderson County commissioners at their
Monday meeting to ask for a budget amendment of $1,045 to bring the
grant position up to lieutenant's pay. The move enables Brownlow to
transfer Lt. Kay Langford into that newly created position.

The request was unanimously granted and County Judge David Holstein
praised Brownlow for his "tenacity" in acquiring the grant. The vote
enables Langford, 44, to become head of the new Henderson County
Narcotics Enforcement Unit.

She gives up her position as the head of the criminal investigation
unit today to lead a department that will soon include five narcotics

Langford is no stranger to law enforcement. She joined the department
in 1989. On March 10, 1991, she was critically wounded after being
shot while answering a domestic disturbance call just south of Athens.
She fully recovered from her wounds and worked her way up the career

She was promoted to an investigator's position in April of 1998 and
became head of the unit when Brownlow took office on Jan. 1, 2001. He
called her a dedicated professional who works with a lot of tenacity.

"I'm really looking forward to working with this new unit," Langford
said. "We have a big problem with drugs in our county, and I'm looking
forward to working with this new unit to try to help curb this growing

Selecting Langford to head up the new narcotics division started a
chain reaction of personnel changes, which begin today at the
sheriff's department.

The Athens Police Depart-ment will use its part of the grant to supply
another narcotics investigator, and Gun Barrel City will add yet
another full-time member. Neither Chief Jim Vance of APD nor Richard
Miller of GBCPD has announced who will fill those positions, as of
this morning.

The cooperative effort will give all of the law-enforcement
departments in the county access to five narcotics officers. They will
work with the Department of Public Safety, the federal Drug
Enforcement Agency and with the 15 law-enforcement entities within the
county who have signed working agreements with the new

The county, which has been overrun by the drug problem, had as few as
one narcotics officer on duty in recent months before Botie Hillhouse
was promoted to narcotics investigative duties along with Jody Miller.

Besides those two from the sheriff's department, the unit will have
Langford, who will work both as an administrator and as a hands-on

Replacing Langford will be veteran sheriff's department investigator
Dan Parker, 40, a veteran with 20 years experience, who has been
promoted to lieutenant.

Replacing Parker in the criminal investigation division, will be Sue
Allison, 35, who has been promoted from detention officer in the
county jail. She has prior investigative experience as part of the Gun
Barrel City police department.

Brownlow said a new employee would be hired to replace Allison as
detention officer.

"I was thrilled to get her back," Brownlow said of Allison's return
from Gun Barrel less than a year ago. "She proved herself there. She's
good at whatever job she's assigned to do."

Brownlow also praised Parker as being highly professional, not to
mention a lifetime resident of this area of East Texas after growing
up in Brownsboro.

Why the grant funds suddenly became available, no one is quite sure.
The grant is actually federal money awarded to the state for
distribution to the counties as it sees fit.

And Henderson County didn't seem to fit.

Politically speaking, task forces are something offered counties who
write successful grants to the state soliciting federal dollars.
Henderson County had already written two of its own, both of which had
been turned down by the governor's office over the last 18 months.

The reason given for the second "turn down" was that the governor's
office had ruled such grants could only be awarded to "multiple counties."

As the rules were established by the state, there were no counties
realistically for Henderson County to partner up with.

So disgruntled law officers in the county, fearing Henderson would be
left out of the grant money altogether, met to form the county's own
task force.

The 15 law-enforcement entities in the county and their police chiefs
at the time agreed to supply personnel and assistance, and money as
they could afford it, for a narcotics unit to be headed up by the
Henderson County Sheriff's Department.

Though it wasn't immediately clear how they'd get the money, each
entity agreed to meet with its city leaders in search of financial

Before they could get the unit rolled out, though, the state had a
change of heart. It sent the county and the Athens Police Department
letters saying it had decided to provide funding for two narcotics
officers -- one for the city and one for the county. The governor's
office has awarded Henderson County with enough of the grant to fund
two new narcotics officers for the next four years, and that was about
what Brownlow was asking for in the creation of the new unit.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin