Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office…..corrupt, mismanaged, or simply just overwhelmed?
“Commitment to our citizens and improving the quality of life in our county” starts with accountability…. Synonyms are : amenable, answerable, liable, responsible. These are the things we expect from our elected officials. They are to be accountable to not only the people who elected them but the people and communities they serve.
That being said we cannot expect them to do more than is possible in the office they hold. As it has been shown time and again adding more and more responsibility to a position does not necessarily make that position stronger. Unfortunately in many cases the more complex and diverse the duties the more likely that one or more parts of those duties will be lacking in proper supervision or oversight. Also accountability being held by one person without a proper set of checks and balances can become an issue open to prejudice and concerns of possible manipulation.
We have an issue here in Rutherford County. A local issue, not a national one, that needs to be addressed. We have a Sheriff’s Department that is being asked to not only run and operate the Detention Center (Jail), the courthouse security functions, 911 Communications, but also police the non-incorporated areas of one of the largest counties in area in the state.
This seems to be asking way too much of one person. Our Sheriff is trying to manage a budget of over $10,800,00.00 per year. His position is open to election every four years and is therefore political in nature. We have one man that we are holding accountable for all these things in our community however he does not independently fund his own budget. That is done by the taxpayers of Rutherford County through the County Commissioners.
In other counties in the state (Gaston and Mecklenburg) the commissioners along with the NC General Assembly have separated the duties of the Sheriff from actual day to day policing by having the Sheriff be over the jail and courthouse functions and implementing a County Police force that is managed by a Chief that is answerable to the commissioners and county manager. This has freed the actual policing of citizens from the political arena to the administrative one.
Our officers are trained and experienced professionals that unfortunately are bound here in Rutherford County to a political system that has the potential to change direction every four years. This puts an added stress and burden on these professionals as far as job security is concerned. It also can be construed to be biased towards those affiliated with the current political party in power at the time.
With all the current allegations of mismanagement/mistreatment at many levels and in various departments as well as the national climate of police mismanagement/mistreatment it is time to reconsider diversifying the responsibilities of the Sheriff’s department. It is truly unfair to expect one person to be able to control and properly manage everything our current Sheriff is being asked to do.
Our county in the past has considered modifying the duties of the Sheriff’s department. It is time to revisit that idea for multiple reasons. Many aspects and responsibilities of a Sheriff have changed since the establishment of the Office of Sheriff by the 1776 NC Constitution. That being so noted it is would not be unusual to revisit those specific responsibilities. The policing of our citizens should not ever be based on a political affiliation. It should be based on education, experience, and accountability. That accountability should not be to one person but to a governing body that oversees the organization as well as to a citizen’s review board. Those officers should also have the multi-layered protections of being a county employee when faced with social and political pressure from the general public in diverse situations.
The sheriff should be in charge of the jail and courthouse duties. That in of itself is a monumental task to properly administer. The operation of the county’s 911 emergency system and the actual policing of the non-incorporated areas of the county should be done by a non-political county police force answerable to the Board of Commissioners and County Manager who funds them. This in turn should have a non-partisan citizens advisory committee that addresses serious public complaints that then reports their findings to the Commissioners for review.
This is not a new concept up for consideration. It can be voted on and decided by the Commissioners with approval of the General Assembly. It is a legacy they can leave the county showing that they were progressive enough to understand the seemingly impossible demands of this type of responsibility on one person and were brave enough to take a stand to improve things for not only the office of Sheriff but also the officers of the county and the people they serve.
The following is a statement from the Sheriff ‘s Association website: “The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association consistently and vigorously opposes any legislation introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly that would diminish the duties and powers of the Office of Sheriff in any way.” This would be an uphill battle but not an insurmountable one for our Commissioners. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said “The only constant in life is change.”
It is time to take the politics out of policing for Rutherford County. Let your commissioners know how you feel by emailing at the address below or calling them (828-287-6045) concerning this issue. Positive change for Rutherford County is possible.
Bryan King: firstname.lastname@example.org
Greg Lovelace: email@example.com
Alan Toney: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Benfield: email@example.com
David Hunt (newly elected) : firstname.lastname@example.org
**If you have any questions or concerns please send them to email@example.com and I will attempt to get them answered for you. (all communications are confidential)