The new chief deputy will be Wayne Bird, who has been a special investigator with the Groveland Florida Police Department for the past two years. He is the brother of Ruth’s campaign manager, Doug Bird.
Groveland Police Chief T. R. Merrill, who has served 41 years in that capacity, gave the new chief deputy the highest praise by describing him as “good, honest and religious.”
The sheriff-elect also announced the promotions of Tom Wasson, Jon Collins and Eric Watson to the rank of captain. Capts. Brian Quinn and Jim Hodgson will retain their rank. Quinn will move from the Patrol Division to Corrections. Hodgson will continue in his role over the Training and Support Services Division.
Attempts to contact Dyer for comment were not successful. According to past newspaper reports, Dyer is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Session 226. He completed the 10-week program at Quantico, Va., in September 2006.
Dyer’s career began in the Corrections Division before a transfer to the Patrol Division. He was later promoted to director of security for the Bradley County Courthouse and was credited with developing a security plan to protect each of the civil and criminal courts while they are in session and providing overall building security. He was appointed Sept. 1, 2006, to chief deputy under Sheriff Tim Gobble.
Ruth said Dyer is moving to court security at his own request.
According to a press release issued Thursday, the new chief deputy has 30 years of employment in various levels of law enforcement. He has a bachelor of science in criminal justice from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., and a master of science from the Church of God School of Theology in Cleveland. He is also a graduate of the 100th Session of the FBI National Academy in 1975.
Bird, who is 66 or 67, according to Ruth, started his career with the Orange County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department. Since the age of 21, he has served at all levels of law enforcement in patrol and criminal investigations. He has held the positions of captain of special investigations for vice, narcotics and intelligence; detective captain, and multi-agency task force commander of another Florida agency, according to the press release.
Also, as a special assignment in Southeast Tennessee, Bird served concurrently as a Bradley County deputy sheriff and Drug Enforcement Administration agent; and as part of an organized criminal activity and drug trafficking multi-agency operation in Florida that reached out into other Southeastern states. He also has served as coordinator of a statewide grand jury investigating organized crime, according to the press release.
Hodgson joined the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office in 1987 after serving with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. During his career, he has held a variety of patrol, investigative, and management assignments. He is an instructor for a number of law enforcement training topics and nationally recognized by the Community Policing Consortium as a County-Level Community Policing Trainer and by the U.S. Department of Justice; and as an instructor in Domestic Terrorism Orientation and Awareness. He serves on the faculty of the Basic Law Enforcement Academy at Cleveland State Community College. Hodgson holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he has also completed post-graduate studies in public administration.
Wasson will be placed in charge of the Patrol Division. His career in law enforcement started 21 years ago as a reserve officer for the Cleveland Police Department. He has been at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office for the past 16 years where his most recent appointment was as a lieutenant in the Training and Support Services Division. He is a certified firearms instructor and certified to teach other courses by the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Testing (POST) Commission. He holds a bachelor of science degree in business from UTC.
Collins, who was appointed to the top spot in the Patrol Division in 2006, will take over the corrections facility from Capt. Gabe Thomas. Thomas has been demoted to deputy and transferred to the Judicial Services Division.
Ruth said Thomas is also being transferred to judicial services “at his own written request.”
Attempts to contact Thomas were not successful.
Collins has spent his entire career at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office. He progressed through the ranks of the Patrol Division and was promoted to captain in 2006. He is currently attending the FBI National Academy and is scheduled to graduate in mid-September. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee’s Southeastern Command and Leadership Academy, and the Institute for Police Technology and Management.
Watson will serve as captain of Judicial Services. He joined the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office as a reserve deputy in 1991. Since then, he served with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for three years before rejoining BCSO in 1999. He was promoted to lieutenant in the Judicial Services Division in 2006. Watson has served as a state law enforcement officer for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and currently represents the 22nd District in the Tennessee House of Representatives. He has completed training seminars and programs on court and judicial services, including the Tennessee Supreme Court Courthouse Security School and the United States Marshall’s Service Academy on State and Local Courthouse Security. Watson received a bachelor degree in education from Andersonville Seminary.
Quinn returns to BCSO as captain of Criminal Investigations Division after serving two years as safety and security coordinator for the Bradley County and Cleveland City school systems. Quinn’s law enforcement career started as a patrol deputy in 1993. During his career, he has worked in the Criminal Investigations Division and was promoted to lieutenant in the Drug Enforcement Unit. He has completed specialized schools and is a certified crime prevention specialist. He holds a bachelor of science in business administration and management from Bryan College in Dayton.
Capt. Steve Lawson, who lost a bitter campaign for sheriff to Ruth, will leave the sheriff’s department to accept a position as director of the 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force. He will replace Mike Hall, who is moving to Florida.
Lawson was reached at his home, but declined to make a statement.
Bradley County Commissioner Howard Thompson raised the issue of job security earlier in the month after the elections. He said then that the Commission needed to consider the Sheriff’s Civil Service Act of 1974 because there are a lot of employees “that politically — they’re done wrong. If you’ve been there 15 or 20 years, I don’t think you need to be put out of (a) job or have their pay cut in half, because those people have families too.”
The Law Enforcement Committee, chaired by Thompson, later decided to leave the county’s employee protection plan alone and not send a recommendation to the full Commission but he wants Ruth involved in any future discussions about changing the Sheriff’s Department Employment Plan of 1995 that prevents officials from cleaning house after an election.
Thompson did not return phone calls for comments on this story.
Ruth acknowledged in an Aug. 10 speech at the Rotary Club of Cleveland that the election had divided the department, but he had no intention of firing people. “I’m just not going to do that,” the sheriff-elect said. “My goal is to lead a unified, professional and contented sheriff’s office, dedicated to keeping the peace. Sheriff Gobble and I have communicated more than once and are both committed to a smooth transition, with as little disruption of service, as possible.”
Among other changes, though not confirmed by Ruth’s administration, include Gobble’s administrative assistant, Jennifer Johnson, who is being reassigned as a corrections officer. Detective Heath Arthur is being reassigned to the Patrol Division. Julie Quinn will be promoted to lieutenant in the School Resources Officer Program.
Patrol Deputy Casey Kerr is being reassigned from Patrol Division to Corrections. According to past reports, Kerr and Anthony Cochran were fired from the department in September 2009 for evidence of steroid use in a patrol car.
“I am putting people in positions I think will best carry out my policies in providing efficient and effective law enforcement services,” Ruth said.
He said the Judicial Services Division will be increased from 16 to 20 officers. Two officers will be assigned to operate the magnetometer and x-ray machine at the courthouse. Two additional officers in Judicial Services will be assigned to civil processes and criminal warrants to help clear the backlog of 5,000 outstanding criminal warrants.
Also, every county school will have a school resources officer.
Ruth and his deputies will be sworn in Aug. 31 at Cloverleaf Baptist Church at 7 p.m. Circuit Court Judges Larry Puckett, Amy Reedy and Michael Sharp will administer the oath to Ruth, his command staff and fulltime personnel, followed by reserve deputies at 8 p.m.