By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – After formally accepting the position of Police Chief for the City of Grapeland, Don Myers sat down with The Messenger newspaper to discuss his background, qualifications and vision for the department as he prepares to officially move into his new role on Sept. 20.
During an interview conducted Thursday, Sept. 15, the new top cop in Grapeland was asked how he wound up in the Queen City of the Sand Flats.
“I was born and raised in Houston and I had a grandfather who lived in Palestine. My parents had said when they retired they might move up here. Things were getting a little bit busy in Houston, so they thought as soon as my sister and I graduated high school, they would move up here. The schools in Houston became so bad, however, we moved up here in 1974. I attended Palestine High and in 1977, I joined the United States Marine Corps. I was honorably discharged in 1984 and went into the family business.”
Chief Myers said when he first got out of the service, he took some time to try and figure out what he wanted to do, but added, “I was given the opportunity, later on in 1984, to attend the police academy.”
Myers said when he graduated from the police academy in Kilgore, he went to work for the Jacksonville Police Department. “As a young man, I thought this would be a nice little sleepy town to learn in, but learning the books and learning the streets are two different things,” he said.
After being in Jacksonville for a bit, Myers said he realized the only way he would move up in the department “… was for someone to either quit or for someone to retire or to go somewhere else. That was my reasoning for leaving there. I knew the sheriff of Anderson County and at that time it was Gary Thomas. He’s now the Justice of the Peace in Precinct One in Anderson County (Elkhart). He convinced me to come back home from across the river and he put me to work.”
The chief recalled – after a brief period of time with Anderson County – he was promoted to the position of Investigator by Sheriff Thomas. “There was an election and I believe it was Mickey Hubert who won the election. He rehired me and I worked with him for a short while and then I applied to go to work as a criminal Investigator for the State of Texas. I had some investigating knowledge by then, but didn’t know if it was enough to meet their requirements,” he said.
“I received a call from Huntsville, they hired me and I went to work in the Northern Region of Texas. I don’t know what they call it now, but back then it was the Northern Region. Primarily, the duties of Internal Affairs (now known as the Office of the Inspector General) were we would work any type of grievance from an inmate and during the course of an investigation, if we found a criminal offense had taken place, we would work the criminal aspect as well. We worked the civil and criminal ends of it. Also at that time, Internal Affairs also worked any escapes that might occur.”
After a few years in the Northern Region, Myers said he was transferred to the Central Region of Texas.
“Shortly after that, I got the call from my dad. My dad had a countertop business – Myers Formica Countertops,” he continued. “It got to the point where he was getting up in age and he told me if I wanted the business to come and get it. I was getting a little burned out in law enforcement at the time, so I took a brief recess. With some aggressive advertising we got into synthetic marble and other types of countertops. My dad told me once, ‘I work a whole lot harder for you than I ever did for myself.’”
Myers added, “I had the business for a while and the economy began to slow down. It slowed down enough where I could get back into law enforcement as a reserve deputy with Anderson County. I re-activated my (TCOLE) license and did the reserve duties for a couple of weeks. After those couple of weeks, I was called into the sheriff’s office and offered a job. It was a tough decision to make because of the salary going from way up here to way down there. My wife and I discussed it and I prayed about it and then I took the position they (Anderson County) offered.”
The position Myers was offered was in the civil division at the courthouse, but he explained, “I was continuously loaned out to patrol. I worked there for four of five years and then (Grapeland PD Officer) Ronnie (Howell) and I had a friend who left Anderson County and went to work for Smith County (Tyler). We stayed in touch with him and when he got up there he told us the county (Smith) was about the same size (in area as Anderson), but there was more of a population and more of a tax base which leads to more money for the sheriff’s department for equipment, uniforms, salary – everything was a little bit more upscale.”
One thing led to another, Myers said, and he eventually went to work for Smith County. “One of the reasons for my decision to come down here was because I have known Ronnie for a long, long time. Ronnie is basically the one who got the ball rolling to come down here and see what I could do. At the same time, it’s a pretty rough and tumble time in Smith County so I was looking for something, at my age, to slow down a little bit. I’m not the complete cure-all to everyone’s problems, but I’m here to help offer what knowledge I have and help out in any way I can,” he said.
As far as his objectives with the Grapeland Police Department, Myers said, “It doesn’t matter whether we have four or five officers or if we have 50 officers, we all need to be on the same page. We need to follow the same internal structures of an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). We need to have a Use of Force Policy. Even though, I’m here but haven’t really started yet, over the years I have seen some things that have been implemented in other places, that I think would be great.”
Specifically asked what he would like to see put in place, Myers said one of the easiest and most effective tools he would like to implement is a citizen’s letter. “If we go to a call – any kind of a call – that warrants us getting a case number issued, it is a letter format handed out by the patrolmen. The patrol officers will right down the patrol number on that and it will outline where the case stands. Maybe we have enough to do a full investigation, maybe we don’t. They will be advised if an investigator will contact them. Another thing is that if that if they feel like they haven’t heard anything back, they will have the case number we can refer to. The citizens will get to know that this is their case, what to expect and they can follow up,” he said.
“In time,” he continued, “if I can stretch myself that far, I would like to approach some of the Junior High and high school kids and see if there would be any interest in a police explorer program. It doesn’t seem like much in a small town but I have seen several events where an extra set of eyes or ears can help. We could get them a radio and a flashlight and if they see something that is potentially not a good thing, they could radio one of the officers and they would respond.”
Before he assumes his new role or implements any type of programs, Myers said there are several areas of concern which need to be addressed. “We have to an audit of our evidence and our personnel records. Those are things he state requires us to stay up-to-date on or we can get into real trouble. That is going to be my first priority,” he explained.
Myers has been married to his wife Kay for over 30 years and the couple have four children – three boys and one girl. In addition, the Myers couple have seven grandchildren, all boys. His first official day as the Police Chief of Grapeland is Sept. 20.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.