Friday, July 30, 2010

Changes in the Sheriff Department

Bass Pro On Douglas Lake

Many people have asked me how I am going to make the sheriff department better when I am elected sheriff. I have described in this blog and with the Mountain Press questionnaire many ways that can change the sheriff department. Without being in the drivers seat, it is difficult to speculate as to what can be done within the department. The driving force for any change will be money. I see many things that can be changed and it will probably not take any more money and there should be a considerable savings with a reorganization. Like I have said , the department needs to be professionalized, and modernized. The incumbent has stated his organization does not need any change. With the response I am getting from a large  number of citizens, there has to be some change for this department to be functional and effective.

He boast a 9 million dollar budget. I am certain this includes a lot of federal grant money. The federal grant money can be very helpful, but usually it come with strings attached. That means the federal government tells you how you are going to run your department. If the grant money was plentiful to use, then there should be more than 6 deputies patrolling Sevier County on a week-end night. Crime is overwhelming in Sevier County and only 6 deputies to control it. Not only are the citizens not getting the protection and service they require, it is also very unsafe for the deputies.

As I drive around the county, I see a large number of patrol cars in the day time, and usually a large number of vehicles around the Sheriff department downtown. Maybe they have to conduct business for some reason, but it seems there are concentrated in areas that aren't needed. The cities are very capable of taking care of the cities. My goal will be to get all the "gun toter's" on the road where the criminals are. Gun toter's are expensive to maintain unlike other qualified people that can do the job without a weapon, training and equipment. Gun toter's don't need to be in administrative positions. I have been informed Sevier County has two animal control officers. These officers are getting paid to do what the animal shelter is capable of doing and the gun toter's can get out and catch criminals and not dogs. The money and equipment to maintain these positions may be grant money. If it is then it needs to go to the animal shelter and the gun toter's placed in law enforcement positions that is greatly needed.

Litter pick-up crews are driven around the county by gun toter's that can also be used to catch criminals. We have already caught the ones that are picking up trash and they are no threat. Yet I see these trash pick-up vehicles parked around the county on the sides of the road with officers that are getting paid a significant salary to read the paper, talk on the telephone and smoke cigarettes. Lots of times they are just driving around with no personnel with them. Sevierville Police department has the same type of operation. The lady that does this always appears to be busy, helping with the chores and she is not a gun toter and she is very efficient. These people that are doing the community service work aren't dangerous and are on probation. If they don't won't to work then they can be reported to probation and then be revoked to spend a little time in the county bed and breakfast. These positions without a doubt can be supervised without gun toter's qualifications  and these officers can be on the street catching more criminals.

I have a great problem with deputies transporting their kids to school in a marked patrol car. This is something that I just cannot comprehend. There is no way a deputy can respond to an emergency or stop a crime in progress with junior sitting in the patrol car. I support deputies taking home cars for the sole purpose of being able to assist in an emergency or respond for back-up or a crime in progress. This practice will stop immediately. I am aware there may be some school resource officers responsible for this, but I have also gotten reports of a deputy bringing their kid to the movie theater in a patrol car. Again, this may be federal grant money that pays for the SRO's, but no patrol cars are going to used solely for transportation. This is a waste of vehicles, fuel and maintenance. If the federal government is going to tell me I have to supply them a vehicle, then they will drive Smart cars to the school. This has got to be one of the most ridiculous practices I have ever heard of.

I have information the reserve deputy force in the Sevier County includes over 80 officers. I don't know if this is complete reserve program or maybe some special deputy appointments. If they are in fact Reserve officers, they come with maintenance. I am aware of some of the deputies are Reserve deputies, but based on my observations I don't think they can qualify physically, and have POST certifications and required in service training.  After Paul Litner, a convicted felon, was hired and endorsed by the current Sheriff,  I guess anyone can get certified regardless of police standards. A solid Reserve Force is very useful, but the Force I am aware of is useless. This program will be temporarily  suspended. Reserve applicants will then be accepted, screened, and bonded to implement an active Reserve force to supplement, the regular deputy programs.

Satellite or Sheriff Substations have to implemented for the the efficiency of the department. The is especially important for the Seymour area where we have a large number of residents. Other parts of the country have effectively established creative financing programs to assist in getting these stations located for little or no money. This gives the deputies a space for temporary holding of suspects or victims for investigations, interviews, report writing and a variety of other needs.. Many fire departments have made space available. Sevier County is spread over a large area, and the officers need an assigned area where they can assemble or take a break. This should eliminate the number of vehicles around the cities and allow the deputies to stay in their area. This also gives a place for citizens to report to for complaints and assistance.

A Crime Stopper program will be implemented. These programs are very effective and administered throughout the country. Most Wanted is a Crime Stopper program and is very effective. By paying the thugs anonymously for information, they will identify where and who we need to go after. It will be more cost effective than paying a deputy to drive around and try to find them. There is no honor among the thugs and they will want free money if it is available. This is also an avenue for honest citizens who want to report criminal activity but are afraid of reprisals and want to remain anonymous.

According to the Tennessee Sheriff handbook, Court security is a large responsibility of the Sheriff and will be addressed immediately. Anyone that visits the court house during the day and drives around the parking area between the jail and the courthouse has had to stop for prisoners, shackled together, and shuffling across the roadways to court. No one has stopped to think of the potential devastation that can occur by walking these prisoners around in the roadway, crossing the street and having to wait for traffic to pass. What would happen if one of these inmates has an enemy, or spouse that is looking for the opportunity to attack or kill someone such as a victim of child molestation, or a victim of domestic violence or any related matters. If I were looking for the opportunity to get even, I would just take my 4,000 pound missile in the shape of a car and just run the whole bunch over. Not only that, I have seen tourist walking around taking pictures of the courthouse while prisoners are being paraded across the street. A picture of Dolly with inmates in the background probably makes for a good conversation to our visitors. Very unprofessional and very liable. Entrances at all corners of the courthouse, chaos and confusion in the courthouse and a parking garage under the building that can be blown up just as the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I am sure there is no plan in effect, no security of the judges and anyone can enter the Sevier County Courthouse undetected and cause a catastrophic event.

Drug enforcement and arrest will be made immediately. This ain't the wild west and there will be no more round-ups and newspaper photo opportunities. If you sell drugs, you will be arrested then and there based upon probable cause. Evidence of the crime will be seized pending a trial and forfeiture seizure hearing that includes evidence and property associated and used in the drug dealing. Most of these people are low level users and pill poppers. If a major drug activity is discovered, then appropriate agency assistance will be requested. The local low level dealers that are being investigated and given 6 months to distribute drugs while making their bail money will be ceased.

Criminal investigations will be conducted by competent criminal investigators. Street officers will conduct preliminary investigations obtaining as much evidence as possible at the crime scene including, physical evidence, victim, suspect and witness interviews with written statements. Trained competent supervisors will also respond to insure this is getting done. In capital crime cases including unwitnessed deaths, serious accidents, or suspicious circumstances  I will personally be on scene to insure the investigation is conducted completely. If I cannot be there another high level supervisor will respond, This will be any hour, anywhere in any weather. The assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will be summoned immediately if there is a major crime scene to obtain expert crime scene and forensic personnel.

A big concern of the local residents of Sevier County is the illegal immigrant problem and many people want to know what I will do about it. I can only give a political answer to this and I am bound by an old southern tradition by having my fingers crossed so I am not telling a lie. This problem is overwhelming to the entire country and is not exclusive to Sevier county. I cannot guarantee any relief unless there is a law provided to arrest illegal aliens. To my knowledge the law has not been granted. However, if they violate the existing laws, they will be arrested and treated as any other violator. Once they are arrested, for violating the law, then they should be accepted by ICE (Immigration Enforcement) for deportation. I can say with fact that this will be a difficult task, but it will be a high priority for the department to reduce the illegal population that compromises the needed jobs and benefits of our citizens.

Sevier County jail operations will be significantly changed also. My plan is to bull doze it to the ground and just start over. There is not enough time to write about this debacle.

All personnel hired at the Sheriff department will be conducted by competitive hiring practices period. This includes promotional opportunities. There will be performance standards that each person is evaluated by and will identify what each person is responsible for. I am going to push for a Human Resource officer to implement these hiring standards as well as implementing a civil service and merit incentive program. This cannot be done overnight and I am sure it will catch a lot of opposition because it will completely do away with the "good ole boy" system that is now in place.

There are a multitude of changes that can be implemented to make the Sheriff department better. Police agencies from across the country have identified and instituted a number of significant advances in law enforcement that are there just for the asking.  A large budget driven by the lure of Federal Grant money may seem good, but if the department cannot use the money to place officers where they are needed, it mitigates the need for the Federal Grant money. This only adds to financial and logistics problems trying to administer the programs while the county is not getting the real police protection that is needed. Most of us can relate just how efficient the Federal Government is anyhow and especially now. Do we really need Obama involved in our police protection?

Talking about all this is still mitigated by actually getting elected as Sheriff and getting possession of the Checkbook. Money is the driving factor coupled with a powerful  initiative by the Sheriff to make the department more efficient, modern and professional. It will be my position to maintain an open dialogue with the staff and the citizens to explore new and better techniques to make the department better. I will be a working sheriff, in uniform, and not be burdened by politics. The Sevier County Sheriff Department will be administered using national personnel practices, including an established EEO policy. The U.S. Constitution and the Tennessee Statutes will be enforced judicially.  There are a multitude of changes and commitments that have to be made, but if the current administration is not changed this is all wasted dialogue. If the citizens chose to remain as is, I will just go away. I stepped up and challenged the incumbent because there was no opposition to the current regime. In my opinion and observation, my money is being wasted to support a department that is marginally functional, antiquated and without focus or direction. I feel I have did my part by participating in the election process and the voters will decide. The majority (51%) rules.

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