Armed body guards, state of the art surveillance equipment and alarms? A hit Hollywood movie maybe? Not exactly. The Backgate has learned from a reliable whistle blowing agency insider that it's not a cool new action movie plot, it's reality. The insider told the Backgate that after the March 2013 murder of Colorado prison chief Tom Clements that someone implemented a secret service style personal protective unit for TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston. TDCJ pulled as many as 5-7 armed OIG (Office of Inspector General ) officers to act as his personal protective unit 24 hours a day, 7 days per week on and off of the job. The source also stated that the protection did not end with Livingston, it also included his wife and child.The 24-7 protection detail has apparently ended but the taxpayer funded surveillance equipment at Livingston's home appears to remain there. The Back Gate quoted an unnamed CO making the obvious comparison to line officers: "When myself or any other Correctional Officer is threatened, which is everyday, TDCJ doesn't supply a body guard for me or my family or any other families, what makes him better then us?" That's a good point, particularly when the protection was based on an incident in another state, not a specific threat to Livingston here in Texas.
OIG officers were assigned to each separately as the child participated in sports practices, and his wife browsed the shelves at the local grocery store. All on the dime of Texas taxpayers. Although there was in fact one reported threat to Livingston's safety by a women identified as " an older female who was obviously mentally ill," that threat was quickly downplayed and resolved by investigators. For 90 days, the protection continued with officers staking out Livingston's personal home in an affluent Huntsville subdivision. But it doesn't stop there, Livingston reportedly had thousands of dollars in surveillance and alarm system equipment installed in his private home also at taxpayer expense. When questioned as to who may have approved such a large expenditure at taxpayer expense, the insider confirmed that Texas Board of Criminal Justice chairman Oliver Bell approved the measures.
Livingston's security detail sounds much more extensive than TCLE executive director Kim Vickers, who told Grits they only use them at public events where he and the agency's board fear confrontations with armed police officers losing their licenses. Grits has always thought the Governor's security detail was over the top and the copycatting by others like Attorney General Greg Abbott was more about vanity than real-world threats. Now, unelected state agency heads are getting into the act. I wonder how many other agency pooh-bahs have implemented similar security measures at the taxpayers' expense?