(This is the second of a three-part series.)Sheriff-elect Nick Smith intends to bring a community-oriented approach to policing once he is sworn into office on Jan. 14.“If I had to pinpoint a …
(This is the second of a three-part series.)
Sheriff-elect Nick Smith intends to bring a community-oriented approach to policing once he is sworn into office on Jan. 14.
“If I had to pinpoint a negative of the last four years, it has been the lack of community relations, and whatever we do, I’m going to expect consistency. Four years from now, I don’t want anyone saying that we only reach out during election time,” Smith said.
Smith has already announced that he will be implementing the Mercy Project at the county level. The program allows those struggling with addiction to seek help from law enforcement before they are arrested for a drug-related crime.
Since the program was started at the Cordova Police Department in February 2017, approximately 30 people from Walker and neighboring counties have sought help, and more than 20 have completed either a short-term or long-term treatment program.
Smith also intends to expand the Good Morning program for senior citizens that he started at the Parrish and Cordova police departments, where he served as the chief of police.
Dispatchers will make a daily phone call to seniors who have signed up for the program. If they are unable to reach the person after several attempts, a deputy will be sent to the home to perform a welfare check.
Smith said he wants the citizens of the county to get to know dispatchers, the unsung heroes of the department.
“I want them to have more involvement in community relations so that people can have a face to go along with the voice,” he said.
Dispatchers should have some extra time to devote to community programs once the department moves to overlapping shifts, Smith added.
Smith will also recommit the department to protecting area students by assigning deputies to serve as full-time school resources officers at Curry, Valley and Lupton.
Citizens can also expect to get more frequent updates from the department on social media and traditional outlets such as television, radio and newspapers.
Other ideas for improving community relations include becoming active at senior centers around the county, establishing an Explorer program so that young adults interested in a law enforcement career can get some experience and starting a Citizen’s Academy to educate the public about the inner workings of the department.
“I think the more you can get people involved in the department and the more they can see what we do, the more receptive they are and there’s a greater understanding about how and why some things happen the way they do,” Smith said.
Smith believes there is untapped potential at all levels of the sheriff’s department to make new programs a success.
“When I get there, I’m going to get to know our employees, find their skill sets and utilize them. People want to feel like they have a purpose. I’m going to give every employee the same opportunity. They can all be as involved as they want to be,” Smith said.