Select officers of the Texas County Sheriff's Department now have at their disposal beanbag, left, and rubber bullets for use in specific circumstances.

By Doug Davison, Houston Herald

A 5 ½-hour standoff in early August of this year at a home near Houston between Texas County Sheriff’s Department officers and 39-year-old Robert J. Cantrell of Cabool prompted a change in the way similar incidents may be approached in the future.

About a six weeks ago, the sheriff’s department added beanbag and rubber bullets to its list of ways to deter crime. The shells are available for use by the department’s road sergeant and Lt. Melissa Dunn. Deputies are not given access to them.

The idea behind the move is that officers in a situation like the one involving Cantrell could potentially disable the perpetrator and procure his weapon without causing serious injury or death – and do so in a far shorter time than it typically takes to wait him out.

At a cost of $7 per shell, making the idea a reality doesn’t come cheap.

“It’s high, but it’s worth it,” Sheriff Carl Watson said.

Dunn said one box of each type of shell was fired off in a training session to help gain a feel for distance, pattern and strength. She and the road sergeant will each carry one box of each shell.

The shells are obtained from an out of state law enforcement supplier.

Undercover restraint

People in attendance at a high profile trial in Texas County might not see the any form of restraint device on the person being tried. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

A couple of months ago, the sheriff’s department began the use of stun belts, which are designed to curb outbursts by aggressive inmates or trial subjects without the potential of influencing juries as has been proven to happen with more traditional, visible devices such as handcuffs and shackles.

Typical stun belts fasten around the waist and can therefore be covered by clothing. At the push of a remote button, the wearer receives an electrical shock.

Texas County Court bailiffs are now trained in the use of stun belt remotes.

Doug Davison is a writer, copy editor and general office worker for the Houston Herald. His assignments include a crime beat and through this blog, he shares some interesting, intriguing and sometimes funny insight regarding stories he discovers weekly at the Texas County Justice Center. You can contact Doug at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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