Civil Servant of the Week: James Fontenot
By Joe Southern
Anyone talking with Lt. James Fontenot of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office better be telling the truth. If they’re not, he will find out.
Fontenot is a polygraph examiner and in 2014 was named the best in the state at what he does. He was presented the Tim Kennedy Examiner of the Year Award by the Texas Association of Law Enforcement Polygraph Investigators. It’s just one of numerous accolades Fontenot has received in his 24 years with the sheriff’s office and 21 years in the U.S. Army.
Fontenot, 64, was born in Houston, raised in Beaumont and resides in Stafford with JoAnn, his wife of 44 years. They have one son, Johari, who works in the information technology department at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Coming from a family of nine, Fontenot joined the Army two weeks out of high school and spent the next 21 years in service to his country.
“I was stationed all over the world,” he said.
He saw combat in Grenada with the 82nd Airborne and was deployed in the first Gulf War with the 24th Infantry Division. He retired from the Army as a chief warrant officer.
“I always wanted to get into law enforcement,” he said.
In 1992 he was hired in the jail division where he worked for two years before moving to patrol. From there he joined what would later be known as the SWAT team and then to criminal investigations where he first handled domestic violence cases before moving on to robbery and homicide.
After criminal investigations, he was moved to internal affairs and promoted to lieutenant. Fontenot went to polygraph school and after graduation helped form the polygraph division in the sheriff’s office.
“Our services are offered to any law enforcement entity in our county and surrounding counties,” he said.
Over the years Fontenot has garnered many awards and recognitions. While he was on patrol he was named the field training officer of the year in 1999. As a criminal investigator he was the department’s employee of the year.
Aside from his main duties, he is on the boards of the Fort Bend County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Texas Association of Polygraph Investigators. He is a member of the Rosenberg Lions Club and is vice president of his homeowners association. Off duty, he serves as a security guard for the University of Houston, First Colony Church of Christ and the Stafford AMC Theaters. Additionally, he runs a private polygraph business.
He has a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Maryland, 12 additional semester hours at Sam Houston State University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the command college at the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He also taught criminal justice in the late 1990s.
Although he has performed thousands of polygraph investigations, he has had two high-profile cases. The first was of Dan Leach II, the so-called Passion of the Christ killer who confessed after seeing the movie. The second was two years ago when baby sitter Kelly Lynn Gann went to prison for life for killing a toddler.
Fontenot said he could not do what he does without the support of the community.
“Nothing that I’ve done in law enforcement has been without the support of the community. Without that support, law enforcement cannot be successful,” he said.