Sheriff's Office: Then and now are worlds apart
by Jim Ruth Bradley County Sheriff
Sep 08, 2013 | 881 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

We who are in law enforcement must always be open to adapting our policies and procedures to meet new challenges that continually come at us.

I want to keep our community the safe, quiet place it was when I grew up here. But, we will not keep it that way by doing law enforcement the way it was done then.

Too often, positions were filled by the sheriff or police commissioner with his supporters or their family and friends. Some of these were people that could not get a job anywhere else. Of course when the sheriff had to fire the incompetent employee his supporter became someone else’s supporter.

The sheriff then became susceptible to the supporter when the incompetent employee would seek to be promoted. That same fellow would approach the sheriff telling him or implying that he should be promoted. Knowing the guy was a goldbricker, often the sheriff would promote him anyway for perceived political reasons.

Yet, at the same time the sheriff had to walk this minefield and still enforce the law and keep the community safe and peaceful. This was certainly not the way to create a professional agency that would improve law enforcement services or keep up with increased demands.

Another misconception a few folks have is that we can somehow rehabilitate employees with deep-seated psychological issues or folks with flawed characters. We have fired people “for cause” and they turn around and sue us because of their wrongdoing.

They show no shame for their despicable behavior and their lawyers try to put forth the notion that the taxpayers should rehabilitate them or otherwise cover for their sins.

They try to say it is all right for a deputy to lie, steal, cheat and undermine law enforcement efforts, even to the point of committing felonies.

Some of the people who have been terminated for reasons stated were hired for political reasons rather than their talents and expertise. Yet, we have people who have been with us for years who were hired because of their political friends and have, also, become real assets to the Sheriff’s Office.

Some of these folks really stand out, while others are with us for the same political reasons and probably will never stand out in a positive way.

Many very competent people who have good jobs are at those places because of a parent, aunt or uncle’s recommendation. But the reason the human resource office hired the offspring is because that employee has a good reputation concerning their work ethic. In most cases it naturally follows that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I am asked often to hire someone’s friend or relative. There is nothing wrong with that. I have taken these recommendations and filled some of the positions. Some have worked well, while others we have had to let go.

We have instituted a standardized testing process that will refine the hiring process. Every applicant must take this test, which is designed to separate the goats from the sheep. (Pardon the crude comparison.) Before an applicant proceeds further in the process he/she must pass the test.

All of our efforts are geared toward having a bona fide, professional BCSO. The process has sometimes been ugly and bumpy. We have learned from the mistakes of others and from our own mistakes in our quest to become a better agency.

A potential employee may score well on the standardized test and he or she may have a good education and experience. Then, he or she may have the best references and all the indicators that they would do well as a deputy sheriff or correction officer. But, we all know that the behavioral scientists, psychiatrists and psychologists cannot tell for a certainty how a prospective employee will react to any situation in the future.

All of us enjoy doing a little armchair quarterbacking, but I have noticed lately that my most severe and harshest critics are those who have failed at their attempts to work in law enforcement.


Thanks for reading.