Williamson County Sheriff's Office

Williamson County Sheriff’s commander criticized over graphic posts


Dolls positioned to depict the graphic dismemberment of a black athlete and  jokes about date rape were just some of the heavily criticized, now-deleted Facebook posts by a Williamson County Sheriff’s Office commander, who was the focus of a recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Patrol Division Cmdr. Steve Deaton posted the pictures from November 2017 to December 2018 featuring Barbies and Elf on the Shelf dolls acting out the scenes with paint simulating blood, vomit and other bodily functions. The captions were typed into the text field, indicating the posts were added by the poster.

One post depicted an Elf holding a vomiting Barbie’s hair with text stating, “Sticking to etiquette (sic) our elf holds the hair of his date to the party while she pukes. Silently though he wonders whether the roofie he slipped her earlier will still be effective.” Other posts ranged from sexual jokes involving Barbies to an Elf ransoming a bound and gagged Barbie.

Deaton was verbally reprimanded in April by Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody over a complaint alleging Deaton deputies to have sex with a female producer for the television show “Live PD,” which department officers appear in some of its episodes.

At the time, Chody said he interviewed witnesses and confirmed Deaton asked about having sex with the producer but didn’t confirm the challenge claim, and that Deaton acknowledged some people consider his question inappropriate. 

In response to questions by the Austin American-Statesman, Deaton said he had no comments on why the posts were created and why they were deleted.

Another post showed an Elf dismembering a black football player at the knees with a chainsaw and an American flag in the background.

The text read, “And here’s the start … Our Patriotic elf grew angrier all season. He finally snapped and decided to show the NFL how he goes about taking knees (sic) for not standing during our national anthem.”

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell liked the post.

In an email responding to questions about the post, Chody wrote, “I do not condone the pictures posted by the commander…That was only in reference for standing for the US flag issue and nothing more. I do not advocate for violence against anybody.” 

He did not respond to other questions from the Hill Country News that asked whether Deaton would face any disciplinary action, whether Deaton had violated the department’s social media policy and codes of conduct and whether Deaton’s actions impacted the department’s public image and ability to deal with sexual assault victims.

However, he said he would participate in a more in-depth interview when he returns from his trip. He also said he is “still looking into the matter.”

In the article by the SPLC, Rhonda Gilchrist, a licensed counselor who previously worked as the victim assistant director for the department, expressed concerns the posts were harmful to sexual assault and rape victims, and that they harmed the department’s image.

“I understand cops have a macabre sense of humor. I understand that. But there’s a disturbing difference between a bad joke and going through the detailed pain of setting up some of those scenarios,” Gilchrist said.

One woman, who had survived a rape, told the SPLC she felt violated again when she saw the posts. The SPLC article withheld her name to protect her privacy. 

Gilchrist also provide the SPLC copies of a Facebook exchange she had with Chody on April 17, which included her criticizing Deaton only getting a verbal reprimand and her informing Chody about the Facebook pictures.

“Have you ever seen his Facebook post which was open to the public, he has a very disparaging view of women and some of his post were disturbing and offensive,” she asked.

Chody responded, “I would love to discuss further but you seemed to have made a decision without all the facts already. I would’ve hoped for your trust as your sheriff. Sometimes we are uanable (sic) to give the full account, in this case we gave a great deal of information and still it did not air.”

Gilchrist subsequently sent Chody copies of the pictures but received no further communication. She said Deaton’s page was deleted the next day.

The recent Statesman article noted there was no reprimand or disciplinary actions for the pictures in Deaton’s personnel file, which they obtained through an open records request.