Note from editor
I congratulate candidate Barker for having the courage to answer the questions that the voters have posed. If you are running for office contact me on Facebook HERE
First I would like to thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions. When I started this journey I made two vows to myself; first I would not do or promise anything that would compromise my integrity and second, I would never ignore any reasonable questions. I cannot guarantee that everyone will like every answer I give, but I do believe that rational discussion is the best way to face any issue. Additionally, I do not promise that every change I make will be accepted by everyone. I do promise that every change and decision will be made for the public good. The public is who the sheriff and all his employees work for. I would refer your readers to the website www.barker4sheriff.com where I address most of the subjects covered by these questions in detail. I love Sequatchie County and its people and communities and I promise to serve them faithfully if elected.
1. With an area of 250 square miles to patrol and not enough Deputies for that size County and the terrain, what would you cut in the Sheriff’s budget to be able to afford more patrol Deputies?
I would like to divide that question into two separate sections. First I would like to address manpower and Patrol issues then I would Like to address the budget and spending.
I have had the privilege to work cases in over 65 counties in Tennessee and several other states and observe how other departments are organized. The first step in approaching patrol coverage is to address the organization of the patrol shifts. There are no established patrol districts. While there should be at least 3 officers on patrol at any time they are not assigned to established districts. By dividing the county into patrol districts (i.e. East and West) the effective area of coverage is ½ what it is now for each officer. The effect of this would be increased visibility and coverage. This should have a positive effect on response times and reduction of burglary and theft cases. Shift leaders would manage the call responses and back up the sector officer. Other officers would remain on patrol unless the situation warrants more backup. I will require that unless resources, call volume, or seriousness of incidents is too high at least one patrol unit be mobile at all times. Deputies should minimize time spent in the city limits because it is covered primarily by the Police Department. After the department is organized analysis can be done to determine future manpower needs.
The second part of your question refers to the budget. Briefly I believe that all spending by any government agency should be approached with the belief and knowledge that the money they spend belongs to the taxpayer. Past spending will be analyzed to project future workable budgets and they will be kept to. All purchases of equipment will be made with the following priorities: 1. A need is identified and the department cannot address it with equipment or supplies on hand. 2. The equipment to be purchased meets the need; AT THE LOWEST possible COST TO THE TAXPAYER. 3. Items with an expiration date will be purchased yearly to minimize the impact on the tax dollar and allow for future budget planning. (Example: If 15 bulletproof vests expire in 5 years. 3 will be purchased per year to spread the cost and insure that vests remain in date.) In short all spending will be done in such a manner as to save every penny of the tax dollar as possible. For more detailed information visit the website at www.barker4sheriff.com.
2. Are you willing to hire female Deputies for Patrol and why do you think we currently don’t have any?
Yes. I have had the honor to work with and be associated with several female officers over my 28 years in law enforcement. Some of them were among the finest officers I have ever worked with. A good female officer can sometimes be more effective than a male officer in calming a situation and obtaining information. However, when any barrier is broken some resistance usually surfaces and it must be handled professionally when it arises. Additionally, the officer cannot be on the defensive at all times, anticipating intolerance from the public, nor can she overcompensate by trying to prove herself ‘ tough’ all the time.
3. What policies or procedures in the department do you think need to be changed and how would you change them?
One of the first priorities after being sworn into office will be a comprehensive evaluation of all policies and procedures. From discussions with current and former employees I believe that either an absence of training on or of policy itself may exist. Policies are ineffective if employees are not trained in them. Policies protect both the employee and the agency. The agency is protected, to some extent, from an incident if the employee breaks policy causing it. If an employee acts within policy, and that policy is bad, the employee is protected. The only way that system can be effective is that the policies be approved and the employees receive training in them.
Some items I have noted for review are policies concerning the wearing of bullet proof vests, Emergency vehicle operations, Patrol procedures and relations with the public. However, a complete review of all policies will be conducted and the employees will receive instruction on them.
In my time with the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Section I have had the opportunity to help form policy for that department. As a Firearms instructor I assisted in the formation of both the Deadly Force Policy and the Firearms Training Policy and Standards. When we formed the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) I worked closely to establish the policies and protocols for its deployment and operations. Also before retiring from the National Guard I assisted in updating the SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) for Ammunition re-supply for the 2nd Squadron of the 278 Armored Calvary Regiment. I believe I have the skills to accomplish this task.
4. There has been much controversy surrounding the current religious program (Free on the inside) at the Justice Center. Would you be willing to release statistics to the public about the current participants discipline records while attending this program? Would you be willing to do follow-up reports with released inmates to see if recordable rehabilitation exists? Do you believe all inmates should be allowed to participate or just non-violent ones?
The sheriff is responsible for the rehabilitation and the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of the inmates. One of the rights that an inmate does not lose is that of religious liberty. One of the only ways a person without any regard for the value of the lives or property of others can acquire those values is through religion. Without these values, education and training of these individuals, alone, may just result in an educated criminal. Most accepted religions will inspire the person to follow a lifestyle that respects those values. One person changed is a victory for that person and society.
As a Christian and a professional law enforcement officer I strongly support and encourage jail ministry programs. As the sheriff I will be responsible for the religious rights of all inmates. However, professing faith should not and will not be a “Get Out of Jail Free” or “Get Out of Jail Sooner” card. Sentences proscribed by law and regulation will be carried out.
Any legal public information about any offenses or discipline will be available for review. Information on beliefs and faith of individual inmates would be protected unless they decide to share it. A follow up is possible but would most likely use time and resources best applied elsewhere. Such a project could be of interest to a Criminal Justice Program at an area collage and might be accomplished that way; without expense. Projects outside of the jail facilities will be done by non-violent offenders (either convicted of a violent crime or having committed violence after being jailed) only and always under legal and proper supervision. Violent offenders will be restricted to working inside the jail grounds.
5. As a Sheriff candidate, are you willing to work with all other departments in the City and County to better the community? Examples: City Police, E911, Fire Departments, etc. And if so, how would you suggest the departments could work better together.
In this county and everywhere else in our great state and nation interagency cooperation is essential to public safety. I have, for the past 20 years worked, almost all of my cases in coordination with other agencies on the local, county, state and federal levels and form all emergency service fields. After 9/11 I have seen that cooperation reach new heights especially on the state and federal levels.
Communication, joint planning, drills, and training are keys to successful interagency cooperation. Contact and training enhances mutual respect and understanding among its participants. I have many friendships that resulted from training exercises.
I intend to meet weekly with other agency heads, especially, law enforcement, dispatch, and emergency management to ensure cooperation and provide for event planning. Additionally I have established relationships with agency heads, members, and officials in every surrounding county and with every state and most federal agencies. I intend to coordinate information and resources to address cross-county and federal crimes and incidents. The Constitutional Rights, safety, and needs of the public of our county will be my primary concern and duty. My view on this subject is expressed in an old saying, “We can all work together or we will fall apart!”
6. The current department has several family members working together. Do you think there should be a nepotism policy in place? Why or why not?
In a county this size a strict nepotism policy would not be entirely practical. Most residents of the county with deep roots here have a large number of relatives in the county.
At www.barker4sheriff.com I state, “If elected I will not terminate any current employee unless there is evidence that he/she has been or is currently involved in criminal activity. I will set new standards and goals for the employees which will have to be reached. Any employee will be able to meet those standards and retain employment.”
That being said, any hiring of officers should be based on qualifications not relationships. What I propose is to establish a ‘blind’ application evaluation process. It would be organized something like this: When an application is received it is assigned a number and a copy is made with all identifying information removed. When a position is available the applications will be scored by a panel, (who do not know applicant ID), based on a scale awarding points for education, experience, etc. The top three will be forwarded to me and the names will be recovered for interviews. The position will be filled from those three unless they fail the interview.
Promotions would be handled based on performance and written evaluations of the officers by their supervisors and approved by me. The citizens deserve the most qualified officers available. The employees should feel that they have a future at the department and that hard work and dedication will be rewarded.
7. This is a small community and most taxpayers understand any kind of IAB or internal conduct investigation mechanisms would be expensive, ineffective, or simply cumbersome to operate given the small department size. Would you be willing to endorse or even help set up a citizens review board for citizens complaints. The board would act in an advisory capacity, ( I believe this might help with building confidence of the public and help with “community policing”. To give the community a method to redress grievances in an unbiased public platform.
First it must be stated up front that an officer has the same rights as anyone else. A complaint does not in itself indicate guilt without evidence or probable cause. Law enforcement is a profession that demands integrity. Allegations against officers must be handled carefully to insure fairness to all sides. Damage to an officer’s integrity can follow them throughout their career. The department’s perceived integrity with the public is as important. The department cannot be seen as ‘protecting its own’ or ‘white washing’ complaints. The Sheriff has to balance both issues with fairness and a responsibility to all.
I am not generally in favor of a Citizens Review Board although I would be willing to review that position if the procedures I emplace are not effective. Such a board’s actions and procedures must be closely regulated and members must be properly screened. Improperly run it could be a severe threat to operational security of investigations, and to officer moral. Additionally the members of a board would need to be trained on law, policy, and procedures to the same level as the officers and be able to be unbiased in their judgment.
I do want to improve relations and interaction with the public. The department must be a member of the community. After election and my initial the reviews and organizational changes, I would like to see a board formed to help facilitate that goal.
In my answer to Question #3 I addressed that current policy will be reviewed and written. One of the most important policies is the handling of accusations against officers. Review or writing of such a policy will be one of the first areas addressed.
Allegations of non-criminal policy violations will be handled in-house in accordance with established procedures. Criminal allegations of misconduct will be handled on a case by case basis.
Misdemeanor investigations of misconduct will be conducted by the sheriff’s department under the direct supervision of the Sheriff. When probable cause is found that a crime occurred and an officer committed it, charges will be filed and the officer will be suspended. The public will be informed openly.
In felony accusations where reasonable suspicion is present the case will be referred to the District Attorney or U.S. Attorney for independent investigation. The department will assist as needed in such investigations. Anytime charges are filed the department will announce the charges openly. Employee’s who commit a crime will know when identified they will be charged with it. Confirmed misconduct will not be tolerated nor will it be hidden.
Willian Barker’s website