As pages are turned and the memories are brought back, Sheriff Benny Parkey is leaving a lasting mark on the Denton County Sheriff’s Office.
Parkey, sworn in as sheriff in January 2005, said he has many highlights from his years as sheriff but nothing could have been accomplished without his team.
“I can’t start without saying everyone in the Sheriff’s Office, county government, area agencies I have worked with — everyone — is responsible for everything that’s been accomplished over the last eight years as I have been sheriff,” Parkey said over a cup of coffee Friday in his office surrounded by packing boxes. “You know, though, my family is the most important to me. Without my wife supporting me and being my backbone through my entire 28-year law enforcement career and my son providing his love, I wouldn’t be all I am today.”
Parkey is in his last month in office, having lost in the Republican primary to William Travis. Travis was unopposed in the general election and takes office in January.
Through his eight-year tenure as sheriff, Parkey partnered not only with the surrounding area agencies but with the FBI, Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service, to name a few.
A “man of his word” and “a real man” are just a couple of the ways friends and co-workers describe Parkey.
“Benny is a trusted law enforcement professional and as genuine and honest a man as I have ever met,” Denton Police Chief Lee Howell said. Howell worked as the sheriff’s chief deputy before taking the police chief position about a year ago.
“Under Sheriff Parkey’s leadership, significant improvements were made in several areas, including the Mental Health Investigative Unit, which was recognized in 2006 with a Best Practice Award for excellence in delivery of service by the Texas Association of Counties,” Howell said.
Lt. Mike Stockard, who has worked with Parkey for 28 years, said he’ll always remember the first time they met at the Denton Police Department.
“I came with Parkey from DPD and will retire with him from the Sheriff’s Office,” Stockard said during the sheriff’s retirement party last week. “It’s kind of poignant — he is a great partner, friend, and we had so many good times and memories together.”
Parkey, who became an officer with Denton police in April 1984 at the age of 31, said he has worked with many people over his law enforcement career and takes pride in those lasting relationships.
“We have investigated and processed many drug cases, and what’s really the most important is not the dollar amount or the size seized, it’s the significance the impact has on the area,” said Parkey.
At least 90 percent of the people in the Denton County Jail are there for alcohol- or drug-related crimes, he said.
“Be it theft of copper, buying or selling, vehicle theft — it’s usually somewhere linked with the drugs in the North Texas area,” Parkey said. “I remember a case our drug enforcement unit worked where a young man died of a drug overdose.
“Through the investigation, the team was able to find the man who sold the heroin to the young man who died, make an arrest, and work it back to Dallas to a much larger source and trace it to drug cartel members in Mexico. We ended up interrupting the flow of heroin going out into the community here [to people] who had developed habits.”
Those are truly the significant moments, Parkey said.
“A young man died because those people were selling it [heroin], and then Immigration got involved and the Mexican cartel members were brought up on federal charges,” he said.
Parkey said his biggest accomplishment is the Sheriff’s Academy headed up by Lt. Lindsey Jones.
“She is one of the best, if not best, trainers you can get,” Parkey said. “Even those people you think might not be able to train, she can train.”
The academy provides training so jailers can attain a peace officer license with minimal cost involved to the county. So far, Parkey said at least 116 officers have completed the program.
Parkey has helped plan a new 384-bed addition to the jail as part of a five-phase master plan for the Sheriff’s Office through 2030.
“The ground-breaking, should everything go according to plan, will be in about six months, I think,” Parkey said. “We — the county, purchasing agent, all of us — completed extensive research and worked alongside the Texas Jail Commission to make sure we had a plan for the future, not just now, but down the road from now.”
Parkey said the costs to develop the master plan on a five-year or 20-year schedule were the same.
“Why not save some money now and figure things out now and not then, when the need is so immediate? I just think it’s common sense to save taxpayer money this way,” he said.
As one chapter of his life closes, another one is opening.
“I am going to take some personal time and tend to things I should have done nearly 28 years ago,” Parkey said.
While he might not have won re-election, he isn’t ruling out running for political office again.
“I like to keep my doors open,” Parkey said. “I don’t have any direct intentions to run for anything right now, but you never know what kind of opportunity might arise in the future.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.