You don’t want to spend the night in the “Bulldog Bed & Breakfast.”
That’s the nickname Kilgore Police Department officers have given the Kilgore jail but a stay in the Bulldog B&B certainly won’t be a relaxing vacation.
KPD Chief Todd Hunter spoke to Kilgore Rotary Club Wednesday about the jail and how it helps them keep the city safe.
“We’re a professionally operated municipal jail. There are different types of jails. We have county jails and we have municipal jails. There are only two municipal jails in East Texas. One is Gladewater and one is here. It serves as the intake for all of Kilgore PD’s arrests. Anyone that is arrested in the city of Kilgore, no matter what the charge, comes through us,” Hunter said.
He added, on average, 100 people a month come through the jail, down from an average of 200 per month in 2011-2012. The jail can hold up to 20 inmates at one time.
Rev. Jayson Galler, pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church, asked Hunter about the reason for the decline in people coming into the jail.
“I think, in some ways, we’ve kind of fished out the pond,” Hunter said.
“People know that you can go to jail in the city and I think that there’s a deterrent to that. I think that’s part of it. The economy is very good right now. When the economy is down, you’ll see more arrests. There’s a lot of different elements to that but I think that’s one of them.”
He also credited the officers of KPD for being proactive in deterring crime and said the community plays a role as well.
“It’s not just us. It’s the community that comes together, that works together to ensure that our community is safe.”
Inmates are typically arraigned, or have their criminal charges and rights formally read to them, within 12 hours of being booked into the jail. Municipal Court Judge Glen Phillips and Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Talyna Carlson handle the arraignments. The 12-hour arraignment time falls well within the state’s requirement of carrying out arraignment within 72 hours of booking.
The jail books inmates charged with a variety of crimes. Those who have committed a Class C misdemeanor, such as public intoxication or thefts under $100, will typically be assessed a fine or given a payment plan by a judge.
Hunter said not all Class C misdemeanors result in arrest.
“We don’t arrest everyone. We might find a 17-year-old girl that’s never been in trouble. Well, she doesn’t need to go to jail for Class C theft. She’s going to receive a citation. But maybe that’s a person you’ve seen ten times. Well, apparently, what we’ve been doing isn’t working, so she’s going to come to the jail.”
Offenses at the level of Class B misdemeanors or above, covering crimes like DWI and criminal trespass up to felony offenses, will also lead to booking and arraignment. Then, the sheriff of the county in which the crime occurred will be notified and come to Kilgore to pick up the inmate.
This is a common occurrence because so many people come through the city thanks to its proximity to major highways. Often, those arrested in Kilgore who committed crimes in other counties are transported to Gregg County Jail to be picked up by another department.
Also, people arrested who are not U.S. citizens can be picked up by immigration authorities.
Hunter said the jail did not have full-time staff when he became chief in 2011. In order to best-prevent suicides and other problems at the jail, the city of Kilgore opted to hire a full-time jail administrator to create better standards at the facility. It is now overseen by the administrator in addition to part-time staff who undergo extensive training covering jail procedures, mental illness and suicide prevention.
The jail is recognized by the Texas Police Chiefs Association, a process which has occurred twice. The jail will be reviewed by TPCA again in 2021. The jail must uphold TPCA’s operation procedures to maintain that recognition.
TPCA sends in officers from around the state to visit and inspect the jail. Additionally, the jail is inspected annually by a third party.
“We’ve been liability-free for over nine years,” Hunter added.
All jail cells are under video surveillance and the cells themselves were repurposed from the building on Kilgore Street which once housed City Hall, the fire station and the jail.
Despite their age, the cells perform better than some high-tech cells used in other departments, Hunter said.
“This stuff still works to this day. It was built right."
Having a local jail provides many benefits to the department and the city, he added.
The jail allows officers to stay in town and be available for calls, rather than transporting all inmates to other facilities. It also allows detectives to interview inmates without driving to Henderson and Longview.
And, perhaps most importantly, Hunter said, having a local jail lets lawbreakers know crime doesn’t pay in Kilgore.
He shared an anecdote about a man and woman being stopped in Kilgore who were found to be in possession of a large quantity of methamphetamine.
As the officer was conducting an inspection of the car’s contents for impound records, the man turned to the woman with a grimace and uttered his regret.
“I told you we shouldn’t come to Kilgore, I told you!”