KILGORE — You don’t want to spend the night in the “Bulldog Bed & Breakfast.”
That’s the nickname Kilgore police officers have given the Kilgore jail, but a stay in the Bulldog B&B certainly won’t be a relaxing vacation.
Kilgore Police Department Chief Todd Hunter spoke to the Kilgore Rotary Club this past week about the jail and how it helps 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,” he said. “There are only two municipal jails in East Texas. One is in 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.”
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.
The Rev. Jayson Galler, pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church, asked Hunter about the reason for the decline in the jail intake.
“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 Kilgore officers for being proactive in deterring crime and said the community plays a role as well.
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 jail books inmates charged with a variety of crimes. Those accused of a Class C misdemeanor, such as public intoxication or theft less than $100, will typically be assessed a fine or given a payment plan by a judge.
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 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 that has occurred twice. The jail will be reviewed by the association again in 2021. The jail must uphold the association’s operation procedures to maintain that recognition.
The Texas Police Chiefs Association 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 that 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 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!”