As sheriff, I have the responsibility to keep the peace in our county, now. Also, I feel very keenly about building and maintaining a credible Sheriff’s Office for the next generation.
To maintain a continuity of credibility, I must hire the best available personnel, train them, encourage them, promote those who give meritorious service and see that they are properly compensated. This is how it must be if they are to be expected to give a lifetime of service to this community.
As I talk with taxpayers one on one, they readily see the plausibility of our career service plan and our merit pay plan. Over the last two years as sheriff I have presented my plans and, where possible, implemented changes that have saved taxpayers money. Other changes have made us more effective in enforcing the laws.
I am a very strong advocate of “take-home cars” for our law-enforcement people. It has proven time and again to be very cost effective, a morale booster and liked by people in our community.
However, since I was elected two years ago, I have taken back some of the cars from deputies who only need them occasionally. When they need a car at work they can check out one from the few pool cars we have for just such an occasion.
Some of these deputies were greatly offended. They maintain that the take-home car made up a little for the low wages they are making. I do understand their disappointment, but I could not in good conscience continue this policy for everyone. I hope to reward their good work and loyalty to the county by bringing their pay to a decent, living wage with hope for the future. A merit pay plan is the best way to accomplish that.
Times are tough for everyone.
Believe it or not, we have had it better in Bradley County than in a lot of other places. Our factories have remained open despite the worldwide financial downturn. From just a casual view it appears that a good number of our small businesses have been hurt the most. A number have ceased to exist. I am always saddened when I see a business close or hear that a neighbor or friend or some local resident has lost their home.
I believe someday soon the economic sun will shine in our direction again. Experience also teaches me that criminal activity will increase as Bradley County grows and that we cannot hide our head in the sand.
It is apparent that the leaders in Chattanooga in the last few years have done a wonderful job of attracting industry and rebuilding where urban blight was taking over. But, they did not keep up funding for law enforcement. They are reaping a culture of violence, now. It is in the news every day.
Someone speculated that the movers and shakers are far removed from these daily threats of violence. They live in gated communities. Their children attend private schools. It is rare that any of them are victims of crimes that plague regular folks.
This may or may not be so, but I know that preventing crime is a whole lot cheaper than investigating, prosecuting and punishing criminals after they get a toehold.
I will be asking the taxpayers and the County Commission to put public safety as one of the top three budgeting priorities next year. The other two priorities are schools and roads.
In other words, fund these first and then fund anything else with what is left over.
Thanks for reading.