Remember when you would go to your family doctor and they would take care of what ailed you? And if you needed anything more, which generally meant surgery, then they would call the local surgeon. Now you go to the doctor and you might be referred to several different specialist before a final answer is made about what ails you. Everything has gotten specialized. Law enforcement isn’t much different.
I can remember a time in law enforcement, more especially rural and small town law enforcement, when an investigator with a police department or sheriff’s office was the investigator, property officer and crime scene tech all rolled into one. That may still be the case in some agencies but the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office has had to follow the path of specialization. We have investigators that concentrate on property crimes, crimes against persons, crimes against children, sex offenders, auto burglary and thefts and a full time college degreed crime scene technician. This was all done to provide the citizens with the very best service possible.
Crime scene investigation is probably one area of law enforcement that has witnessed major strides in their capabilities. We have all seen the television versions of CSI and the great things they can accomplish in 30 minutes to an hour. The technology is out there. The ability to pay for and have all the technology is something else. However, we have been fortunate by being able to employ our Crime Scene Tech Katherine “Katie” Gildner.
Katie, who comes from a law enforcement family, received her formal education at the University of North Texas; receiving her degree in forensic anthropology in 2011. She also received her certification in criminalistics. Her academic recognitions include the Lambda Alpha Anthropology Honor Society, Golden Key International Honor Society, Tau Sigma National Honor Society as well as being on the Dean’s List multiple times. While at UNT she completed her required internship with the Grand Prairie Police Department. Since graduation she has completed no less than 280 additional classroom hours in her chosen field.
Katie is a young vibrant employee that looks younger than her 25 years of age. When she talks of the classes she took in forensic anthropology, forensic biology, forensic microscopy, etc., I’m sure I get that deer in the headlight look. If you ever get to meet her you will see what I mean.
Since coming to the sheriff’s office in August 2012, she has proven to be an integral part of the law enforcement operation. The knowledge of her expertise has spread and now other agencies request her assistance on their crime scenes and fingerprints. Once when I ask her about the fingerprints she stated, “There are hundreds of agencies in Texas that use AFIX Tracker and ULW/AFIS, but I’m the only one in Ellis County. Multiple agencies within Ellis County, as well as Mansfield and Dalworthington Gardens bring me their fingerprints because I’m able to process them much quicker than DPS or some of the larger cities/counties. Dallas P.D. sent one of their latent print examiners down here so that I could demonstrate how the FTP server that I have set up with DPS in Austin works. They have now switched over from using email to sending encrypted fingerprint searches to using the FTP file sharing method like we have.”
Areas of specialization require more than just the basic knowledge one obtains in a police academy. With all the cop shows on television the juries and courts expect to hear testimony about the forensics of the crime. Ellis County is fortunate to be able to have Katie as part of their law enforcement assets to provide the type of testimony expected.
Johnny Brown has served as Sheriff of Ellis County since Jan. 1, 2009, and is a graduate of the National Sheriff’s Institute. He has been in law enforcement for 20 years and holds a Master’s Peace Officer’s Certificate with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.