Failure of Leadership at Bexar County Jail
(TX) – The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office has been losing personnel at such a high rate that they are not able to hire people fast enough to keep up. They continue to be in the range of 250 deputies short. But it’s hardly surprising that Sheriff Javier Salazar can’t keep his regular officers when he can’t even keep his command staff. Salazar has been in office just days over four years. In that time he lost or moved nine of the people that he specifically hired for his command staff positions. That’s some massive turnover.
Petty Vindictiveness Against Personnel
Looking at the way even the command staff is treated, it becomes rather obvious why they can’t keep employees. They have no idea how to treat people. Take, for instance, Chief Dennis Casillas. Chief Casillas gave 37 years of service to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office then was suddenly pushed out so fast that he was “denied the chance to say goodbye to his Law Enforcement family.” His best option, as happens to so many, was to immediately retire. He was so angry at what he called the “total mismanagement of the agency” that he decided to run for sheriff as a write-in candidate. It’s very hard to win as a write-in and he was unable to pull it off.
And now we have Chief Ronald Dale Bennett who has retired immediately. In Chief Bennett’s case, Sheriff Salazar told the media that Chief Bennett was against moving more staff into special units and then Salazar went out of his way to humiliate Bennett by saying he was not happy with Bennett’s handling of a high profile murder case. That seems strange. The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is the one who would be handling the investigation and that section is under Chief Nancy Sanford. If he feels someone needs to be blamed for the lack of progress, why isn’t he blaming her?
Whatever really happened, Chief Bennett had resigned. Salazar could have been gracious and said it was just a parting of ways. Instead, he chose to sully Chief Bennett’s reputation. That tells you a lot about Salazar’s character. If he’s willing to do something like that to someone so high up, what is he willing to do to everyone else?
Poor Judge of Character or Bad Leadership?
Command staff positions under Sheriff Salazar have been a revolving door. Either Salazar is a poor judge of character or he’s incompetent as a boss. In my opinion, he’s both. When Salazar came into office he brought in his buddy, Bobby Hogeland, who the Sheriff had known for 15 – 20 years. Chief Hogeland had absolutely no experience over a jail so Salazar made him the Chief over Detention. It seems being good buddies matters more to Salazar than being knowledgeable.
But at least Salazar selected Laura Balditt as second in command over Detention. Chief Balditt brought just shy of 30 years experience to the position. So guess who was the first chief to be pushed out? You got it. Chief Balditt. When the jail failed its inspection, Chief Balditt paid the price instead of the main person who was over Detention, the Sheriff’s buddy. Chief Hogeland did get pushed out but not until the media published a story about Hogeland’s extravagant spending and embarrassed the Sheriff. He was replaced by Chief Ruben Vela.
Chief Aristides “Harry” Jimenez is an honest, hard-working, knowledgeable person. It appears he watched the way things were being done and decided it was not for him. He left of his own accord. Chief Deputy Don Tijerina, who was second in command to Salazar, and Chief Ruben Vela were also forced out. Chief Avery Walker was assigned as the new chief over Detention and Salazar’s buddy from SAPD, James Serrato, was given the second in command position.
What Happened to Chief Hutchinson?
Chief Ottis Hutchinson was the only command staff person from the Pamerleau administration that Salazar kept. However, since Hutchinson was not a peace officer, and ignoring his 27 years of military experience, Salazar did not want him to have a chief title and changed his title to Director. Director Hutchinson is one of the two Black individuals who have been on Salazar’s command staff. Hutchinson is still there but he is no longer a command staff member. He’s over the Personnel section. I don’t know what happened. Was it by choice or was it another ‘offer you can’t refuse?’ He has more protection now, through civil service, than he did on the command staff, so maybe this was a voluntary move. We don’t know. All we know for sure is that it opened up a spot for Jaime Rios to come in as a chief. Someone the Sheriff really wanted.
Chief Walker on the Way Out
At the end of the KSAT video, which I recommend that you watch, Dillon Collier mentions that Walker is out for some reason and that Sheriff Salazar said he has heard rumors that Walker will not return. This is ridiculous. Chief Walker has not been at work since sometime around December 20th. Since the Sheriff is willing to cite rumors, let me cite a few I’ve heard. Rumor says Salazar wanted to pull staff from Detention for more of his special assignments. Rumor says Walker fought that move because of how short-staffed Detention is. Rumor says Salazar was furious that Walker argued against it and rumor says Walker was told to go home and take a break. How about it Sheriff? Care to comment on these rumors?
As a reminder, when Salazar hired Avery Walker into the position he made sure to brag about hiring the first Black Chief. Chief Walker came to the position with 31 years of experience. Salazar praised Walker for being “instrumental in bringing us back into compliance.” Only 14 months later and it appears that Walker, the last Black person on the command staff, is being pushed out. Does anyone really believe Walker is leaving, after only 14 months, all on his own initiative?
Playing to the Cameras
We’ve mentioned before that Salazar does things to get in front of the cameras. He doesn’t appear to care how his actions affect the Sheriff’s Office, just how he will be perceived by the public. That Salazar himself says Chief Bennett was unhappy about Salazar pulling men to put them in special units makes the rumors about why Chief Walker was upset, very believable. The bit about the murder was just to try to justify what he had done. I mean think about it. Why wait two whole years before you decide you are unhappy with the way an investigation is going then blame a chief other than the one in charge of that division?
What we see happening at the Sheriff’s Office looks like a person getting rid of those who refuse to be his yes-men. Hogeland was a valid termination but the rest are concerning. This is not a matter of ‘give him some time to learn.’ He’s had plenty of time. It is my opinion that things will not get better at the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office as long as Salazar is over it.