Rep.-elect Troy Nehls, a Texas sheriff and newly elected congressman, is in Washington preaching a message of “mutual respect” as America grapples with racial unrest, criminal justice reforms and efforts to dismantle police departments.
Nehls, who has served as sheriff of Fort Bend County for the last eight years, said his 22nd Congressional District outside of Houston should be a model for the rest of the country on how to build positive police and community relationships that are “colorblind.” While other cities are still reeling from Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Nehls said his community didn’t experience civil unrest because law enforcement is respected in Fort Bend.
“They trust us, and we, in turn, trust them. It is mutual respect,” Nehls told Fox News. “If you look at the cities where you see the civil unrest, there’s a disconnect. There’s not a whole lot of love and mutual respect for each other.”
As a new GOP member of congress, Nehls wants to bring a fresh perspective on the best practices for policing and criminal justice. In one of the most diverse districts in the country, Nehls said his community isn’t experiencing the racial tensions other cities are.
“I would highly recommend Washington … come down to District 22 and learn how such diverse groups of people from all around the globe work together and how we get along with each other,” Nehls said. “We are a very cohesive group of people. And we don’t experience the civil unrest. People aren’t talking about all this race stuff. I mean, you just don’t see it. We are, in my humble opinion, colorblind. And that’s the way it should be.”
The 22nd District is about 42% White, 25% Hispanic, 19% Asian and 13% Black.
Nehls specifically thinks his jail program could be duplicated elsewhere as a way to reduce recidivism. He started a vocational teaching program at the Fort Bend County Jail to help certain inmates learn HVAC and welding training so they’d have job skills when they were released.
He takes pride in his 1,800-bed jail, saying he offers a clean and safe environment where inmates can strengthen their faith with chaplains, be treated with respect and have new job opportunities to support their families when they are released.
The overall re-arrest rate for graduates of the Ford Bend welding and HVAC certification programs was 25.92%, according to Nehls’s team. In contrast, a Texas statewide study of recidivism found that 62.8% of state jail inmates were re-arrested within three years.
“I think the criminal justice system is broken in certain areas,” Nehls said.
“Instead of having these county jails be revolving doors, I’m trying to find a way where they can go out and be productive members of society.”
Nehls, a retired major in the U.S. Army Reserves who started work in law enforcement in 1994, beat Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni for the vacant 22nd District on Nov. 3. Democrats thought they had a shot at winning the Texas seat after GOP Rep. Pete Olson announced his retirement, but Nehls won handily — 52-45% — and had a higher margin of victory than Olson’s previous race. Nehls credits the success to longtime relationship building in the community as the sheriff.
Democrats had expected to flip House seats this election by winning in deep-red territory like Texas, but they came up empty in the Lone Star State and their House majority actually shrunk.
“I think the pollsters that are actually getting paid to do this — a lot of them should lose their jobs because they weren’t very good at it,” Nehls said. “…They said Texas was a toss-up. How’d that work out?”
Nehls, a husband and father of three daughters, took aim at cities like Seattle that bowed to pressure from the left by slashing money from police budgets. He called the defund the police movement “extreme” and said it will ultimately hurt the citizens that police are trying to protect when lawlessness gets out of control.
Nehls said all law enforcement shouldn’t be demonized for what happened to Floyd, who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck and ignored Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe.
“You’ve got these small groups of people that want to come out there and paint all these police as corrupt, as just bad people,” Nehls said. “I think it is wrong and it’s dangerous.”
“Don’t put us all in the same boat,” Nehls continued, “because many of us are out there doing the right thing, trying to serve our community with distinction. Law enforcement does that every day.”