Livin’ the dream: Gilbert hangs up his hat after nearly 40 years in law enforcement

Former Sheriff Terry Gilbert poses in front of a marked Cooke County Sheriff Office vehicle outside the Cooke County Justice Center, 300 County Road 451, where he oversaw the county’s law enforcement for the past eight years. His last day in office was Dec. 31.

Aspiring to be top dog in law enforcement might not be everyone’s goal, but it was for former Cooke County Sheriff Terry Gilbert.

“I think every cop that puts a badge on in Texas, at one time or another, thinks, ‘I’d like to be sheriff,’” Gilbert, 66, said. “Yeah, it’s been a goal … I got to live my dream.”

Gilbert’s last day as the county’s sheriff was Dec. 31, 2020. Sheriff Ray Sappington was sworn in Jan. 1, 2021. He beat Gilbert by 43 votes in the Republican Party primary election last March.

Gilbert received 4,273 votes, or 48.4%, compared to Sappington’s 4,316 votes, or 48.9%, according to previous Register reports.

During his tenure as the county’s head honcho in law enforcement, Gilbert said one of his biggest accomplishments was establishing the Cooke County Sheriff Office’s “first dedicated drug enforcement unit.”

“I think we did some good work,” he said while adding the DEU “pushed hard” on drugs.“ … We didn’t solve it, we just curbed it.”

Gilbert also launched the CCSO’s first K-9 unit, which he previously told the Register was a goal of his as sheriff to help combat the county’s war on drugs.

He saw the CCSO transition into the modern age, as well, with the implementation of the first in-car computer system and issuance of body cameras.

Gilbert said he’s also proud of the jail for passing every state inspection for the past eight years.

“And right now, I’m proud that we are [COVID-19] free,” he said. “That’s an accomplishment in itself for the personnel to say they’ve kept COVID out of this building.”

So far, the 212-bed jail has not had a prisoner in its general population with the coronavirus, according to Gilbert.

“We’ve been real lucky,” he said.

Gilbert oversaw 84 employees, with about half of those working in the jail, he said. Gilbert said he added four deputies, two investigators, the drug enforcement unit consisting of two full-time employees plus a K-9 and its handler, two dispatchers and five jailers during his eight years in office.

“Our main goal, we accomplished,” he said. “We’re going to leave it better than we found it. That should be everybody’s goal.”

Gilbert began his nearly 40-year law enforcement career in 1981 as a reserve officer for the Cooke County Sheriff’s Office. He first took office as an elected official in 2005 where he served for eight years as the county’s constable for Precinct 1. In 2012, he was elected sheriff and was sworn in in 2013 for his first of two four-year terms.

Is this the end of Gilbert’s law enforcement career?

“Never say never,” he said. “I’ve had a good run, 40 years is a long time. We’ll see what the future holds.”

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