Sherman Police Officer Mark Wood recently received a recognition from State House Rep. Reggie Smith and Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith for his role in the creation of a new law that will put lifetime restraining orders in place for sexual assault cases.
Reggie Smith said under the new law, individuals who are convicted of sexual assault and register as a sex offender will automatically have a protective order filed against them on behalf of the victim. This will place limitations on how close the individual can be to the victim and restrictions on contact, among other requirements.
“This is the community; this isn’t just me,” Wood said. “I was just a cog in the wheel.”
The law was originally filed earlier this year during the legislative session, but was later included as an amendment to Rep. Jeff Leach’s House Bill 1343. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Grag Abbott in June and went into effect on Sept. 1.
For his efforts, Wood was presented with a framed copy of the bill along with a Texas flag that had flown over the state capital during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Wood was also recognized as officer of the quarter by the Sherman Police Department for his efforts.
Reggie Smith said the idea for the law came from a conversations between the district attorney and Wood regarding a police call he received in March 2018. A woman, who had been sexually assaulted when she was 13 years old, was approached by her aggressor while working a retail job in Sherman. Wood, who described the man as a “grandfather figure in the community,” had recently gotten out of prison on parole after eight years.
“He went to that establishment, approached her and just stood there staring at her,” Reggie Smith said. “He didn’t say anything, he didn’t do anything. He just stood there.”
Wood, who was the responding officer, determined that there wasn’t a crime to charge the man with, but still felt that the victim was being intimidated and traumatized by the experience.
“He wasn’t there to shop; it was obvious he was there to harass her,” Wood said.
Prior to the new law, protective orders were generally limited to victims of family violence and had limitations on their length. As an example, some would only last through the length of probation once an offender was released, Brett Smith said.
“Basically, if someone gets probation for certain offenses, most of which are sex crimes, it allows the courts to put an order in place for the time they are registered as a sex offender,” he said.
Typically, if a victim were to desire a protective order, the district attorney’s office would assist in filing the proper paperwork with the courts and would join the victim as a party in the case, he said.
The new law would make this process automatic, however, individuals over the age of 18 could waive the order which would last through the lifetime of the victim of the offender.
Wood continued to push for the new law when he went to Austin earlier this year to speak before a House committee about the bill. Reggie Smith said he input and support were instrumental in getting the bill signed into law.
“He just did an excellent job making sure the committee had a real-life example of why this was needed,” he said.
For his part, Wood said he was humbled by the recognition and pushed credit to the community and the police department. He estimated that there are about 20,000 victims of sexual assault in Texas each year, and the legislation could affect hundreds of thousands of people.
“I never thought an idea of mine could affect that many people,” he said