When Johnny comes marching home
by Jim Ruth, Bradley County Sheriff
Sep 30, 2012 | 695 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’m thankful to be part of the old “Volunteer” tradition of Tennessee.

Yes, I’m a UT Vols fan, but the old Volunteer tradition of defending our great nation is steeped in our state history.

We at the Bradley County Sheriff’s office hold the defenders of our shores in very high regard. As a matter of fact, special units of our department wear the midnight blue beret in honor of our military heroes.

Many of our Bradley County deputy sheriffs have served in the U.S. Army, Special Forces, Airborne, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard.

The former soldier, sailor, Marine or airman generally makes an outstanding deputy. He/she has been trained in weaponry, self-defense and self-control. They are disciplined and prepared to fulfill the assignment of protecting our residents in our streets and neighborhoods.

According to our projected growth rate, we should be adding one to two deputies per year to protect our growing population.

We always apply for existing law enforcement grants to help offset local costs for new deputies. Many of our current deputies were first hired with grant money and, later, costs are assumed by you — the taxpayer.

We have some difficulties in hiring good, qualified candidates due to some shortcomings in our system. We currently do not have a merit-pay system. We also do not offer the protection of a career service plan. Generally, professional candidates want to know they can grow and provide for their families in the near future.

Recently, we applied for a grant for five new deputies.

We asked for four new deputies in the last county budget, but our request was denied. The government granted one deputy position paying 75 percent of the costs for three years (about $108,000).

The county would then be required to pick up costs. The grant requires the hiring of a veteran and must be an additional position to what is currently budgeted.

The Bradley County Commissioners chose to not to accept this offer. We at the BCSO feel the need is there now and will be greater next year.

I am still working to hire the best deputies possible and to promote and support those who are dedicated and work hard for our residents.

I want our deputies to have a sense of proprietorship toward Cleveland, Charleston, and all of Bradley County as an emotional commitment. This sense of ownership brings a commitment to protect and serve. The mercenary attitude of just being a “hired hand” simply will not get the job done.

As everyone knows this relationship of the protected and protector is a two-way street. The way to keep the morale up along with his best efforts is to show dedication and commitment is appreciated.

All of us know when honest and sincere requests for help and support are ignored or continually rejected by those in power — morale and level of service is often affected.

Some have contended the sheriff’s office already is responsible for 40 percent of the general budget. Others have chided we can’t be compared to others with merit plans and career plans. Well, that’s true — we’re by far the largest agency with a pretty serious task. And we currently field a deputy sheriff for about one-quarter less than the most relevant comparable agency!

We have a job for the right “Johnny” or “Johnnie” if we can convince our funding body it’s justified.

I’m sure we all agree that our veterans have earned a special shot at a job. I suppose the contention is that Bradley County doesn’t need the protection of another deputy.

I caution again that the tide of criminal activity and its accompanying level of violence are lapping at our shores. Perhaps those against strong law enforcement somehow believe Bradley County is exempt from encroaching crime. But the old doomsday prediction is appropriate here: Pay now or pay later. We cannot afford to pay the higher price later. Again I cite neighboring Chattanooga and the price they are paying.

What will Bradley County benefit from a strong law enforcement presence? Perhaps an island of relative peace and safety for this generation and the next, plus the knowledge we have done the best we could.

Sorry, Johnny, I don’t have this much-needed position to offer you. But welcome home anyway. I’m glad to have one more soldier out of harm’s way.

Thanks for reading.