WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A detective currently on administrative leave implored Williamson County leaders to provide more mental health assistance to deputies who find themselves in a similar situation.
“Today I’d like to talk to you about the increased mental health issues and dangers of suicide within the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office for those personnel put on administrative leave,” Detective Michael Klier said Tuesday during the Commissioners Court.
Klier, who currently serves as president of the Williamson County Deputies Association, addressed the county commissioners during the public comment section. He pointed out that deputies on administrative leave still receive their pay and benefits, yet he said he expressed his surprise to a lieutenant recently that more employees had not taken their own lives “because of the way our people are treated.”
“It’s the feeling of being cut out from the organization that they come to work to every day willing to lay down their lives, which is the worst — the isolation of administrative leave,” Klier said. “I was often surprised when I would call my fellow deputies on administrative leave, and they would tell me, ‘You were the only one that has called.'”
He added, “We at the Sheriff’s Office respond to dozens of welfare concerns a month to support our citizens, their fears and their family and friends, yet our employees suffer in agonizing silence.”
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office provided the following statement Wednesday about Klier’s remarks:
“When a WCSO employee is under investigation and subsequently placed on administrative leave, contact is not made with the employee until the investigation is complete. Sheriff Chody created a peer support team that provides WCSO employees psychological and emotional support through all types of incidents if the employee decides he or she needs assistance. The Peer Support Team is available to all employees, including those on administrative leave.”
Klier told the commissioners that he is currently on administrative leave. The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office would not confirm Wednesday the reasoning for the leave.
“On Jan. 29, I walked out of the Sheriff’s Office, and my chain of command has not been in contact with me in any way,” Klier said. “As far as they know at this point, I am laying dead in my closet by my own hand.”
According to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that tracks law enforcement suicides, 228 law enforcement and corrections officers died by suicide in 2019, including 19 in Texas alone.
On Tuesday, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell stopped Klier from finishing his full remarks because of the two-minute time limit normally allotted for public comments. However, Gravell said he let Klier speak slightly longer “out of respect to you and your service to our county.”
Gravell wrote in a statement to KXAN Wednesday, “We take both the physical and mental health of our employees very seriously at Williamson County, and we have a robust system in place to care for their needs.”
As Klier left the lectern Tuesday, Commissioner Valerie Covey said aloud to the courtroom,”By the way, we do care.”
KXAN will update its story if the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office responds to an additional request for comment about Klier’s remarks.