By Barbara Davis | Staff writer
As law enforcement agencies in Texas and across the United States face a shortage of officers, local leaders say they are doing their part to prepare officers to protect and serve citizens in the safest way possible.
Yet, as reports of unrest abound, law enforcement personnel are often targeted as victims of violent crime simply because of their chosen service profession.
Evidence of officer assaults locally can be seen from Jefferson County grand jury indictments handed down to 17 people March 29 and April 5, five of whom face charges charging them with assault on a public servant, among a number of other alleged crimes.
Due to the community climate, Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens, Beaumont Police Department Chief Jimmy Singletary and Port Arthur Police Department Chief Timothy Duriso have all implemented changes in both training and department culture within their respective agencies to ensure their officers are properly equipped to to counter the possibility of being assaulted.
“We know it’s going to happen from time to time and it’s part of the job, but I do my best to make sure my deputies are prepared to protect both themselves and the citizens,” Stephens said.
Protect and get beaten
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, law enforcement agencies reported that 56,034 officers were assaulted while performing their duties in 2019, the most recent data available, a rate of 11.8 per 100 sworn officers. Of the officers who were assaulted, 30.7% sustained injuries.
Based on recent statistics, 30.4% of officer assaults were when responding to disturbances such as family arguments and fights, while 17.1% of assaults were attempted other arrests, and 12.8% were when handling or transporting prisoners.
Julius Jackson Jr., 44, of Beaumont, was charged with assault on a peace officer, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and obstruction or retaliation stemming from an incident that occurred on Feb. 4 when he was caught breaking . into a vehicle at 2860 Texas Ave., before getting into a physical altercation with the complainant, allegedly hitting the victim in the head and stabbing him with a screwdriver as he tried to protect his property.
According to a probable cause affidavit provided by the Beaumont Police Department (BPD), when officers attempted to take Jackson into custody, he intentionally obstructed and obstructed officers from making their arrest, and repeatedly shoved officers attempting to secure him in the patrol unit , to cause bodily harm to a police officer by using force against them. Further, while being transported, Jackson allegedly said he would find an officer and assault them upon his release.
Anisha McNabb, 28, an inmate at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility, was charged with assault on a public servant, a third-degree felony, stemming from an incident when she allegedly assaulted two correctional officers, spitting on one and punching another. in the face after treatment.
“We’ve filed a couple of cases of people spitting on officers or things of that nature, and we’re consistent with the consequences of their behavior in our correctional facility,” Stephens said. “I don’t think you’ve seen that much in the past with charges being filed when inmates hit or abused correctional officers, but it sends a message to our inmates and the correctional officers that we will not tolerate them being mistreated.”
Noah Moore, 26, of Beaumont, was indicted on three counts of assault on a public servant after BPD responded to a call at St. Elizabeth Hospital’s emergency room (ER) where Moore allegedly assaulted ER staff.
According to the probable cause affidavit for Moore’s arrest, officers said the patient was “irritated, agitated, confrontational and violent,” and assaulted two nurses while they were providing medical treatment to him, as well as a security guard who aimed and slammed into them with his body’s full weight and force and hits them with hands and fists.
Abuse of public servants is not limited to law enforcement, but also includes medical personnel. Southeast Texas doctors addressed the Port Arthur City Council in January in an effort to raise awareness and support to end workplace violence.
According to Keri Reeves, president of the Golden Triangle Emergency Nurses Association (GTENA), data from 2022 revealed that nurses continue to be assaulted “at a rate of 1,739 per month, 57 every day and one every two hours.” In June 2013, any assault on an emergency room staff member was changed from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
Brandi Nemeth, 35, a transient, was indicted on a second-degree felony count of assault on a peace officer and a state jail term for attempting to take a weapon from an officer stemming from a Sept. 21 trespassing incident. According to the probable cause affidavit for her arrest, BPD responded to a trespassing call at Shop N Save, 2675 S. 4th St., where officers made contact with Nemeth and confirmed she had a valid trespassing warning.
“While placing Brandi in the patrol car, she kicked my partner and began to resist transport,” said BPD Officer H. Hayes. “As she placed Nemeth inside, she wrapped her legs around the bumper of my patrol car and then wrapped her legs around my partner’s legs. Brandi gripped with force and pressed my partner’s genitals for an extended period of time.”
Hayes stated that his partner, Officer John Cross, attempted to deploy his conductive energy weapon (CEW) and the suspect grabbed the CEW and attempted to take it from Cross’ possession. Nemeth was held on the ground until backup officers arrived on the scene to assist in her transport.
Michelle Simon, 54, of Opelousas, Louisiana, was indicted on three counts of aggravated battery against a public servant and evading arrest or detention with a vehicle after leading officers on a high-speed chase into downtown Houston for more than 80 miles on February 2.
According to the probable cause affidavit for Simon’s arrest, BPD officers responded to reports of reckless driving driving into oncoming traffic at IH-10 and Gulf Street. Upon arrival, Officer Katherine Garris observed Sgt. Christopher Pratt had stopped Simon’s vehicle and the complainant advised that Simon was “manic”.
Due to her altered mental state and reported reckless driving, several attempts were made to get her to exit the vehicle to get off the busy interstate with heavy traffic.
Officers stated that Simon refused to exit the vehicle and a physical attempt was made to remove her from the driver’s seat. Subsequently, with the officers on both the driver’s and passenger’s sides, Simon put his foot on the accelerator, causing the officers to move forward with the vehicle’s momentum.
Simon led officers more than 80 miles away into downtown Houston at high speed, eventually stopping just short of DPS tip strips.
According to BPD Chief Singletary, the increase in mental health issues, combined with the ever-growing rate of drug use, has prompted an increase in assaults on peace officers. Port Arthur Police Chief Duriso agrees.
“Of course, officers go through de-escalation and mental health training, but being able to properly assess the situation is critical.”
Law enforcement administrators have created new policies to address the growing problems identified in the community in an effort to better serve residents, protect the public, and protect peacekeepers.
“Honestly, I try to hire people who have the skills to properly communicate with the individuals we’re dealing with,” Stephens said, adding that training is continuous on how officers deal with the public and Jefferson County The Sheriff’s Office runs a training program that teaches deputies proper de-escalation tactics.
“We deal with people who sometimes just don’t want to be taken into custody, and knowing the difference between when someone is trying to hurt you and when someone is simply not complying is critical,” Stephens further explained. “We have to spend a lot of time determining the difference.
Like Stephens, BPD Chief Singletary works to use as little force as necessary and de-escalate situations whenever possible for the safety of both officers and the public.
“I taught defensive tactics for 37 years prior to this job, but my research led me to jujitsu,” Singletary said. As of last year, all Beaumont PD officers have been required to complete brief jujitsu training, according to Singletary. “Jujitsu is a martial art that does not require punches, punches or kicks to restrain.
“The officers have already used the techniques and it has proven to be an asset to our program. We have 10-15 officers who have continued the training on their own, which is a benefit to our defensive tactics program.”
“We deal with family disruptions and settle arguments, and we have to be able to listen and communicate effectively,” Stephens said.
Often, officers respond to domestic disturbances where emotions run high. Although de-escalation is the first attempt, officers are challenged with the task of defending themselves and protecting citizens at the same time.
The recent indictments are just a few of the many assault cases against public servants that literally add insult to injury in an often already thankless job.
Stephens says she is constantly concerned about the safety of her officers, but the safety of the community is just as important, and for all parties involved, she continues to provide her deputies with training and tools to handle confrontation in a compassionate and appropriate manner. .