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During TPR Debate, Leading Bexar Sheriff Candidates Support Armed Citizen Patrols

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Bexar Co. Sherifs Candidates Larry Ricketts. Libertarian; James Dorsey, Green Party; Javier Salazar, Democrat; and Incument Susan Pamerleau, Republican, discuss issues with TPR's David Martin Davies.

The leading candidates for Bexar County sheriff seem to support citizens in one gated community who’ve decided to arm themselves and patrol their neighborhood.  They explained their views during a live sheriff’s candidate debate Thursday on Texas Public Radio

Some residents living in the Oaks at Cobblestone recently formed an armed patrol after a shooting in their subdivision.

During the debate on TPR’s program “The Source” the four candidates were asked if that type vigilantism is a good idea.

Armed Citizen Patrols

Democrat Javier Salazar, a long-time San Antonio police officer, said he doesn’t consider the residents vigilantes.

“It seems to me the folks that were doing it, they know how to handle weapons, and that’s all I would ask of somebody that’s looking to arm themselves to protect themselves and their family.  Know what your weapon is capable of doing and know its limitations.  The same with your ammo and how to handle your weapons,” Salazar said.  

Republican Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, running for reelection, didn’t object to the armed patrols but urged caution.

“It’s important they understand the role they have and the limits of any authority they have because we certainly don’t want to get into a situation such as happened in Florida with  George Zimmerman,” Pamerleau said.

Green Party candidate James Dorsey, a school district security officer, also supports the citizens carrying guns.

“These individuals are exercising their rights to bear arms, and to patrol their area as militia.  It’s right,” Dorsey said.

Libertarian candidate Larry Ricketts, a former sheriff’s deputy and deputy constable, was the only candidate who discouraged the armed citizen patrols.

“I would discourage vigilantism,” said Ricketts.  “When that bullet leaves that gun several things can happen.  You can hit your target, and you can hit two or three more targets.”

Ricketts urged the residents to instead contact law enforcement when they’re aware of potential criminal activity.

Mandatory Overtime for Jail Personnel

Candidates also discussed a requirement that jail employees work more than 40 hours a week.  Mandatory overtime has been an issue in the campaign. 

Democrat Javier Salazar said the overtime may be causing deputies to cut corners.

“We need to start treating these officers better than what they’re being treated.  This is not the military.  This is not big business. We deal with real people, real human emotion.  When you start treating your officers like a number they are going to start treating inmates like a number and we can’t have that,” Salazar said.

Libertarian Larry Rickets, a deputy constable who has worked in the jail, says the problem of mandatory overtime began decades ago.

“These problems started 24 years ago when outsiders came in to run the department,” said Ricketts.  “We started losing officers at 33 per month and that’s been going on since then.” 

Rickets said positions were cut because the leadership didn’t know how to run the jail.

Incumbent Sheriff Susan Pamerleau, the Republican, said she’s cut mandatory overtime hours since she took office three years ago.

“When I became the sheriff our deputies were working 16,000 hours of mandatory overtime every single month.  In the first two months of this year, by that time we had brought mandatory overtime down by 90 percent,” Pamerleau said.

Pamerleau on Trump As Her Party's Nominee

During the hour-long debate Sheriff Pamerleau declined to say whether she supports her Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump.  Pamerleau dodged the question again when questioned following the debate. 

Here’s the exchange:

Reporter:  Do you have problems with some of Donald Trump’s positions and how they represent Republicans down ballot?

Pamerleau:  I wish we had better choices overall.    

Reporter:  You’re not supporting him (Trump) openly. 

Pamerleau:  I’m going to make my own decision when I walk into the voting booth on November 8.

The Democratic, Libertarian and Green candidates for sheriff all say they support their parties’ presidential nominees. 

Shelley Kofler is Texas Public Radio’s news director. She joined the San Antonio station in December 2014 and leads a growing staff that produces two weekly programs; a daily talk show, news features, reports and online content. Prior to TPR, Shelley served as the managing editor and news director at KERA in Dallas-Fort Worth, and the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.