A Smith County Constable’s access to the Smith County Emergency Operations Center has been revoked by Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.
The access denial came after Sheriff Smith emailed a letter to Precinct 4 Constable Josh Joplin’s Office on Aug. 18 regarding what he termed “disrespectful and disruptive behavior” to elected officials and sheriff’s office employees.
“It had been brought to my immediate attention that on several occasions, you (Constable Joplin) have remarked to multiple Smith County Sheriff’s Office employees which was represented as being disruptive and disrespectful behavior towards other employees, supervisors and government officials,” the letter said.
Joplin voiced concerns in an email to the sheriff’s office on Aug. 8 about patrol sergeants giving the constable’s office orders while out on calls for service. The orders were given to constable’s office deputies when they were asked to respond to calls for service in Precinct 4, according to the email.
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office responded back to Constable Joplin’s email citing a disconnect between the agencies. Smith reiterated to Joplin that constable deputies are asked to assist with calls until sheriff’s office units arrive. The constable’s office won’t be the primary law enforcement officers on the scene, according to the sheriff’s response.
The letter said the constable’s office is to respond to direct calls from citizens from Precinct 4 and take a report, follow up on the investigation, or turn the call for service that results in an investigation over to the sheriff’s office.
Smith also said the constable’s office will act on behalf of the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, and patrol sergeants are the first line of supervision for calls for service to the Smith County dispatch for all calls in the unincorporated portion of Smith County.
The sheriff added he would appreciate if the constable’s office would continue to assist the sheriff’s office in a support role and to advise the office if they are not willing to act in a support role.
Joplin acknowledged the sheriff’s letter and thanked him for addressing his concerns.
A few days later, Joplin received notice through email from the sheriff’s office that his access to the EOC had been revoked.
“Employees of the sheriff’s office will be instructed to meet you or a member of your office at the door to receive/deliver any documents needed through the normal course of duty,” the letter said. “This decision has been made to be able to maintain an efficient workflow within the agency.”
Joplin said he understood the sheriff’s decision and would respect his wishes. He also said that he believed this issue would be kept confidential and not released throughout the sheriff’s office.
“That’s not what happened,” Joplin said. “Copies of an email about me being denied access to the EOC were forwarded throughout the office, and a copy of it was sent to me in a Facebook private message by a person who isn’t even an employee of the sheriff’s office.”
The denial of access requires employees of the sheriff’s office to meet Joplin or members of his office at the door to receive any documents needed through the normal course of duty. The constable’s office still has access to the gate behind the EOC where the county gas pumps are located.
“This is an internal matter that we’ve worked out with the constable,” Smith said. “Constable Joplin, as well as anyone else, does not have the ability to come and go from the dispatch office as they please.”
Joplin said not having access to the EOC doesn’t impact his ability to serve the citizens of Precinct 4, but it is an inconvenience to have to ask someone to come to the door and retrieve any distribution or paperwork from the building and bring it to the door.
Joplin is in his first term as constable. He was elected in 2016 and took office on Jan. 1.
The EOC is serves as a centralized 911 communications dispatch center for Smith County. The facility is also set up to be the primary coordination and control point for disaster efforts should such an event occur.
Employees of the Smith County 911 Emergency Communications District, Smith County Sheriff's Office and the Smith County Fire Marshal's Office work out of the building located at 4700 University Blvd. in Tyler.