Advocate editorial board opinion: Sheriff shows his department's equipment, history
The Victoria Advocate proudly likes to point out it is the second oldest newspaper in Texas, surpassed only by the Galveston newspaper.
But our Victoria County Sheriff's Office officially is older than the newspaper by about 11 years.
And it is with much felicity that Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor celebrates the 175th anniversary of his office.
"Victoria was one of four constituted by the president of the (Texas) republic," O'Connor said.
With colorful history of his office in mind, O'Connor began to plan a great celebration two years ago to mark the milestone. Friday and Saturday, Sheriff O'Connor is conducting an open house, and the public is invited.
"We will be displaying equipment we have acquired, and the building will be open. Inside is a wall pictorial of the history," O'Connor said.
We think the office of sheriff has played a major part of Texas history and likely in other states, as well.
O'Connor said the biggest challenge for sheriffs through time has been keeping an even playing field between criminals and law enforcement.
When the office was established in 1836, the main resources a sheriff had were leadership, rope and weapons that a sheriff back then would think were science fiction, O'Connor said.
Through time, criminals became more sophisticated than law enforcement, so the challenge always was to keep up and maybe stay a step ahead.
"We had Billy the Kid, Pancho Villa and later Bonnie and Clyde, who stole a car in Victoria," O'Connor said.
He said the governor of Texas issued Tommy guns to all sheriffs because of Bonnie and Clyde and other criminals who had machine guns.
"Sheriffs have to ramp up," O'Connor said.
We agree. A law enforcement officer has to have equipment as good as or better than the criminals.
Other incidents in South Texas involved Mexican nationals crossing the Rio Grande, claiming Texas had not won its independence. Sheriffs stood ground and ordered them back across the border.
Today, as most of us know, we deal with criminals smuggling drugs, as well as human beings; and illegal immigration is an ongoing problem. Criminals use GPS, cell phones and other high technology. And sheriffs across the state try to acquire better technology to fight and deter criminals.
The days of "get a rope" as a deterrent are gone. But lots and lots of technology are taking its place.
We congratulate Sheriff O'Connor on his office's anniversary, and we urge everybody to visit his office Friday and Saturday. You will see a lot of history that is not well known but should be.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.