Weimar Chief Bill Livingston is a Masters alumnus from SHSU and vice president of the Leadership Command College Alumni Association at LEMIT.
When Bill Livingston became Chief of the Weimar Police Department in 1993, officers had to go to the repair shop to pick up patrol cars – and hope that they made it through a shift . The department operated out of a tiny office in City Hall.
Since then, each officers has been assigned their own vehicle equipped with a computer and computer-aided dispatch, a cell phone, .357 gun and rifle, and even V-view lapel cameras. The police department has moved into its own building, with a secure four acre storage lot. It will soon add a vehicle lift to help state and local police search for drugs from stops on the I-10 corridor.
“When I got here, you didn’t go to the police department to get your car, you went to the repair shop,” Livingston said. “Now everyone has their own car. Technology is changing every single day and we are trying to keep up with cell phones, Nextel, CAD systems, computers in cars and new reporting systems.”
Livingston, a SHSU Masters Alumnus and Vice President of the Leadership Command College Alumni Association, has built a professional, eight-man police department in Weimar in Colorado County. He came to his law enforcement career later in life, after spending 15 years in the insurance business.
“I really liked the idea of helping people,” said Livingston.
Livingston began in law enforcement as a part-time deputy in the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office in 1989. During that same period, Livingston served as a part-time administrative assistant to the County Judge , where he helped establish the 9-1-1 rural addressing system for Fayette County and created a countywide emergency plan. The rural addressing system mapped all properties in Fayette County in the 9-1-1 system, and the emergency management plan delineated responsibilities among police, fire and emergency medical services during natural and manmade events in the county.
In 1993, Livingston was offered the Chief’s position in Weimar. It is generally a quiet rural town with “a little bit of everything” from drugs to burglaries to domestic disturbances. That was until 1999, when a local minister and his wife were found murdered in the parsonage.
“People couldn’t even remember having one murder in the city and now there were two,” Livingston said.
It turned out to be not just any random act of violence. The murders were tied to Rafael Resendez Ramirez, who grabbed national headlines as the “Railroad Killer,” a serial murderer who rode the rails in search of his next victim, leaving in his wake nine victims in Illinois, Kentucky and Texas, including Rev. Norman J. "Skip" Sirnic and wife Karen in Weimar as well as 73-year-old Josephine Konvicka in nearby Fayette County.
Livingston worked with the Texas Rangers, Houston Police Department and FBI on the case, all the while trying to catch the killer and quell the fears of the community. He held large community meetings and did daily briefing with national media. Residents installed alarms systems and outdoor lights, and some would come to him with rusty old guns asking him to teach them to shoot.
One evening after spending several hours examining minuet details at the crime scene, he rounded the corner of the parsonage to see a large crowd of people gathering for a church service at the minister’s parish. In fear and grief, the crowd addressed him with questions. “That was tough,” Livingston recalled, tears welling in his eyes.
“You can’t learn these lessons in school,” said Livingston. “We were doing everything that we could think of to keep the citizens safe and to locate this killer.”
Since Weimar is located on 1-10, a major east-west corridor for drugs, the city also gets its share of drug arrests and seizures. Several years ago, Weimar officers stopped a bus laden with drug money on its way back to Mexico, which led to a $750,000 seizure windfall. To help with future drug cases, Livingston was just approved to receive a portion of the proceeds for a vehicle lift that can be used by the local department or Texas DPS troopers to more easily examine vehicles for hidden contraband.
Livingston has been active with the Leadership Command College, the premiere professional development series offered at three Texas Universities, including the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, located at Sam Houston State University. He credits LCC with giving him hand-on management experience.
“To me, it is more of a practical than academic approach to instruction,” said Livingston. “It taught a lot of things that I still put to use today. A lot of it made you think and analyze your thoughts, positions and actions. It also gave me a tremendous network of friends/cohorts that I continue to be in touch with today.”
After earning six college credit hours from LCC, Livingston decided to pursue his Master’s degree in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management at SHSU, and he was among the first to graduate in August from the newly revised online program. He credits his studies with helping him in budget preparation, in computer presentations and in developing his portfolio. He also learned the steps he needs to take on employment agreements, and he taught that skill to other law enforcement managers.
“In my position, over the last 18 years, I have dealt with all types of people, employees and the public,” Livingston said. “I have been fortunate to have been able to make numerous advancements in policing in our city, including the addition of equipment, vehicles, facilities, training and the computerization of our offices and vehicles. And, I am extremely proud of my completion of the LCC program and the Master’s program at Sam Houston State University. I recommend them BOTH on a routine basis.”