While the Texas County Sheriff’s Department was far from without major challenges in 2016, its caseload was in fact slightly down from the previous couple of years.
Sheriff James Sigman said deputies dealt with 2,617 cases requiring written reports last year, compared to 3,106 in 2015 and 2,737 in 2014.
“All in all, it was a good year compared to some we’ve had,” Sigman said. “We’re still seeing too much killing, too many assaults and too many abuse cases, but it could always be worse.”
Texas County cases last year were highlighted by three murders and a shooting death that was ruled self-defense. Assault was the most common offense at close to 20-percent of the overall caseload, with the top-three categories also including larceny and property damage.
Sigman attributes the drop in written reports in large part to a decrease in small-scale thefts – particularly of the metal-related variety.
“Prices were down, and we didn’t work nearly as many of those types of thefts as we had the past couple of years,” he said. “If the metal prices ever go up again, I’m sure our caseload will, too. But it’s interesting when you look at our numbers; little things like that make a big difference in how busy we are with certain things.”
The TCSD continues to serve Missouri’s largest county with regard to square miles with the same number of deputies as it has for several years: 10.
Sigman – who began his second four-year term on Jan. 1 – said the officers all did an exemplary job, but his department experienced one big glitch on the jail side he’ll never forget: The escape of murder suspect Daniel Campbell.
“That will haunt me as long as I’m here,” Sigman said. “Other than that, things went well.”
After Daniel’s escape and subsequent recapture in November, Sigman promised a renewed focus among jail corrections officers along with a heightened awareness of policies and procedures and a push for more training.
“That’s going well,” he said. “We’re still working on things and there’s something new every day. But they saw the mistake that was made and that it was human error, and most of the corrections were made before we really did anything official.
“But in this line of work there’s never enough training.”
Last year, the TCSD’s officer roster for the first time included a full-time detective: Rowdy Douglas. Sigman said the addition of that position had a significant positive impact.
“It made a huge difference in the amount of crimes we’ve been able to solve, like bigger burglaries and things like that,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous help to us in doing a lot of the follow-up work we need to do.”
While turnover in the TCSD’s ranks has been relatively common since Sigman took office in 2012, that wasn’t the case last year.
“We have several deputies who got their start right here and they’re really starting to build experience,” Sigman said. “Same with the jail staff; a lot of them were young, but they’ve been here a while now and they’re getting better every day. It seems like in 2015 I spent a lot of my time interviewing people, but the turnover has dropped drastically. They got a bit of a raise last year, and I think that really helped.
“The only way you’re going to run a department like this the way it needs to be run is to get people trained and keep them.”
The Texas County Jail became a source of revenue like never before in 2016, as it on a regular basis housed inmates from other counties with smaller, overcrowded facilities. At a rate of $45 a day per inmate, Sigman said the jail brought close to $100,000 into the county’s general fund last year.
“We’re usually running at about 45 to 50 of our own inmates daily,” he said, “so when we can house for others, we grab them and generate funds for the county. It was a really good year for that.”
The TCSD’s fleet consists of 11 vehicles – seven newer model units and four old ones. Sigman is currently working with the Texas County Commission on 2017 budget, and he’s hopeful that the older vehicles can soon be replaced.
“It’s getting expensive to keep them on the road,” he said. “We really need to complete our fleet, and I’ve asked for that money again this year. The old vehicles have served their purpose for a long time, but they’ve gotten beyond their useful point.
“I don’t want it to become a safety issue, and real soon it’s going to become a safety issue.”
Sigman said he loves being Texas County’s sheriff, and feels secure in the position.
“After four years, I’m actually comfortable being sheriff,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn.”
While 2016 featured widespread discord against law enforcement personnel across the U.S., Sigman is hopeful 2017 can be different.
“I hope it’s a much more peaceful year for all law enforcement,” he said. “We’ve gotten off to a good start, and I hope that trend continues.”
The TCSD’s phone number is 417-967-4165.