The first time Robert Chody stood before a phalanx of television cameras was in 2001, when the Austin police officer and his wife won the $51 million Texas lottery. The windfall paved the path for the man who grew up in a Florida trailer park with a single mother to fulfill his boyhood dreams of becoming a law enforcement hero. Since winning the lottery, Chody has built a reputation as a conservative lawman with a penchant for social media and a craving for celebrity. He quit his police patrol job and began cultivating a political career that would lead him to the top law enforcement job in one of Texas’ most notoriously tough-on-crime counties, reports the Austin American-Statesman. As police departments nationwide have re-examined policies that contribute to deadly violence disproportionately affecting minorities, as Williamson County Sheriff, Chody stands in stark contrast.
Chody, who became the county’s leading officer in 2017, has doubled down on his agency’s long history of heavy-handed policing, using TV cameras and the power of social media to showcase his officers’ work. Under his leadership, Williamson County has hired deputies with troubled pasts and dramatically increased its use of force and high speed chases. At least five use-of-force incidents are under investigation by the Texas Rangers and local prosecutors. Much of Chody’s tenure has unfolded on the TV reality show “Live PD.” When a violent incident with his deputies took the life of 40-year-old Black father Javier Ambler II, Chody’s star has faded. The show was canceled after the American-Statesman revealed details of the 2019 death that was captured on “Live PD” video. A grand jury indicted Chody on a felony evidence tampering charge for destroying footage of the incident. Chody denies breaking any laws. He says the charge is part of a conspiracy to oust him from office.