WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Several residents called on Williamson County leaders to take action after a sheriff’s deputy made a series of graphic posts on social media.
Three people signed up Tuesday to share their outrage with the Commissioners Court about some of the things that Commander Steve Deaton from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook.
Gary Richter, a 40-year resident of Georgetown, cited a report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center on August 1 that included several screenshots from Deaton’s Facebook page. Richter described the images shown there as “racist and misogynistic.”
“They were photos of dolls — Barbie dolls and elf dolls — posed in various ways,” Richter told the commissioners. “Most suggested sexual violence against women.”
One post showed an elf holding the hair of a doll who appeared to be sick.
The caption on that photo read, “Sticking to etiquette our elf holds the hair of his date to the party while she pukes. Silently though he wonders whether the roofie he slipped her earlier will still be effective.”
Susan Wukasch, who’s lived in Williamson County for 36 years, brought up her own religious beliefs while reading her prepared remarks to the commissioners Tuesday.
“In all my years in this area, I’ve always found [Williamson County] to be proudly, loudly Christian,” Wukasch said.
“I call on you to remember not just your responsibility as elected officials, but as prominent members of your church communities,” she added, “to condemn the actions of Sheriff Chody and his apparently trusted officer, Commander Deaton.”
Another of Deaton’s posts depicted an elf using a miniature chainsaw to saw apart an action figure of a black football player, lying in what looks like a pool of blood in front of a small American flag.
The time stamp showed that that picture was added on Nov. 28, 2017. The caption read, “Our patriotic elf grew angrier all season. He finally snapped and decided to show the NFL how he goes about taking knees for not standing during our national anthem.” The caption included the #thankavet hashtag.
A screenshot of that post sent anonymously to KXAN showed that Sheriff Robert Chody was among those who liked that post.
“What the public has learned about the character of these two men and the posting and the responding to vile images of torture, racism, gang rape and degradation of people that Commander Deaton apparently feels are less valuable than he is,” Wukasch said, “has many of us appalled, frightened and sick.”
While referencing this specific post, Richter told the commissioners: “This is creating a stereotype of police everywhere as racist, and my point is that this kind of thing not only damages the image of the local sheriff’s department, but of law enforcement everywhere. It weakens law enforcement everywhere.”
Sheriff Chody was not available for an on-camera interview Tuesday, but he sent KXAN the following statement:
“I am heading back in town from out of state and will address the issue more in depth. I will say I do not condone the posts and the one like from me was related to standing for the U.S. flag, and only that. As a veteran, I am very passionate about the issue of standing for our U.S. flag and completely overlooked the obvious. That was a mistake on my part. Any other matters I will address when I return.”
Wukasch called it “painful” to see that Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell also liked Deaton’s photo of the mutilated football player toy. She said he now needed to act.
“I know there are limits on what you can do in this situation,” she said. “But I call on you for the sake of all the citizens of Williamson County to do your utmost to censor, condemn and if possible oust from leadership positions these two men whose behavior and attitudes they have now illustrated for us in such a graphic way.”
Judge Gravell did not offer any comment Tuesday about liking the post. Instead, he sent this statement:
“A commissioners court approves the number of positions for a sheriff and adopts a budget to fund a sheriff’s office, but a sheriff, as an elected official, controls who to hire and who to terminate under his or her ‘sphere of control.’ Due to such fact, any questions relating to employment matters of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office would need be presented to the Williamson County Sheriff or his designated representative.”
Glenda Harbert, a retired Presbyterian minister, suggested that these posts may require more diversity or racial sensitivity training for law enforcement and elected leaders in the county.
“If it already has been done, please do it again and address this issue,” Harbert said, “because we three are not the only ones that are very, very upset by these [posts].”
The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office shared its “social networking and Internet usage policy” with KXAN Tuesday. It states:
“Employees should use good judgment in all communications, particularly on a website or social networking site that is accessible to anyone. What you say or post on your site or what is said or posted on your site by others could potentially be grounds for discipline. If you would not be comfortable with your supervisor, co-workers, or the management team reading your words, do not write them. Employees can be disciplined by the Sheriff’s Office for commentary, content, or images that are defamatory, pornographic, harassing, or that can be considered as a violation of the standards set in the code of conduct policy of the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.”
Commissioner Cynthia Long for Precinct Two suggested Tuesday that the county may need to review its social media policy to see if there’s a better way to address these kinds of issues. It’s unclear what kinds of changes may come.
In April 2019, a lawyer filed a complaint against Commander Deaton after he allegedly made a sexually inappropriate comment about a producer working for the “Live PD” television show.
In May this year, the Commissioners Court narrowly agreed to renew the contract with the production company behind the popular A&E show so that the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office could still participate in it.