Recent Editorial “LCSO Obtains Plastic Explosives” - in its entirity
Jun 25, 2014
Liberty County Sheriff’s Office
Bobby Rader, Sheriff
2400 Beaumont Ave. ~ Liberty, TX 77575
Phone 936-336-4500 ~ Fax 936-336-4536
Date: June 23, 2014
From: Sheriff Bobby Rader
Re: Recent Editorial “LCSO Obtains Plastic Explosives”
This letter is in response to your editorial on June 22, 2014, titled “LCSO Obtains Plastic Explosives”. You raised some important questions in your article and I would like the opportunity to provide some answers.
You asked the questions, “What does this small department need or want with plastic explosives?”, and “What is this material and its intended use?” To answer, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) has indeed recently purchased some explosive material. The purpose of this material is for what is known as “explosive breaching”. This material would be used in the rare circumstance where LCSO needs to make a lawful entry into a heavily reinforced house or building. Such entries would be on high-risk felony incidents and warrants, or barricaded suspects, and when standard mechanical breaching techniques are not feasible or have been tried and were unsuccessful. The material would be used in a quantity that is large enough to penetrate a door or other opening that a suspect has strengthened and fortified to hinder entry by law enforcement, but not in a quantity that would damage the surrounding structure. It would be used as last option, and only after all other means of entry have been considered.
You asked, “So why now? What has changed to make the purchase of this kind of material useful and necessary?” To answer, LCSO has recently encountered the heavily reinforced/fortified doors described above on felony warrant services. The mechanical breaching techniques that were used took an excessive amount of time to gain entry into the building. This put the deputies and investigators at an increased risk for being fired upon by suspects, and an increased risk of injury due to the use of pry bars and battering rams against immovable and difficult to penetrate doors and windows. There is also the factor of a suspect being able to destroy more evidence the longer it takes officers to make entry. Additionally, there are now elements of transnational drug cartels, supremacist movements, and “sovereign citizen” movements in Liberty County. These subjects are known to “harden” their homes and buildings to make immediate entry by law enforcement difficult, if not impossible by the old method of “kicking in a door.” The probability that LCSO will have to make a court ordered, or emergency entry into buildings controlled by those types of subjects is increasing every day.
You stated, “These big boy law enforcement toys like they have in the movies are the kinds of things not purchased out of the annual LCSO Budget approved by Commissioner’s Court. These types of purchases are made with Drug Seizure Money that is largely not audited by the county unless something comes up.” To respond, we do not consider the materials as “toys”. There is a lot of training that goes with the proper use and storage of the material. You are correct in your assumption that these materials were purchased using seized drug funds awarded to LCSO through the court process. By law, those funds go directly to the agency or agencies involved in the seizures. Also by law, they cannot be put into a county’s general fund. They can only be given to the agencies involved and they can only be used for a law enforcement purpose. Those purposes can be for equipment, supplies, or training. The explosive material that is the basis for your editorial was purchased using seizure funds, not taxpayer dollars. Also, the training that goes with that material was paid for through seized funds. We have been in close contact with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) on the proper storage and handling of the material, and we are in compliance with their recommendations.
You asked, “Why fight the release of information unless there is something to hide and the LCSO wants to withhold from public scrutiny their acquisition of plastic explosives[?]” To answer, your request for the specific information was sent to the County Attorney, then to the Attorney General not because LCSO was hiding from public scrutiny. The reason we asked for a higher opinion is strictly tactical in nature. Our concern is with the groups mentioned above (transnational drug cartels, supremacist movements and sovereign citizen movements). Additionally, there is an increasing threat of “lone wolf” anti-government extremists. These groups and individuals are actively engaged in counter-surveillance activities. They study, investigate and gather any information they can acquire against law enforcement, and then use that information to impede and even harm or kill officers. LCSO does not want to essentially hand these organizations and individuals our “manual” on how we will proceed with them, if the time comes. If LCSO were to state, “We have X amount of ABC material”, then those groups and individuals would then know to fortify their structures to withstand a “Y’ amount of specific ABC material”. This would increase the risk to our deputies and to those assisting us. We can safely state that our material is commonly used by other agencies’ special divisions and operations on a regular basis. Any time LCSO had to call an outside agency’s specialized unit to assist us, this material was on their responding units, prepared for use (even though it has yet to be needed). But, if the Attorney General advises LCSO that the information concerning the material should be released, then we will comply with that directive.
You stated/asked, “The question concerning plastic explosives seems to be one of priorities. What’s important? Is it investigating [citizen’s] reports of thefts and burglaries? Getting rid of the drug house down the road from [a citizen’s] home? Or blowing things up[?]” To answer, the priorities have been, and are currently, getting rid of the drug houses, and clearing up thefts and burglaries. Specifically, those thefts and burglaries are a direct result of the “drug house down the street”. Methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin are major problems not just here, but for all rural law enforcement across the country. For addicts to support their ever-increasingly expensive habit, they resort to thefts and burglaries. The gains from those crimes go to the drug houses.
When it comes time to “take down” those houses and make entry for arrests, LCSO deputies need to be prepared for all possible threats they may face. The material that was the basis of your editorial was just one small tool in that mission. A specifically trained and assigned team of deputies and investigators is another. Then for the emergency situations, or where there’s a known high risk threat, a Fugitive Unit is another. We also have trained negotiators for potential hostage situations. All of them together are tools that, when used with others, are there to bring all crime statistics down in Liberty County.
And while we’re on the subject of specialized units, the practice is not a new one to our area. In the 1990’s, the Liberty Police Department had such a unit. They just didn’t publicize it. Their unit, just like LCSO’s, was developed for the purpose of high risk warrant service, barricaded suspects, and hostage situations. The LPD unit had four officers that were trained in an official school. Those officers then came back and trained others, all of which trained on a volunteer basis. While the need for a trained unit never went away, attrition and a change in chief administrators ended their unit. In the case of the new LCSO Fugitive Unit, ALL of the assigned deputies have been to the official and proper schools for their training. They practice on a regular basis, and most of their training, tools and weapons are paid for by use of seizure funds. Our permanent unit of paid deputies eliminates the need to call other agencies outside of Liberty County for assistance. In the past, when we had to call out other agencies, it was taxing on two fronts. One, our patrol deputies were tied up holding a scene for hours awaiting the other agency’s arrival. Two, we were forcing another agency to be without protection that their citizens were paying for and counting on. And we still had to pay for any equipment used by the assisting agency. In cases where we didn’t have to call another agency but we still had a high risk situation, we were at the mercy of whatever deputies were on duty and we could cobble together. They had varied levels of training and experience, and they were being diverted from their normal patrol functions (investigating thefts and burglaries and such). Now with a specialized unit, they are all receiving the same level of training. They also train together regularly so they act and react as a proper unit. In their short time in existence, they have already had several operations that were worked to a successful conclusion, without undue burden to the patrol division.
So in conclusion, I hope I answered your more pressing questions that your editorial raised. In the future, if you would contact me or my official spokespersons first, instead of starting directly with an open records request, we would be pleased to try and get you the information you seek, while still keeping the safety, tactical and operational considerations of LCSO’s deputies intact.
Sheriff Bobby Rader
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