7 candidates, your choice for Barry County sheriff: James A. Smith, R-Aurora
Publisher's note: The following Q&As represent the candidates' views verbatim, as submitted via email in response to our questions, and have not been edited.
Current Occupation: Captain, Cassville Police Department
Past experience: I have held a peace officer commission in Barry County since 1993. I worked at the Barry County Sheriff's Department full time from 1994 through 2004. While employed full time there, I held the positions of deputy sheriff, civil process server, evidence officer, sergeant over patrol, computer systems administrator, and served 6 years as Chief Deputy. Former small business owner, who hired and lead employees, sub-contracted to other companies for construction site supervision of large jobs, handled job bids, supervision and labor on job sites, all to ensure contracts were completed on time and on budget. Completed employee payroll, handled employee taxes and insurance. Currently employed by the Cassville Police Department and cross-commissioned through the Department of Homeland Security, Customs Enforcement. I have extensive training and experience in the investigation of crimes against children and processing of digital data.
Education: Attended Diamond R-4 school from Kindergarten to Senior. Graduated from Diamond High School in 1984. Attended the Regional Police Academy and graduated in 1993. Have received hundreds of hours of training in all areas of law enforcement, to include many hours of specialized training in child exploitation, management of complex investigations and behavioral analysis, as well as computer and cell phone forensic examinations.
Website: http://www.jamesasmithforsheriff.com, as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
1. Why do you want to be sheriff?
I felt the calling to become an officer of the law in 1993. That calling has continued to this day as I serve in many capacities of law enforcement. During my time serving in law enforcement, I have seen many changes in the law, the communities and the ways we communicate. I am seeking the office of Sheriff to bring the department to the next level, to lead through example and training, to bring the communities and people served together to make our county a safer place to raise their families.
2. What makes you more qualified for office than your opponents?
I have experience in the administration of the local sheriff's department as Chief Deputy. I have authored and administered grants for equipment and training. I have experience in all duties performed by a law officer, as well as other areas of the local department. I have worked investigations with many other law enforcement personnel, from small police departments to large federal agencies. I have experience with the service of civil and criminal process, and the requirements of those. I have experience in the administration of the jail, and in the development and implementation of department policies and procedures. I have personal experience with budgeting and finance through my construction business while creating job bids, contracts with individuals as well as large companies, employee payroll and tax preparation.
3. What changes do you plan to make in the sheriff's office?
I will work hard on bringing the department better technology to keep officers safer and give them the ability to spend more time in the communities they are assigned. Barry County is one of the few counties in southwest Missouri that does not provide officers with Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) in the cars; an addition that I feel should be implemented as soon as practical. I will also work hard on community involvement. Some of my favorite quotes are from Statesman Edmund Burke, who wisely said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." and "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." The problems in our county with the abuse of narcotics, the abuse of our children and the general loss of respect from some individuals for the laws governing this country can be overcome if the good people in our county become more involved in the communities around them.
4. What specific goals do you plan to accomplish in your first term?
Provide training to officers in the current changing laws, and specific training to officers assigned to specialized areas. Work to obtain funding for better technology to allow officers the opportunity to spend less time in transit and report writing, and more time in the field meeting with the community and having more presence in the rural areas, highlighting on higher crime areas.
5. How will you increase funding for the sheriff's office?
Closely look at current expenditures and consider alternative means and products to reduce costs. Work on returning Missouri tax monies back to the state through use of grants. Work on making the most efficient use of time and resources available. Identify problem areas and work with officials to address the problem in the most cost effective way possible. Ensure the department is receiving all reimbursements entitled and work closer with other agencies to participate in revenue sharing opportunities.
6. What, specifically, will you do to reduce the drug problem in Barry County?
I will work hard on community involvement in providing information necessary to locate and identify problem areas and individuals. I will work on providing officer training in the identification of narcotics and their use, and have officers to work developed leads. I will ensure officers are able to contact drug task force members for assistance and exchange of information, and require officers to deconflict case information to ensure officer safety during operations. A drug task force is a great resource for manpower and equipment, but cannot be relied on to be the only resource working the problem. It takes everyone to stand up and take control, and communication is the key.
7. What, if any, specific personnel changes will you make in the sheriff's office? Why?
A coach cannot be effective if the team does not know what is expected of them. Current personnel will be provided with clear information on what is expected, and changes will then come if they are unable or unwilling to complete the tasks assigned; or if they are found to be better suited in other areas or specialty assignments within the department. A few lateral changes in personnel may be necessary at the onset to complete the goal at hand; however no extreme changes are currently anticipated.
8. What are your thoughts on body cameras? Is that something you will try to implement in the department? Why or why not?
For the most part, body cameras have been a good tool for law enforcement in dramatically reducing the number of citizen complaints on officers. I feel there are areas of concern with their use, specifically in individuals privacy rights, that will most likely need to be considered by a court of law to provide guidance and set clear regulations. Body cameras are an area that may be considered; however I do not foresee a widespread implementation within the department at this time, unless mandated and funded by the state.