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Candidates for Transylvania County Sheriff William Hemphill, Chuck Owenby and Benny Frady participated in an online forum held by Transylvania NAACP Wednesday. 
(Times photo by Jonathan Rich)

Candidates for Transylvania County Sheriff met at Brevard City Hall Wednesday for an online forum hosted by the Transylvania County NAACP. Democrat William Hemphill, Republican Chuck Owenby and Independent Benny Frady all answered questions asked by moderator Mike Hawkins. Each candidate was given one minute to respond to a question and then additional time to speak following the other candidates’ comments.

If elected, what are the core values you will emphasize in your office’s internal culture and how will you instill and maintain those values with your staff?

Hemphill: The core values will be pretty simple. First is going to be caring about people. You wouldn’t be doing the job if you didn’t care. Concern: have concern about the issues that someone brings to you.

Have a solution: talk to people and treat them with respect. Have compassion and safety for the issue that person has given to you. You can make a life-changing difference with a person by just simply having a conversation. Myself and a lieutenant from the Transylvania County Sheriff’s Department saved a young lady’s life on Crab Creek Road.

She was sitting in a car with multiple bottles of pills ready to commit suicide. I just pulled up and had a conversation with her, but it was not about anything other than just me caring and just being there.

It was a blessing I was able to talk to her for several minutes. The lieutenant came along, we had a conversation with her and we saved a life. A couple of days after that, I saw her and she hugged my neck. She said, ‘Thank you.’ That’s what it’s all about: caring for people.

Frady: I agree with what Mister Hemphill said about caring, being concerned and compassionate about people, but we need to treat people the way we want to be treated.

We’ve got to deal with people regardless of what our differences, beliefs, our gender and our race. Each person is different and no two people are the same so we’ve got to treat people that way.

I have found over the years by working with different people, especially in the courthouse, that if you treat people nicely and you treat them with respect then they have a better outcome and they come back and say what you did helped them through life.

Owenby: In the line of work we are in you have to be professional and you have to be fair. I would agree that with professionalism in this line of work, people realize that they can come to you and you can get in touch with them with a professional demeanor. It’s all about fairness to me. My dad always taught me long ago to be fair to everybody. It doesn’t matter: male, female, whatever the case may be, you treat everybody fair and you respect everybody fairly.

What is you plan for recruitment and retention of appropriate staffing?

Owenby: My plan for staffing with appropriate recruitment and retention starts with creating an environment at that office that people want to be there and people want to work there.

You have to have that environment, where people want to work for you. When I was lieutenant over training and standards, what I would do is stay at Brevard College, Blue Ridge Community College and A-B Tech recruiting all the time.

I am a certified instructor for the state of North Carolina, so I teach BLET programs, which are what you have to be a certified officer to begin with. I get a firsthand look at the officers coming through and have the option of trying to recruit them to come to us. At the end of the day, money is a big issue because folks want to be paid well for what they do.

Money is a temporary motivator, though. You have to create an environment at the office where people want to be there and stay there because sometimes it is not about the money.

I look forward to going to work every day and still do. I’ve been here 20-plus years and that is the environment I want to create where people want to work at that office. We stay at Brevard College and do job fairs and recruitment fairs. I even have a professor at Mars Hill who will send me some students. Right now we have six or eight from Brevard College who we have hired from recruitment at Brevard College.

Frady: Recruitment and retention is a big thing with our agency and with other agencies, not only in law enforcement but also in the construction career where I have been. I have found that having good supervisors who know the job, can do the job and treat their staff well and act as mentors, and assist them with their duties rather than just ride by a desk and yell to tell them what to do goes a long ways with your improvement.

If people have good morale and they enjoy being there, then they’re going to stick with you unless there is some other reason for them to go. Money is going to always be the object, but money is not everything.

To be in law enforcement, you’ve got to love what you are doing.

You’ve got to have love and caring for the people in the community in order to serve them because you get abused in law enforcement and it takes a special person to do that. If we can keep our supervisors keeping our people happy on the inside, it will spread out into the community and better serve the community.

Hemphill: I was a recruiter for North Carolina State Highway Patrol and I was on the display for the North Carolina Mountain State Fair for 10-plus years with the methods for recruiting different recruits. The best recruits are the people here at your house, the people in your community because that is a reflection on who they are. Get people that deal with people here locally and know the people because they invest in that community and want to make it better. Every time you go to work, you want to look like you are fresh out of the closet. Fresh uniform and clean cut with a clean car. That means everything. When you have an appearance that represents what your organization is, people want to be a part of that. They want to look like you, talk like you, be like you and stand up for people in the community because they know you are doing the right thing. Pay is great, but have a purpose when you are going to do your job.

How would you ensure minority and female representation are appropriately included in your staff?

Frady: I do believe in diversity, and we do have inclusion in our agency now.

One thing you have to look at is the people who we can choose from in the community.

You’ve got to have people who are interested in working in law enforcement, and if they are not working in law enforcement, then that will limit how you bring people in and what type of people you bring in. I don’t have a problem with minorities or female officers in our office.

Matter of fact, there have been some female officers who I’ve worked with I’d rather have than some of the men. Having them in there is not a problem for me. Everybody needs to know what their limitations are as for what they can do.

That doesn’t single out any person; that could be myself. I’ve got limits or you have limits, and you need to know what those limits are so that we don’t do something that jeopardizes the safety of our fellow officers. But diversity is a good thing for us.

Owenby: When you talk diversity at the office, I like having a diverse office.

I look back in the 20-plus years that I’ve been here and we have a lot more diversity in the 20 years that I’ve been here versus when I started.

I think at the end of the day, though, what you have to look at is you have to have well-trained and well-qualified employees and/or new hires.

It doesn’t matter about their diversity because at the end of the day you’ve got a job to do and you have to make sure that they’re well trained and well qualified to do the job because if they are not well-trained or well-qualified that could cause you issues.

At the end of the day, I love having the diversity that we have and would like to see some more diversity, but first and foremost you have to make sure that they are well-trained and well-qualified to do the job.

Hemphill: The biggest thing again for recruiting a very diverse group is to go in your community. Get people who look like you and who want to do the job, but they have to meet the standard.

Law enforcement is not easy.

You take a lot of insults, but at the same time when you are respectful about your contacts and people see that they get an understanding of ‘That’s what I want to do.’ The goal in my 30-year career at the North Carolina Highway Patrol when I met with people in a professional manner at a wreck scene, a simple traffic stop, DWI arrest or whatever it may have been, I wanted to be so professional and so courteous that people thanked me at the end of the day. That is a big recruiting tool there. When you treat everybody the same way you can connect with people, but your community is your best recruiting avenue to getting people who are qualified and meet the standards.

What experience do you have formulating and funding budgets? What would be your biggest funding priority in the upcoming budget?

Hemphill: I don’t have a lot of background in funding and doing budgeting, but the process of it is management.

Put people in the position who can help you do that and have the correct tools when you are getting people recruited.

A lot of the programs in the sheriff’s office are through grants, so have people who can do grants. When you do your budget, make sure there is a budget set there first of all to take care of your pay. Once you take care of your pay, make sure money is there for your training.

Make sure there is money there for your equipment, such as your guns and your cars. Managing your money is the key to any successful operation. I worked with my dad’s concrete business for 50-plus years and it’s not simple to get people to do that work because it’s hard work. What you do, have that same stewardship when you get your people recruited and understanding your budget and manage your money properly.

Owenby: The last six years I have been in administration I have been able to help prepare budgets. The top budgetary need, I think for our office, is going to be the training and equipment aspect of it.

Our jail has revenue that we turn in every year, somewhere between $800,000 to $1 million just housing federal inmates, state inmates, inmates from other counties and things like that. We get a little bit of that and I’d like to be able to tap into that to get a certain percentage back to buy equipment, and it’s not necessarily a taxpayer thing because it goes through the general fund.

We have other revenues that we get there. In the last six years being in the administrative division I have had the opportunity to prepare those budgets. The better and more well-trained our staff is and the better equipped that our staff is, the better they can do the job and get home safely to their spouses and their kids, but also to make sure the folks they are dealing with get home as well.

Frady: Our budget is something that goes from year to year and you have to be pretty well consistent with a lot of it because you’ve got to cover your insurance, you’ve got to cover your payroll, you’ve got to cover all the utilities and stuff. You’ve got to be sure that all of that is always taken care of. Training and equipment, you have to work all of that out on an individual basis because you have to see where the money is coming from, what you will need and what it will cost.

There may be some things you may have to wait a year or two on to purchase because of the price, but we have to be good stewards of our tax dollars. Being a private business owner in the past, I know what it is if you run out of money to put yourself into a bind. Grant money, I have someone who can write the grants, but you’ve got to be careful where the money comes from that you don’t get hooked on doing something that later on you regret doing just so you can get money from it.

Hemphill: The grant program is very important. With the Governor’s Highway Safety Programs, some departments will get it and think it is all about writing tickets, turning in big numbers and a bunch of big stats.

It’s about maintaining safety in your community. So when you get involved in these programs, let it have a purpose. Grants are good when they have a purpose.

What are the biggest issues facing law enforcement in Transylvania County today and in your opinion what does law enforcement do well currently and in what ways might we improve?

Owenby: The biggest issues that I see in Transylvania County right now: we’ve got a drug problem just like any other community does. For me, the way to target that is strict enforcement for your dealers. You may arrest one mid-level dealer or one big dealer and one small dealer, but there is always going to be somebody there to take his place.

We have a great Narcotics Task Force, five individuals who are vigilant on it and they work Monday though Friday, Saturday, Sunday … just whenever they need to be out there combating drugs because that’s an issue.

If we reduce the drug rate in Transylvania County, what comes with that? Your crime rates come down and your breaking and enterings go down, your domestics go down and a lot of things of that nature because a lot of it is people trying to feed their habits and things of that nature.

The biggest thing for me would be focusing on that drug issue. I think law enforcement in our office does a fabulous job. They are in these communities and out and about. Of course we could be in the communities more, but crimes dictate you have to have our people where the crime rates are higher. I’ve seen our officers work. They are professional and they are fair. They do the job like they are supposed to do.

Frady: As with any other municipality, we see all types of crimes. We do have drug problems, we do have breaking and entering problems and larcenies. We do have domestic problems.

But one way I see we can combat most of that is our community interactions.

If we have a sheriff’s office that is open to the public where people can have accessibility to the sheriff and to the command staff and all of our patrol officers are out in the communities, then we can interact with people and stop and talk with them just like we used to when I first started 37 years ago. We stopped. We talked to people. We found out what was going on, and we built a rapport with the people.

You can get a wealth of information from the public just by being nice to them, talking to them, seeing what their concerns are. Eventually as that rapport and trust builds, you’ll get information.

That information will be helpful to solve cases, whether that involves drugs, larcenies or whatever. You’ll gain that information and you’ll get it a lot quicker there than sitting at the office trying to have somebody come in and tell you.

Hemphill: The biggest thing are the drugs and the larcenies. As I said before, the way you combat that is connecting with your community and being involved in your community.

If you can’t control it yourself, get assistance from your state agencies and federal agencies so that you can show a sign of improvement in your community.

If you eliminate drugs, you eliminate a lot of the other issues. When you take control of things with your department handling the issues the way they are supposed to be handled, communicating with the pubic and connecting with the public, you can take care of a lot of your issues that way. Communication and connecting with the community is the governing body of the county. You’ve got to do that to have success.

Do you believe the Transylvania County Sheriff is a superior authority above other federal, state and local officials and do you believe the Transylvania County Sheriff has the authority to disregard federal, state or local laws or policies with which the sheriff might disagree?

Frady: I believe that the sheriff’s office is a Constitutional office, and I believe in following the Constitution. As far as local law enforcement, I believe the sheriff is the highest form of law enforcement in the county.

I know because of the duties we were sworn to uphold and do, the sheriff is the only person who can do those duties.

A police chief can’t do it. A city officer can’t do it. Highway Patrol can’t do those particular tasks, so yes, the sheriff is the highest ranking officer locally. As far as doing what other agencies and stuff would want you to do, that’s going to be a judgment call but we are going to follow the Constitution. We take an oath when we are sworn in that we will support and uphold the Constitution of the United States and the laws of North Carolina. And we will do those.

Owenby: If elected sheriff of Transylvania County I would be a Constitutional sheriff because you have to enforce the laws of the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of North Carolina. There are three divisions that have to be had by a sheriff of Transylvania County and that’s detention, civil process and the courts.

Some counties don’t have patrol or investigations, but that’s the three that the sheriff of that county has to provide. We’re lucky here: we have patrol, we have investigations, we have SROs, we have the whole gamut of things.

But by the law in North Carolina those are the three things you have to provide. You have to be a deputy sheriff to do that. Any other agencies can’t come in and provide a jail, courts or civil process. I would be a Constitutional sheriff and enforce the laws of the Constitution of the United States and of the constitution of North Carolina.

Hemphill: As sheriff, I would be the Constitutional sheriff. The duty has no bias.

You carry the laws out as they are written in the state or federal constitution. You take that oath and that oath says you carry out those duties to the limit regardless. You can’t take a side because of what might be going on in Washington or what might be going on in Raleigh. If it comes from one of those levels, from the state or federal, uphold it. Do it.

It’s not a popularity contest. Do your job. Handle your business. Do it the way it’s supposed to be done. As a state trooper, I worked all over the entire state of North Carolina. We had to go to Charlotte and take back that city. People down there were absolutely destroying it. As a trooper, I went down there to handle our business because we were instructed by the governor to do so. That’s what you’ve got to do: do your job and do it the way you’re supposed to do it regardless of who is instructing you.

One of the basic tenants of Constitutional sheriff philosophy is the sheriff has the ability to say, ‘I know this law was duly enacted and is being followed in other places but my personal opinion is this law is unconstitutional and so I will not enforce it.’ Is that what I am hearing you say, that you are willing to do that?

Owenby: That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I will go by the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of North Carolina. If it’s by law, you’ve got to enforce the law. You’re the chief law enforcement agent in the county that you reside. If it’s a legal law, you have to enforce that.

Frady: Whatever the law comes down that is laid out by the legislatures and enacted by them and also by the Constitution, we have no choice. It’s not my personal opinion as to what is legal and what is not legal.

If it’s been tried in the courts and proved that it’s Constitutional, then we have no choice but to serve those.

If it’s not been contested, it’s on the books that we are obligated to serve those. The discretion is on how you handle it sometimes, but you’ve got to look at each individual circumstance and what is the best for the community and everybody that’s involved in it.

I’m not saying that you let people go just to let them go or not serve it just because you don’t like it. You’ve got to look at it, and if it’s Constitutional and it’s held up in courts, you enforce it and how you enforce it are based upon what the circumstances around it are.

Hemphill: A lot of times someone will let their personal politics and biases interfere with doing his duties because his party said, ‘Let’s not do this,’ or because of getting caught up in the drama of being personal. Laws are not personal. Laws are written because it’s about safety and the concern of our nation and our state. At all times as a Constitutional sheriff, you have to uphold the laws. It’s not about popularity. It’s about doing your duties and doing your job.

What is community policing and would it be part of your department’s operational procedure? If so, would community advisory and review groups be part of that program?

Hemphill: Having an advisory board or a community group to review what you are doing, whether it’s correct or incorrect, that has to be discussed if I am elected as sheriff. The duties that you do in community policing is what it says: be in your community. As a trooper for 30-plus years, that was part of our activity sheet that we had to do. You have to show so many hours of doing community policing. It’s not just out doing enforcement, it includes doing traffic safety presentations, where you are doing safety awareness programs, going to your local churches, going to your high schools or coaching high school or youth football. Whatever that may be, just be in your community.

Be connected to your community showing them that you’re involved because it’s about safety and their well being. If you’re doing that, the boards don’t have to worry about if you’re doing the right thing. They get to see it firsthand. When you are involved with the community, they know.

Owenby: Community policing is a vital part of the sheriff’s office and being sheriff. I can remember growing up we had Neighborhood Watch. Your neighbors all came together and you looked after your neighbors. The biggest thing for me is the community advisory board aspect of it.

We’ve had in place at our office for years a community advisory board. I want to expand on that. I’d like to see somebody from every community … whether it’s Little River, Cedar Mountain, Sapphire, Toxaway, Balsam Grove, all the communities … meet once a month, quarterly, whatever the case may be … because they are your eyes and ears sometimes. We don’t necessarily have the luxury of having 10, 12 people on a shift, so there are some times we have to send our officers to where the crime rates are higher or where the crime is happening. You may not see that officer but once on a shift.

Those community advisory boards are big because they can report back to you saying, ‘We’re seeing this and we need a little help with this.’ Then we can say, ‘Perfect. Let’s work on it. Here’s the plan I’m going to put together for your community.’ Along with Neighborhood Watch, I’ve given several of those programs in communities like Cedar Mountain and places like that showing them this is how you start a program and this is what we can help you with. Community policing is vital in this aspect of law enforcement.

Frady: The community advisory board, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. I think you need the input from the community.

You need to have a way to express your ideas and they have a way to express their ideas. When I started law enforcement back in 1985 we had community policing but you didn’t call it community policing then.

You were out in the community. You had people in the yards and at the stores. You talked to them and you built a rapport. You found out what was going on in the communities.

That was community policing. Community policing is being involved in your communities, having your officers out there, having your staff out there to find out what’s going on and get their opinions on what they are doing. Yes, they are going to watch and once they build that trust in you and that rapport they are going to tell you what’s going on. Community watch and the Neighborhood Watch stuff, that are great opportunities, we just need to deal further with it.

Owenby: When we talk about the community advisory board and community policing, it doesn’t have to be at our office.

I would like to be out having a meeting in Little River where everybody comes to Little River. Some of these folks in communities may not have been to Little River. Not only are you going to see the other communities which make up your advisory board or your group, but it’s a chance to get out in these communities and be seen.

Frady: Being out in the communities is a great thing and every community is different. There’s no two communities the same, just like there are no two individuals the same. What the people in one community sees and does is totally different from what you see and do in your community. If we have that in our actions, that makes our people who work for us better informed on what’s going on.

Diversion programs and alternatives approaches to arrests and prosecutorial actions for low-level offenses are prioritized in some areas of North Carolina. Are diversion programs a good idea and if so would you want to work with the district attorney and other agencies in Transylvania County to maintain a program here?

Owenby: I think diversion programs would be a good idea. Look at some of your school-age kids. We are lucky we have an SRO in every school and they’re there for that leadership.

They’re also there to protect the safety of these kids. Take a minor drug offense. What I’d really like to see here in Transylvania County is a drug court like some of the other counties have. If it’s misdemeanor possession of marijuana, let’s send them to drug court.

They can get the resources they need whether it be rehabilitation, substance abuse classes or things of that nature.

Diversionary programs would be a great process here. I’ve already been looking into working with the D.A.’s office and mentioned drug court to Mr. Murray because Buncombe County has a drug court and it seems to be working well. It teaches there are consequences for your actions, but there are also consequences for seeking the help, doing those drug classes, doing the rehabilitation and maybe talking with other students and staff instead of just going to jail every time. Maybe you will get at least probation or if you do the classes assigned it can help you.

Frady: About five years ago there was a diversion program started here in Transylvania County and I was in on that along with a couple of judges, the D.A.s … we had mental health people and we had people from the hospital and other medical agencies.

It’s a hard process to get started but we don’t have the facilities in Transylvania County to handle the needs and stuff of those programs.

We don’t have enough mental health facilities to take care of them. We don’t have the financial stuff. All those programs are expensive. As we worked through this procedure, we had it for about a year but it never did get off the ground. You had to have a lot of financial backing and stuff and you had to get it from outside the county. That was hard to do. You’ve got to have the facilities. It is a good program if you can just get it to work and get the right people in it because we need those facilities.

Hemphill: On a first time offer with a simple drug possession, yeah, help ‘em out. Do things to be very positive for that young man or young woman, but at the same time educate them.

Put them in some kind of program where they get the correct insight and the correct understanding because some kids don’t have that mom, dad or coach to explain things to them. Put them in a program where they get educated about it, that way they are not repeat offenders. You get someone who is doing that and abusing the system, you’ve got to do what the law says is required. A diversionary program would be a good program for a first-time offender with a non-violent crime so you can give them assistance.

Owenby: One program that I would like to see more of here … we hosted an event in April of this year called LEGAL. We hosted with the NAACP and the Brevard Police Department. It’s from the Department of Justice and its Law Enforcement Guiding Adolescent Lives.

You form a partnership with those adolescents right then and there. You put them through some scenarios, whether it’s a car stop, a street stop or it’s a home encounter. If you create that relationship with these folks at an early age, you may can keep them from even having to have that diversionary program. To me, that’s a great program to have hosted once for our high-school aged kids and its an education piece to go along with that diversionary program.

School resource officers are the sheriff’s department’s face in our school system. Are you satisfied with the SRO program in Transylvania County? If so, why? If not, how can we improve?

Frady: I’d like to say, ‘We don’t need SROs,’ but we don’t live in that society anymore so we have to have them.

I feel that it’s a very needed program that we have to have. I think our officers who work there are very talented and they put a lot of heart into working with the children and the students in our schools taking care of them.

I believe we need to have more training for them so they can look for more signs of trouble and distress in our students so they can recognize some of those red flags before things happen to them.

There is CIT training and I think we need to get them into that, the ones that don’t have it so that they can be better trained. They are a person who the students can look up to, somebody that they can build trust into. If they have a problem, whether it’s at school, at home or with some of their peers, they have that opportunity to come to those officers and talk to them and hopefully get the help that they can. We need to expand our programs and work with the schools and mental health areas to get the programs out there that we can refer the children to take care of them.

Owenby: I’m very satisfied with our SROs. I’m lucky I can say I was an SRO. I was an SRO at Brevard Elementary for three years and loved every minute of it.

We have two great programs: we have DARE camp and we have SHIELD camp. The SHIELD camp is the Sheriff’s Integrity Ethical Leadership Development program for seventh and eighth grade kids and we have success stories from these camps.

We have a young lady who went through it and when she got to high school she volunteered every summer with these camps. She got her bachelor’s degree and she now works for us at our office. That’s what our SROs do. Our SROs are living, breathing individuals who have great relationships with these kids and keep those great relationships so these kids want to come back to work for us. Our kids are our future. I could sit and talk for hours about our SROs and all the hard work they do because they are there for the security and safety of those schools and our SROs do a fabulous job.

Hemphill: The SRO program is a great program for the sheriff’s department. I’ve done a lot of programs with them from Rosman, Brevard High, Pisgah Elementary.

I’ve done multiple programs with them as a trooper in my years as a trooper here. I’ve reached out to Schenck Job Corps and done more than 100 contacts with the young guys and ladies there. Connecting with them, they get to see you in a very refreshed manner. I did a lot of that on my days off just to let the kids see what that’s like and to let them know that people do care. That’s the biggest part of the SRO program: kids know that someone cares and someone is there to protect them and help them.

In today’s society, we need that. The SROs are the solution to some of the ongoing problems in our schools and if elected sheriff I will continue that program and improve it some.

In recent years Crisis Intervention Training which is designed to develop deescalation skills has become more prevalent in law enforcement work. Many law enforcement agencies across the state have either a special crisis intervention team or a goal of having all officers receive this training. Would you want your officers to take crisis intervention skill training? If so, would it be within a special team or more generally among all staff?

Hemphill: The more you have, the better it is, so having a crisis intervention program in your sheriff’s office, that would be awesome. We did just that when I was just coming into the Highway Patrol 30-plus years ago. We called it ‘verbal judo.’ It’s just a technique you use talking with a calm, rational manner being informed and sometimes just separating the parties.

When you separate them, give them the understanding in a very peaceful and understanding way that they can connect with you. You leave that person standing there and say, “I’ll be right back.’ Go talk to the next person, give them the same kind of respect and understanding. That way in the end when the two connect back up a simple apology sometimes can help people connect and that’s part of the process of deescalation.

Absolutely, the more the merrier with the department, the better it will be.

Owenby: I think CIT training is vital. I can say I am CIT training certified. It’s a 40-hour class that you take that teaches you how to deal with mostly mental health issues. That’s one of my biggest talking points is the mental health of our youth.

I think every SRO should be CIT certified . Honestly, I think everybody in our department and even the detention center staff and all, if you look at some of the issues they have to deal with on a daily basis .... Everybody knows that the mental health system in North Carolina is broken, and it’s not just North Carolina it’s nationwide.

Our mental health system needs a rebunk and it needs redesign. That 40-hour CIT class is a great class that teaches you how to talk to these folks. It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Hey, you calm down and talk to me.’ If you say ‘calm down’ to some of these folks it makes it worse, but it teaches you the deescalation techniques that you need to talk to these particular individuals. It teaches you what signs and symptoms are, whether it is schizophrenia or paranoid schizophrenia, and any of those outlying issues. It’s not just as easy as saying ‘Hey, come talk to me,’ but it would be great for everybody, not just necessarily in law enforcement but anybody in the community should be CIT trained certified.

Frady: I think CIT is very important. I think everyone in the sheriff’s office should be CIT certified. What we run into with today’s generation a lot of times is that everybody’s texting.

Nobody’s talking, so we spend a lot of time on training, on doing different things in our departments but we don’t spend much time on teaching our officers to talk to other people and then work though situations so you can deescalate.

Deescalation will go a long ways with all kinds of circumstances and crimes. It’s just a matter of getting people to talk to people. In the jail they run into situations all the time so it would be very important to them as well as it would be for people on the road. I believe in it and I believe everybody in our office should be certified in it.

State statue requires a mental health evaluation prior to hiring and additional consultations every three years. Do you think additional support is needed? If so, what? Additionally, are you in favor of standards for physical fitness for your staff?

Frady: As far as the mental health stuff goes in our department, we see a lot of things.

You can talk to people about it and tell them what goes on, but people just don’t believe the things that go on in our county. These officers see that and they take it home with them. They keep it in their selves, so it does have a big bearing on a person.

You’ve got to have some avenue of escape from that. If it’s a hobby … hunting, fishing, going to the lake or the beach or just out hiking in the woods … that’s one way of doing it.

It may be that you need to speak with someone. In our office, we have the capability of a young lady that’s in there; she has time for our officers to come by and talk to her if they have an issue or just feel the need to talk. I think we need to expand on that so we can have it. It deals with those things, other than just mental. The physical health and stuff, we need to be fit. You can look at me and tell it’s not worked too well … age and circumstances add to that, but our officers who are out in the field dealing daily with the people they need to be physically fit for their benefit and their health as well as everybody else’s.

Owenby: We use responder support services. The sheriff has been fabulous to work for and he saw the need several years ago to bring in responder support services.

She comes in and our guys can speak with her at any time and place. I’ll tell you, I’ve seen things that people can’t fathom and so it’s a place for them to talk to somebody and get help so it doesn’t lead to more drastic things down the road whether it be alcoholism and, I hate to say it, suicide. We see things that people shouldn’t have to see. Listen, it may not show, but I run three days a week and I love it. That’s my release and I get out there because I know in this line of work it’s a high-stress job.

A lot of people don’t realize how stressful it can be. That’s my release. I go on a run and do my exercises. We have a special team called our SRT team.

They have those restrictions that they have to do that P-T test and pass it. That passes onto the department itself. A lot of those guys who aren’t necessarily on the SRT will get out and do the physical fitness with these guys just because they want to make themselves better.

Hemphill: We’re not exempt. We’re not robots. If we have an issue, we ask for help. Talk to your pastor.

That’s the best resolution for a lot of people if it’s not absolutely a meltdown. Your pastor can connect with you and help you. At the same time the physical assessment for our officers, that should be mandatory for the simple reason you’ve got to be mentally and physically prepared for the duties and the tasks at hand.

I’ve been retired a year and a half. I get up every morning and I do 100 pushups and some other stuff. You’ve got to have your body connected with your mind. When your body is connected with your mind you react better and you’re prepared. Having your officers feeling that way helps them as well. If they have an issue, yes, we need to seek help for him or her and make sure they are taken care of because they are the backbone of the organization. The sheriff is not the backbone; the officers that work the road are. They make everything happen and put things in place so you’ve got to take care of them.

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