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2012-06-07

Mystique of Texas Rangers lives on

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

In the age of continued innovations in law enforcement, there remains still a mystique about "the stranger with the big iron on his hip." And, in the Lone Star State - and with a tip of the Stetson to the late Marty Robbins - everyone agrees that "the stranger with the big iron on his hip" would be a Texas Ranger.

On Tuesday, May 22, Texas Ranger Wayne Matthews of F Company in Kerrville spoke to members of the Ranchers & Landowners Association of Texas. Bandera County became Matthews' temporary assignment after Ranger James Scoggins was transferred to Waco as a newly minted lieutenant.

'Ranging' on Texas frontier

Offering background information, Matthews said the establishment of the Rangers in 1823 makes the elite lawmen the oldest statewide entity in the United States. Founder Stephen F. Austin charged the men with "ranging on the Texas frontier." Since 1935, the Rangers have worked under the umbrella of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Currently, The Texas Rangers Division consists of 160 members in three companies, which includes 134 commissioned officers, one forensic artist, one fiscal analyst and 24 civilian support personnel.

For increased administrative efficiency, the Ranger Division is made up of six regions each with a regional director. The regions mirror the makeup of Councils of Government (COGs).

Ranger assignments are "demand specific," Matthews said. "There are six to seven in Houston while out west the numbers dwindle.

Matthews, a native of Uvalde, became a DPS highway patrolman in 2002. His primary responsibility was Interstate 35, a major drug corridor, where he participated in drug interdictions.

Eventually, Matthews was assigned to the DPS narcotics division. Later, as a Texas Rangers, he found himself in McAllen, working on the area's soaring homicide rate. "Texas Rangers investigate corruption, major crimes, felony apprehension of escaped convicts, homicides or bank robberies," Matthews told RLAT members. "We also assist local agencies."

'We're here to help.'

As Matthews noted, sometimes Ranger assistance can be situational. "In an instance in South Texas, nobody invited me," he said. "In fact, local law enforcement resented my presence immensely, but, of course, that might have been due to the eventual 30 abuse of power charges."

An instance, however, where Texas Rangers assistance was more favorably received occurred after the shooting at Fort Hood in Killeen in 2009. "We offered our assistance to the DA because the necessary 200 to 300 interviews would have overwhelmed their resources," Matthews said. "We arrived with our hats in our hands and said, 'We're Texas Rangers and we're here to help'."

He also said federal grants earmarked for border security enables the state to send a contingent of 20 Rangers and 20 SWAT members for two week periods to "target highly active areas on the border. We keep the heat on a specific area and choke out drug and illegal movement across the border," he said. "They move to another area and so do we. The Rangers have adapted well to the changes in demand from the public."

As one example of adapting well, Matthews cited a Ranger who had presented a PowerPoint presentation to higher ups. As he was rummaging in the trunk of his vehicle, he came across another projector that he told a fellow Ranger he "kept for emergencies."

As Matthews related, "The other Ranger considered for a moment, then said, 'I remember when we carried guns for emergencies'."

Greatest Texas Ranger
Matthews considers Homer Garrison Jr. as "the greatest Texas Ranger," equating him with J. Edgar Hoover.

Garrison was appointed chief of the Texas Rangers and DPS director in 1938. According to

www.tshaonline.org

under his leadership numerous major programs were developed, and the organization expanded to approximately 3,400 employees.

"It was Homer's vision that made the Ranger Division what it is today," Matthews said. Garrison's program expansion included crime control, police traffic supervision, driver licensing, vehicle inspection, safety responsibility, accident records, safety education, defense and disaster service, and police training. "He also developed the Rangers' western style of dress, including the double belt and cowboy hat."

Western style dress and accouterments notwithstanding, However, Rangers no longer saddle up when participating in manhunts. "A lot of us still have horses because we're cowboys, but during manhunts we use four-wheelers.

They have less attitude and last longer than horses. We've upped our game."

To be considered for the Texas Rangers, an individual needs a college, military experience or prior police experience. "In my opinion, those with military or police experience made the best applicants," Matthews said. "Former military personnel have a psychological advantage and if you've been in law enforcement, you're already familiar with police procedures. Applicants with just a college degree have never been thumped on the nose. They lack discipline and structure - but that's just my opinion."

Border security

The Texas Commission of Law Enforcement Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) serves as the Rangers' regulatory authority. Rangers work under the same TCLEOSE requirements, but must attend the six-month DPS Academy. Additionally, they attend a special three-week advanced school for crime scene investigation, which focuses on collection of forensic evidence, as well as advanced interview and advanced search and seizure schools. Under a TCLEOSE mandate, Rangers must also be trained in crisis intervention.

At one point, it had been suggested that all state law enforcement officers become Texas Rangers; however, Matthews believed this compromise would dilute their effectiveness. "It's best to keep it small and keep it elite."
During a Q&A with the audience, concern about border security was paramount. Speaking about cooperation between law enforcement agencies, Matthew said, "The border county sheriffs have formed a coalition and have begun lobbying for increased border security. Rangers assist with the unified effort to secure America's border. Law enforcement agencies on the border respect our ability and accept our help."

Another aspect of undocumented Mexican nationals entering this country is that crime normally follows in their wake. "Warring drug cartels fight over drug distribution areas," Matthews explained. "Although drugs officially make up 4 percent of Mexico's Gross National Product (GNP), it's actuality closer to 10 to 15 percent." The GNP is the market value of all products and services produced in one year by labor and property supplied by a country's residents.

Ranger Boone Oliphant

Money and the social acceptance of gateway drugs undermine efforts to stop narcotics from flowing into the country from south of the border. "Unfortunately, the United States has become a land of drug addicts and it's a societal problem," Matthews said. "When we stop buying drugs, they will go away. Otherwise we're sustaining their existence." He believed today's best option for slowing down the flow of drugs is to "disrupt, confuse (the smugglers) and keep things stirred up. This is a Texas deal because it's our border."

It should come as no surprise that Matthews' has a strong allegiance to his law enforcement agency and the State of Texas. His great-grandfather, Ranger Boone Oliphant, participated in a 1917 incursion into Mexico in response to the infamous Christmas Day Massacre in Marathon.

The raid of the Brite Ranch in Presidio County cost the lives of three people and resulted in the looting of a store.

"In the 1890s and early 1900s, Mexican bandits would raid Texas and run back across the border," Matthews said. "After the Marathon raid, Rangers crossed into Mexico and killed the men responsible. No lesser men could have accomplished our Texas sovereignty than men like that. They met violence with violence and history shouldn't be re-written."

Matthews recently donated his great-grandfather's Ranger badge to the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco. However, he's still waiting to secure Daddy Boone's pearl handled revolver - the "big iron" he wore on his hip.