WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Commander Steve Deaton sent a letter to colleagues sharing he had resigned from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. The move came after several months of controversy and calls for his firing.
Deaton acknowledged that the past few weeks have been “extremely difficult” for the department, his family and himself.
“I have sat on the side lines and watched this agency and our sheriff be characterized as a lot of things other than the fine professional organization that we are,” Deaton wrote. “This is sadly due in large part to a few photos I posted on my personal Facebook page some time ago. Sheriff Chody, words can’t describe how honored I have been to serve with you. The fact that you have stood by what you felt was right, despite the onslaught from those around you, speaks to your character.”
Sheriff Robert Chody wrote in a statement, “I accepted Patrol Commander Steve Deaton’s resignation effective Sept. 2, Cmd. Deaton served Williamson County Sheriff’s office since January 2017.”
Throughout August, dozens of residents began appearing at Commissioners Courts to call upon the sheriff to fire Deaton after a series of graphic Facebook posts the commander made became public. Those included “racist and misogynistic” images, according to one Georgetown resident.
“They were photos of dolls — Barbie dolls and elf dolls — posed in various ways,” Gary Richter, a Georgetown resident, told the Commissioners Court. “Most suggested sexual violence against women.”
Deaton said in his letter that the accusations of racism and misogyny against him are “preposterous,” and said in hindsight he should have understood “that those who haven’t worked around me or know me, would not understand my sense of humor.” He added that he had posted more than 100 photos with the elf and other figurines and that people had only seen the shocking ones.
“In the future before condemning folks you do not know, understand that people are more than a social media post or two,” Deaton wrote. “If you are going to judge the character of a person based on their social media content, then at least look at the totality of that content.”
One of the posts — depicting an elf using a mini chainsaw to saw apart an action figure of a black football player supposedly kneeling for the American flag — led to a flurry of criticism at Sheriff Chody and Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell since they both liked it.
KXAN reached out Tuesday to all the Williamson County commissioners regarding the resignation. Only Commissioner Terry Cook for Precinct One responded with the following statement:
“Thank you to the residents of Williamson County for showing up and speaking up the last few weeks at Commissioners Court and in the media to express your disgust regarding the Deaton situation. As I said a month ago, change can be achieved through public pressure and action. Let this be a lesson for everyone.”
This wasn’t the only controversy for Deaton. Back in April, a Georgetown lawyer alleged that Deaton told deputies it was his goal for one of them to have sex with a producer of “Live PD.” According to the complaint, Deaton reportedly asked 20 deputies — including four women — in a room who had had sex with producers of the A&E crime reality show, which WCSO was featured on until recently.
Attorney Robert McCabe said he filed the complaint on behalf of members of the Texas Municipal Police Association who witnessed the event, saying in a written statement to KXAN: “Due to the culture of fear and intimidation that persists within the leadership ranks at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, many of the deputies are afraid to speak out on matters like this.”
McCabe released a statement Tuesday reacting to Deaton’s resignation:
“What the public needs to remember with Deaton’s departure is that Sheriff Robert Chody did not terminate Commander Deaton. Sheriff Chody had no issues retaining Commander Deaton in his command level role, even after he made inappropriate remarks to a room full of his subordinates about sexually pursuing a female producer from LivePD. Sheriff Chody had no problem retaining Commander Deaton after his views about violence towards minorities and his misogynistic views of women came to light in the “elf” incident. Even after a broad public outcry, Sheriff Chody refused to terminate, demote or discipline in any meaningful manner, Commander Deaton.
Sheriff Chody and his current command staff lack the moral compass to shed the negative light which still shines on the Sheriff’s Office. I believe the voters will correct the mistake of electing Robert Chody when they return to the polls in 2020.”
The uproar about Deaton’s Facebook posts led Williamson County commissioners in August to spend $5,000 in the new budget for “respectful workplace training.” At that particular budget voting session, County Judge Bill Gravell declined to resign despite people demanding that he do so.
Gravell declined to comment Tuesday through a county spokesperson.
The Rev. Chuck Freeman, the minister at Free Souls Church and the co-chair of Undoing Racism Round Rock, previously addressed one Commissioners Court about these issues. He told KXAN in a statement that Deaton resigning is still not enough.
“One down, two to go. Commander Deaton’s resignation is WAY past overdue. We will continue to demand the resignations of Sheriff Chody and Judge Gravell. Liking posts that depict racism and violence toward black men and women shows their true hearts & disqualifies them from serving in public office. We deserve elected officials who will respect the dignity of ALL Wilco residents.”
Steve Armbruster, the chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party, told KXAN Tuesday, “I am relieved that [Deaton] is no longer employed by Williamson County. I look forward to the efforts that Sheriff Chody will be doing in rebuilding the public trust in the Sheriff’s office.”
Chody announced in August that he will run for re-election in 2020.