The 32nd Judicial District Attorney's office has announced a couple of changes, but both appear to be beneficial to the residents of Nolan, Fisher and Mitchell counties.
Chief Investigator Phillip Gill recently earned his Master Peace Officer certificate after working for more than 20 years in law enforcement and Barrett Thomas was hired as the new Assistant District Attorney (ADA) on Sept. 1, to serve under the District Attorney, Ann Reed. Ms. Reed thinks both of these events will greatly benefit the counties of her district.
A Sweetwater native, Mr. Gill went into law enforcement after working for eight years with Flint Company, now known as Georgia Pacific, before they closed their doors. Along with a friend, Mr. Gill was given the opportunity to receive police training through the West Central Texas Council of Governments.
Mr. Gill signed up for the police academy, initially unsure of his desire to be an officer, but he has never left the profession. Following the police academy, Mr. Gill worked at the Snyder Police Department and with the Nolan County Sheriff's Office for a short time.
In 1992, Mr. Gill began a 10 year career with the Sweetwater Police Department, working the first three years of his tenure as a patrolman before becoming an investigator. Since 2002, he has been working at the District Attorney's office as an investigator.
Mr. Gill earned his Masterâ€™s Peace Officer certificate from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education following his 20th anniversary in law enforcement and upon receiving 1,200 training hours.
The extensive training included such topics as crime scene investigation, patrol tactics, family violence, special investigative topics, cultural diversity, sex offender characteristics, child abuse, identity theft and crisis intervention.
The Master Peace Officer certificate Mr. Gill just received, however, is actually his third certificate. He previously received Intermediate and Advanced certificates in the gradual step process towards the Master certificate.
Mr. Gill commented on the time he has spent in law enforcement and his new credentials, saying, â€śIt feels good to reach the 20-year milestone, and Iâ€™m happy for all the experience Iâ€™ve gained. The certificate is not a big deal, it just comes with the time I have put in.â€ť
He did understand, however, that not everyone makes it to 20 years.
"At 20 years of law enforcement," said Mr. Gill, "people get frustrated and burned out from the gloom and doom of the job. I have been blessed to be surrounded by good people who kept me positive. I always remember that the job we are doing is needed and results in a lot of good for the people we serve and protect.â€ť
Nevertheless, Mr. Gill knows that his experience and training will continue to benefit the law enforcement agencies within the 32nd Judicial District. Barrett Thomas, the new ADA, also hopes that his experience will be of great assistance as well.
Mr. Thomas is a 2001 graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, and two years later â€” while working in law enforcement, he earned his Master's degree in Criminal Justice at Tarleton State University. In 2008, he graduated from the Texas Tech University School of Law.
Mr. Thomas has worked in corrections, police work and most recently on the judicial side of law enforcement. While working as a police officer, and briefly as a Chief of Police, Mr. Thomas also earned a Masterâ€™s Peace Officer Certificate.
He believes the 32nd Judicial District will benefit from his ability to understand the officers' jobs, and his understanding of what it is like being in the field. He is also excited to be returning to prosecution.
"I hope that my past training and experiences will allow me to more effectively present cases to jurors in our community,â€ť added Mr. Thomas.
While he states his heart has always been in law enforcement, Mr. Thomas spent the past year in private practice including criminal defense work. Through that experience Mr. Thomas was able to meet, network with and befriend several surrounding District Attorneys (DA) in the area, including Ms. Reed.
"Ann is just a very special type of prosecutor," praised Mr. Thomas. "She doesn't seem concerned about politics; she just seeks justice. That is not something you find in every county."
He commended not only Ms. Reedâ€™s integrity and her dedication to law enforcement, but the transparency Ms. Reed has made a priority. Mr. Thomas hopes that people realize that their office doors are open, and he welcomes citizensâ€™ questions about the role of the office. He is even willing to personally answer questions when he is available, and when they can be answered without jeopardizing ongoing investigations.
As Mr. Thomas begins his position working alongside Ms. Reed and Mr. Gill, he is excited to be a part of the process of the DA's office and their continual work and focus on justice, victimsâ€™ rights, and keeping the counties he serves safe.