Montgomery County Sheriff
With more than 720 employees, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office is the seventh largest in Texas. The man at the top of it all, Sheriff Tommy Gage, was elected to his third four-year term in November.
"People tell me I'm doing a good job, but I always give the credit to the people who work for the sheriff's office," Gage said. "I wouldn't have gotten anywhere if I didn't first surround myself with competent people."
Gage has been involved in law enforcement in some capacity since August 1970, when he joined the Houston Police Department. He first started working with Montgomery County in 1982 under Sheriff Joe Corley, but it would not be until 2004 when he decided to run for the position himself.
"We had Guy [Williams] in his third term as sheriff at the time, and I thought there needed to be some changes," he said. "I started talking to folks to see how much support I might have to run. I decided to run, and I ended up winning."
Now in his eighth year, Gage has overseen the creation of the county's first SWAT team, the first motorcycle traffic division and the installation of a regional radio system connecting officers to other law enforcement agencies throughout the county.
How did you get into law enforcement?
I joined the Houston Police Department in August 1970, after serving two tours in Vietnam in the Navy. I have been in law enforcement since that time. I left HPD in 1982 and started work with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office under Sheriff Joe Corley. In 1996, I left and went to work with Malcolm Purvis, who was the commissioner in Precinct 2. I carried my commission through the constable's office down in Precinct 3 in The Woodlands under Commissioner Wayne Holyfield. I talked to people about their complaints. I took care of any kind of call that came into the office that I was able to. The main thing we dealt with were environmental complaints—illegal dumping and that sort of thing. When Commissioner Purvis got sick and passed away, I just decided to run for sheriff. I was sworn into office on Jan. 1, 2005.
What are the accomplishments you are most proud of since taking over as Montgomery County Sheriff?
When I came into office, we had a direct supervision wing of the jail that had never been opened. After it was built, it sat there for a couple of years and had never been staffed. One of the first things I was able to do was get the staffing to open that wing of the jail.
We started the first full-time SWAT team in Montgomery County. We have a SWAT sergeant and five SWAT operators, and those guys have done a great job. We have a good working relationship with the U.S. Marshall's office. They just signed three people to work with our SWAT team full-time.
We started the first solo motorcycle traffic division. We have a sergeant and four deputies and another separate motorcycle traffic division down in The Woodlands.
How important is cooperation with other law enforcement agencies in the area?
The only way we can really survive in law enforcement is by having everyone work together. That's certainly a priority of mine. We have been able to get our regional radio system in place, and we have a shop set up for our equipment. The sheriff's office, as far as technology goes, is up there with any other law enforcement agency in this country. All of our cars now have laptop computers, video systems and radars. We dispatch for every law enforcement agency, except for the Conroe PD, which has its own dispatch system. We can also dispatch DPS officers. They have their own radio from Houston, but they're on ours, too, because we have the only jail in the county.
Other agencies call upon us all the time. We have the SWAT team and things that can assist other police departments and even some of the smaller surrounding counties. Those small sheriff's offices in Grimes, Waller, Walker and Liberty counties don't have the resources that we have here—the crime lab, SWAT team and detectives.
What is the sheriff's office working on right now?
We're planning to get a new kitchen added to our jail. The Joe Corley Detention Facility—which houses all the federal inmates and is run by a private company—has a kitchen that they use to feed the folks in their facility as well as ours. They truck it over here three times a day. We'd be able to cook right here in the sheriff's office instead of having to truck food over. We're hoping construction will start within the next few months.
We're trying to get an integrated justice system where all law enforcement, the courts, and district and county clerk are on the same system. If you put someone's name into the system, you can see what they were arrested for, the outcome of the trial and any other details. I think it will lead to a great improvement in efficiency in our judicial system.
What are some things the sheriff's office does that people may not realize?
We book an average of 57 people a day in the Montgomery County jail. People don't have any idea the size of the jail or all that goes on in the streets—the everyday calls of service we have to run. There's a lot going on in this county. People think a SWAT team just waits around for an event that would require a SWAT team, but our guys are running felony warrants every day. They do that more than anything else. They are also commissioned through the U.S. Marshall's office and go all over the country to pick up fugitives.
You can't always do the things you want to do sometimes because of budget restraints. I think we've managed our money pretty well since I came into office. We have been able to accomplish a lot of the things we set out to.