Reader suggests Civilian Oversight Board for Sheriff’s Dept.

Published 12:47 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2020

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To the Editor:
Carter County is a community of caring individuals and families that believe in taking care of one another and doing the right thing. We are basically nice people who take pride in our community.
Historically in Carter County we have been blessed with low numbers of violent crimes, but over the past 20 years or so, we have seen a lot of change, particularly a rapid increase in drug addiction and associated crime. We’re not likely to walk away from our car with the key in the ignition anymore. We’re a lot more likely to routinely lock our doors and install security systems. Most of us can remember back to times we didn’t feel such precaution was necessary. For sure, times have changed.
Thankfully, the Carter County Sheriff’s Office has done a good job of enforcing our laws and keeping us safe and assisting in personal ways. We are grateful for their compassion and dedication to their profession. Most of us are proud of the job they do. To ensure that it stays that way, we should now take the time to establish a Civilian Oversight Board.
We have attempted to get the Sheriff’s Office nationally accredited in a few Tennessee counties, but that required a tremendous amount of paperwork and money. Only three departments have currently achieved that goal. It requires written policies and procedures addressing scores of possible situations, annual training of all officers, as well as both internal and external routine inspections or audits. And the accreditation must be renewed every three years. It put a lot of extra work on the office, and the expense was more than we could justify, so in some cases the efforts were simply abandoned. We could achieve similar results without incurring any cost with a review board of carefully chosen local citizen volunteers. Ideally this board would be comprised of the best among us; retired law enforcement officers and judges, teachers, community leaders and minority citizens concerned with the rights and safety of everyone in the community. Think of it as an extra layer of security for us and future generations.
With this letter, I’m calling on the citizens of Carter County, Mayor Rusty Barnett and Sheriff Dexter Lunceford to begin a conversation on how best to proceed. With good oversight, we could prevent incidents like those reported on our TV screens from other parts of our country. Without oversight, the stray bad actor could commit acts of injustice in our names. We are in good hands right now, but we must remain vigilant. Additional respectful undergirding of community law enforcement would benefit everyone.
Barbara Murphy

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