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Tracy Murphree: Sheriff reflects on past, looks to future

Profile image for Tracy Murphree
Tracy Murphree, Denton County Sheriff

Editor's note: Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree, now ending his first full year in elective office, posted the following column on Facebook last week. We believe it deserves a wider audience. We are pleased to republish it here with the sheriff's permission.

Was thinking today about my law enforcement career. Thinking about being a 22-year-old highway patrolman ready to save the world. Remembering the horrible traffic accidents and the smell of a fatality accident. The battery acid and engine coolant and gasoline. The fatalities just had a scent you recognized when you got out of the car.

Tracy Murphree
Tracy Murphree

The fights on the side of the road, a long way from backup you had no choice but to win. Sometimes fighting more than one. Jumping on the hoods of cars almost getting hit by a drunk on a traffic stop. The car chases when the bad guy just didn't want to stop. Getting that load of dope they thought they had hidden so well.

Seeing my friend Trooper Troy Hogue lying on the side of a cold highway, shot and killed in the line of duty. The hours upon hours I spent in a patrol car with my brothers. Talking about life and trusting my partner with mine. I remember the laughing and the friendships. The good time we had doing a job we loved. The special bond you share with men and women you trust with your life.

Thinking about my time as a highway patrol sergeant. The men and women who served under me. The young troopers I hope I had a positive influence on, and the old guys that accepted a young sergeant as their leader.

Worrying about my troops. Doing my best to take care of them and making sure they had everything they needed. The check rides where we were just partners and worked the road together. The thousands of reports I had to check. Being a family in the desert of West Texas. Sometimes the stripes were heavy but I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Remembering working narcotics in Houston. Getting 10 years of narcotics experience in 2 1/2. The hours upon hours of surveillance watching one door or vehicle. Trying to keep up with a vehicle in Houston traffic without them knowing you were keeping up with them.

The never knowing where you might end up at the end of the day.

The undercover work when your heart is pounding and you have to act like it's not. The knowing that if you didn't convince them, bad things could happen. The absolute feeling of satisfaction when you pulled it off and the drug dealer went to jail. The look of utter disbelief in his eyes when he realized you were a cop. Kicking the doors with a search warrant in hand. Knowing that your brothers and sisters had your back. My talks about life with Ray Avery.

The Texas Rangers. Witnessing the absolute worst things one human being could do to another. Walking into a murder scene and going to work. Finding the clues and chasing the leads, going for days at a time with no sleep. Catching the person responsible and bringing them to justice.

The phone ringing at 3 a.m. and going to some of the most horrible scenes imaginable. Returning home to my family and acting like everything is okay because you never wanted them to know.

Chasing a cop killer through the woods of East Texas. The victims that sometime cross my mind at strange times. The smell of death that still comes to me out of the blue. The hours upon hours of paperwork. The hours upon hours of trial preparation. The hours that seem like days on the witness stand. Sometimes it did last for days.

I also remember the glance or light touch on your arm from the victim's family when justice was served. Just a gesture that you knew was an appreciation for your work. The absolute honor I felt every morning when I pinned that Ranger Star on my chest. Doing everything I could do to bring honor to that Star.

These are only the tip of the iceberg of memories. What I remember most are the relationships. The lifelong friends and the fun we had together. The joy that comes from public service. The satisfaction that you have made a difference. The knowledge that you did your best.

I've seen the worst of mankind but I've also witnessed the best. I've witnessed senseless acts and acts of absolute selflessness. I've had the honor and privilege of working with the greatest people in the world.

God has protected me from gunfire and high speed chases. God was with me when I was fighting for my life on the side of the highway with a man trying his best to get my gun. God has wrapped his arms around me every single time I was in danger.

I am a blessed man. God has blessed me beyond belief and allowed me to live my dream. Allowed me to stay safe and healthy and be a dad to my kids. During my 23 years with Texas Department of Public Safety, I had a front row seat to the greatest show on earth.

Now I'm the sheriff of Denton County. Little did I know when I came to Denton in 1993 as a trooper that one day I'd be the Texas Ranger in Denton and then the sheriff.

I'm honored to hold the title of Denton County Sheriff. We are building something very special here. Love serving the people of this county and leading the amazing men and women of this office. I can't wait to see what they will accomplish next.