Members of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club got to ask questions of Bradley County Sheriff-elect Steve Lawson during a recent visit to the club. After outlining plans for the Bradley County …
Members of the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club got to ask questions of Bradley County Sheriff-elect Steve Lawson during a recent visit to the club.
After outlining plans for the Bradley County Sheriff's Office's transition he had previously made public, he addressed everything from budgetary needs to how the community can help.
He began by addressing a question about what he thinks is "the largest criminal justice issue in Bradley County."
"Generally, crime centers around drugs," Lawson said. "Generally, the burglaries we're going to have, the thefts, generally go back to drugs."
Lawson said the types of drugs the community is seeing are also problematic. He explained there was a time when he thought methamphetamine would be the worst drug he would ever see, but drugs like heroin and fentanyl have proven this assumption wrong.
He noted fentanyl "will kill you in a minute," and drug overdoses are becoming more and more common. Prosecuting drug-related crimes and preventing overdoses will continue to be a priority for the BCSO, he added.
A Rotarian also asked what the community can do to help the sheriff do his job well.
Lawson encouraged concerned residents to reach out to Bradley County commissioners to encourage them to fund equipment and training needed by the BCSO.
He explained one of his priorities is making sure all the BCSO patrol vehicles have dashboard cameras, as there are about eight which do not. Lawson said the Cleveland Police Department, in contrast, has cameras in all its patrol vehicles, and CPD officers also wear body cameras.
"I need those cameras in those cars," Lawson said. "I need to make sure that we over the years get better and to not turn a blind eye and say, 'It's OK,' and we still get behind counties that are smaller than us."
"I am also big on training," he added. "I say let's train these people, and I want specialized training beyond the 40 hours mandatory they take every year. ... It does nothing but help every citizen of this county in the future. Let's get better as we go."
Lawson also urged people to report any suspicious activity they see, as this can help prevent future crimes. He added it is better to check out something and have it be nothing than to let crimes in progress go unchecked.
Another question had to do with who is on his transition team, which he said is helping with his mission to "lead from day one."
This team includes: Steve Crump, 10th Judicial District Attorney General; Jeff Yarber, 5th District Bradley County commissioner and Law Enforcement Committee chairman; Amanda Lee, 6th District, Bradley County Board of Education; Dan Howell, Tennessee state representative, 22nd Legislative District; Craig Hamilton, former BCSO deputy; Capt. Stacy Smith, Cleveland Police Department; Bob Johnson, retiree, BCSO; Dan Gilley, former Bradley County sheriff; Adam Lewis, public relations coordinator; Pastor Gary Sears, chaplain; and Chase Lawson and Connie Lawson.
One Rotarian also mused that one of Lawson's biggest challenges is likely to be the budget.
The sheriff-elect said he agreed with that assessment, noting he would like to be able to purchase more necessary equipment, provide more training and hire more officers to focus on critical areas within the BCSO. Though future years' budgets are not yet known, Lawson said he and his staff will always do the best they can with what they have.
Lawson won the Republican primary for sheriff and faces no Democratic opponent on the ballot Aug. 2. Barring a successful write-in campaign, he is planning to officially take office after the election takes place.
"You've never had anyone who looks forward to serving you more than me," said Lawson.
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