Sheriff-elect Eric Watson said Thursday he is ready to begin the “new spirit and new direction” for the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office he promised in his campaign.
Watson addressed the Bradley County Republican Womens’ Club and said since he became the presumptive sheriff-elect in May, “there have been a lot of 3 a.m. nights” working on making his goals for the department a reality.
“A lot of people that are running for office say they are going to do things and don’t follow up on it,” Watson said. “I’m a man of my word and we’ve done that.”
He said details would be forthcoming, but one of the items he addressed was making the Sheriff’s Office and attractive place to work for law enforcement.
Watson said the goal is achievable to make the starting salaries more competitive with other agencies, through a restructuring of the department.
“We’ve spent countless hours on this,” he said. “We’re tired of losing good people to other counties and agencies.”
Watson also said the restructuring would provide the ability to add new deputies to the ranks.
He said that restructuring does include a reduction in supervisory staff which was one of his major criticisms of the current administration during the campaign.
Watson also said the DARE program would be returning to the schools sometime in January.
“We found out the SROs had lost their certification,” Watson said. “We are going to be sending two to be recertified at first.”
He also said there would be a SRO supervisor who would be based at Bradley Central High School.
Watson said people would begin seeing county inmates working along roadsides to clean up trash.
“A lot of people have problems seeing that and think that’s immoral,” he said. “I don’t. I think those inmates need to work and pay their penalty.”
Watson said someone had asked him if he was asking for a tax increase to do all he is saying will be done.
“We will not be coming to the County Commission for a tax increase,” Watson said. “The money is there.”
He did say if the department might need anything it would be vehicles.
“On the first day at Sept. 1 at 7 a.m., the number of officers on shift will be more than doubling in size,” he said. “The same is true for night shift.”
Watson said the county officers would be “patrolling county roads.”
“We will be there to assist those in the city if they need it, but our priority is to be on the county roads,” he said.
Watson also said the officers under his administration will be “true public servants.”
“When they are on the roads, they are going to wave at you,” he said. “If they see a mother and her kids with car trouble, they are going to stop and help. They are not just going to drive by.”
Watson and his staff will be sworn in during a ceremony Aug. 31 at North Cleveland Church of God.
The event will begin at 4 p.m. and Watson said he hopes the public will come and participate and meet the members of the new administration.