Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Investigations and Response to Citizens

In the past couple of years since this administration has come into existence, there have been several deaths as a result of murders and suspicious circumstance, home invasions, thefts and a mirage of other crimes. I have talked with a number of school students and find our schools are infected with drugs. There have been few arrest and sub-standard response by the current administration of the Sheriff. There are murderers loose in Sevier County at this time and comments are being made if you want to get away with murder, go to Sevier County. Officer response to calls have been slow and unresponsive, with no investigation or assistance rendered to the individuals making the call. I have talked with many residents that are very apprehensive of Sevier County Sheriff deputies and find some of the officers very intimidating and disrespectful.

With the recent murder of my friend Shannon Hercutt, I have had the opportunity to witness first hand the investigative process that has taken place. Because of gross negligence and malfeasance by the investigators, a murderer is loose in Sevier County. The Sheriff is blaming the highway patrol and the highway patrol apparently answers to no one. The investigation has been so compromised it may be impossible to prosecute anyone even if there is an arrest. I do not know the highway patrol's protocol for investigating an accident with a death. I can relate to the fact the Sheriff is the high official in the county and has a responsibility to investigate all suspicious and unwitnessed deaths that occur in the county. I agree the Highway patrol should investigate motor vehicle accidents. However, throughout the country, there is an epidemic of staged or fabricated accidents, not only with motor vehicle accidents, but drownings, fires, drugs and many other scenarios. Any trained or experienced officer should know this and investigate all incidents fully. The Sheriff should be on scene personally and have a qualified officer on scene to help determine the cause of any suspicious or unwitnessed deaths. In Shannon's case, there was no Sheriff representative on the scene except a rookie officer that directed traffic. No Sheriff or Supervisor was on scene. No law enforcement officer went to the vehicle and looked in it and viewed Shannon's body to determine if this was in fact a motor vehicle accident.  Medics at the scene determined this was a homicide but it was still ruled a "traffic accident" although this was a homicide.

This was a crime scene and not a vehicle crash, and should have been left in tact until an investigation was complete. Qualified investigators should have been called immediately, but instead her body was left in the vehicle as it was pulled 125 feet up a ravine and once it was back on the road it was ruled a vehicle accident. Her body was sent directly to a funeral home where her body was bathed and funeral home officials were seeking permission from the family to embalm her and bury her without any investigation. Because of her father's repeated attempts to get an autopsy performed rather than give permission for burial, it was learned she had been severely beaten to death. Three to four days passed before any criminal investigation was begun and now, at least 10 months later, there is still a murderer loose in Sevier County. There are many other murders that have gone cold with no arrest and have gone by the wayside probably like Shannon's with no investigation and little hope of identifying the murderer.

I am well qualified to question the investigation. I have investigated hundreds of serious vehicle accidents with many resulting in fatalities. I have had to go to vehicles that were down ravines, in the river and on fire, resulting in fatalities. I have had to go into the river and down embankments to determine whether the crash scene was, in fact, a vehicle crash and not related to a serious crime including murder and intoxication. Because of vehicle crash investigations I have identified and prosecuted many crimes of murder and intoxication in Federal District Court.

My position on unwitnessed deaths in Sevier County is clear. As Sheriff, if there is an unwitnessed death or serious criminal incident that has occurred, I will personally be on scene to make sure proper investigation occurs. If I am unavailable, there will be a competent supervisor and detective on scene and they will not be directing traffic. Appropriate Cooperative Agreements will be made with each city in Sevier County, all surrounding counties and agencies, respective of their protocols and procedures, to outline and establish back-up procedures and assistance for officer safety and quick response for citizen protection anytime.
There will be a Pro-Active and aggressive response to control and monitor the criminal elements that now plagues Sevier County. At best, there is minimal Re-Active response. When an officer arrives to a call now, a report number is given, no investigation is conducted and the call is ended, with only a statistic to report. Deputies should be knowledgeable of investigative techniques, conduct field interviews and gather information and evidence of all complaints and attempt to mediate all complaints that makes each complainant feel they got their money's worth when the officer leaves. I concede the Sheriff's office cannot solve all the murders and crimes that are occurring, but professional investigation will be conducted regardless. I have personally been a victim of this administration's response.

The attached Sheriff department report identifies a serious call for assistance and the officer's written report. Forty minutes lapsed before an officer responded to a criminal assault with a gun. The report speaks for itself. The sentence structure, spelling and content to describe this event is irrational and illiterate. This is the information the prosecution is going to use to put people in jail. This is a report that has been written by a sheriff deputy identifying the complaint and is on file in the Sheriff's office. These reports could have been better written by a 2nd grader. The definition of a "Narrative" is, "an orderly, continuous account of an event or a series of events." The following report is real and only the names have been blacked out to protect the innocent. This illiteracy will not be tolerated when I am elected to the job of Sheriff!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Organization, Visibility and Transparency

There were several factors that influenced my decision to seek the job of Sheriff. The main factor was no opposition against the current Sheriff . I solicited many qualified persons to run for the office, but everyone declined citing no one would be able to beat the incumbent and the election was rigged and there were too many issues including the jail issues to have to deal with. Also, most of these people, like myself were retired and just didn't want to be bothered with this monumental task. Given the last minutes of the last day for qualifying I decided to seek the job of Sheriff.

Over the past several years I have identified many serious incidents involving gross negligence, malfeasance and misfeasance and unlawful criminal conduct with the current administration. I have worked very closely with law enforcement agencies across the country and it is beyond belief the disregard for lawful conduct, and professionalism this administration has displayed. There have been many incidents of waste and abuse of taxpayer money. A convicted felon, knowingly  hired and given a supervisory position in a supposedly  secure jail facility. Several murders, including a suspicious suicide involving the police agencies that has involved collusion and intrigue and in my opinion, absolute cover-up for  botched police action. Rapes of inmates, jail suicides by hanging, complaints of disease and unsanitary conditions at the jail, constant investigations regarding conduct by the Sheriff and his staff are just too numerous for the efficiency of any agency and especially the Sheriff administration.

I am somewhat familiar with the current administration's structure. While I do not have an idea of what the operating budget of the Sheriff's office is, the budget looks relatively fat. There is definitely reorganization and change needed in the department for maximum efficiency and control of the department. I have heard many times that the incumbent has been running the Sheriff department for 30 years working for 3 different sheriffs as a chief deputy. While one can applaud him for his efforts, it is also noted that new ideas and tactics are achieved with new leaders. Efficiency and growth is stifled with the same ole, same ole. New leadership means new growth and different attitudes. In the  incumbent's mind, I am sure he thinks he is doing a great job. I compare this with asking a mother if her baby is ugly.
When I am elected sheriff, a complete audit of the Sheriff Department expenditures will be conducted and all monies spent will be scrutinized and posted for the public to see. While audits are apparently conducted regularly, it only accounts for money spent but no one beyond the managment knows just what was bought with taxpayer money. Figures show an accurate expenditure, but what is the expenditure. A felon convicted of embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars and given purchase authority and hired in the capacity of a law enforcement supervisor raises red flags all around as to just how much taxpayer money was wasted or stolen. This act is beyond any intelligent person's comprehension and is gross negligence, if not criminal negligence. In order to qualify for a law enforcement position, one has to be certified by the Tennessee Police Standards Commission.  That requires fingerprints and a criminal history background check before one can even enroll in the training course. It also requires a psychological evaluation. Taxpayer money was also spent to place this felon in the certification course. How many other employees are in positions of trust that have compromised backgrounds no one knows about?

There appears to be no standard for competitive hiring within the current administration. Job performance, evaluation, and  merit protection is minimal or non existent. It appears employees of the Sheriff department are hired only by a standard of family, relative or friends of someone who is a political supporter and not through a competitive process.  The only way to evaluate one's performance for incentives, awards or promotions is by establishing performance standards and position descriptions to identify one's job responsibilities. Personnel responsibilities begin with a Human Resource Director or Officer. The cities within Sevier County all identify Human Resource offices on their respective websites. Sevier County only identifies the mayor and gives no information as to any employment in Sevier County jobs.

As Sheriff I will attempt to establish a Human Resource Department and review all positions, training and performance accomplishments and qualifications. Fair and competitive hiring practices will be established and a merit system within the Sheriff  Department with a formal EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) program established for the protection of all employees for job security. Human Resource Directors should be instituted at the Executive level of Sevier County and cover all departments within the Sevier County Government. With the current executive administration, I think we all know what they think of this.

Performance Standards sound serious and regimented and may seem restrictive as well as demanding.  This is especially recognized by the "Good Ole Boys" who do what they like and want to do. I have worked with many officers in this county and there are some very good officers that go beyond the call in these remote areas of  the Great Smoky Mountains. Then there are others that are very apprehensive in making any decisions or responses because they are not sure what they are to do. With these standards, there will be a clear outline of responsibilities and procedures to do their job without interference focusing on Officer Safety and Performance. Performance Standards are guidelines for modern day jobs whether it is a police officer or a secretary and will not be anything like the good ole boy programs that are now in existence.

I have never been a Sheriff but I have worked with numerous law enforcement and emergency service agencies across the country for over 30 years.  There are better, different and efficient ways to do business without politics. I am no politician, I have no political agenda, I have no relatives living anywhere near here and I owe no one any special favors and I will not participate in any political agenda. I see this job as a business to be conducted as such.

All Sheriff department expenditures will be available at all times for anyone's inspection and comments and complaints will be addressed promptly. Complete transparency and visibility within the Sheriff department will be of utmost concern. Based on my observations, but lacking the facts and numbers concerning the Sheriff Department budget, I think redefining the sheriff department's mission with some reorganization, there could be extra money available for deputy pay raises or incentives. Deputy pay will be one of my main concerns and I will strive to make sure every officer can be paid the most fiscally possible. There will also be an open door to the Sheriff to address complaints and comments. As Sheriff, absolute professionalism and efficiency with our taxpaying money is the ultimate goal.