Officers getting ready for some legal wrangling

Area sheriff, police officers prepare to serve thousands of outstanding warrants

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Feb. 25, 2007 - Hopkins County Sheriff's Office and other local law enforcement agencies will be joining officers across the state in conducting a "warrant roundup" during the first part of March.

On Thursday, March 1, the sheriff's office will be using all of its resources, including off-duty, salaried and reserve personnel, to form two-man units to begin serving a large stack of warrants, ranging from Class C misdemeanors on up to felony offenses, according to HCSO Chief Investigator Andy Chester.

Sheriff's officers also plan to contact Cumby and Como Police Departments, as well as Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Special Crimes Unit, to see if those agencies will team up with HCSO in an effort to serve warrants in the county that day.

They will also be working to get as many of the jail division's reserve personnel as possible to assist with the extra workload in the book-in area, and are hoping to have an extra communications operator to handle warrant related calls and activity, while those normally scheduled to be on duty can focus on regular dispatching duties.

By using off-duty, salaried and reserve personnel, the department will still have regular shift officers available to take priority calls and perform normal duties during the course of the day.

Like many departments across the state, HCSO has a backlog of warrants yet to be served either due to lack of staff, a designated warrants officer or simply an inability to track down the offenders.

Most recently, the sheriff's office's midnight shift officers have shouldered most of the responsibility of serving the warrants simply because there are not enough officers during the other shifts to cover regular duties as well as serve warrants, although they do still do that when the opportunity arises. That leaves most of the warrant service to the crew whose work day generally doesn't start until most people are in or at least getting ready for bed.

Serving Class B and C misdemeanor warrants in the middle of the night is a bit unusual, non-traditional to say the least. But that's when a lot of the warrants are getting served, felony and misdemeanor.

The department is encouraging anyone with a warrant or who thinks they may possibly be wanted on a warrant to contact communications operators at 903-438-4040. Communications operators can advise in which court the charge, if any, is outstanding.

If the charge is through one of the justice of the peace courts, the person can contact that court and make arrangements to take care of the charge. If the arrangements are made to take care of the charge prior to the roundup, that action will be noted on the warrants list, and the person will have until the deadline noted by the judge to fulfill the terms.

If the person has a short-term agreement which expires before the end of the roundup, the warrant task force will include them among the many others to be arrested on outstanding charges.

Also, those with outstanding warrants should be aware that if a traffic stop is made to secure their arrest, officers will have the option of either having the vehicle impounded or releasing it to someone designated by the owner. However, it is the department's general policy to have the vehicle impounded, as the towing companies generally have a bonding agreement which protects HCSO from further responsibility for any potential damages, Chester said.

For more information about Hopkins County Sheriff's Office's warrant roundup or to check for warrants, contact the sheriff's communications division at 903-438-4040.

Como Police Department will also be rounding up individuals with outstanding warrants March 3-10. To find out about outstanding charges with that agency, call 903-488-3434 between 10 a.m. and 12 noon on Wednesdays and Friday.

Sulphur Springs Police Department will be participating in a city-wide roundup March 5-9. To inquire about warrants or make arrangements to take care of those charges, call 903-885-7454 Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Authorities with all local agencies noted that those with outstanding warrants can be arrested anywhere at any time, including at home, work, school or on the street.

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