Candidates aim to meet with prosecutor
Davis, Ruark hope to cut down on repeat offenders
The two candidates for Barry County sheriff say the county's law enforcement leader must have a strong relationship with the county prosecutor, especially if they hope to cut down on repeat offenders.
Former FBI Agent Gary Davis, R-Cassville, said he has met Barry County Prosecutor Amy Boxx a couple of times, but has not discussed her's or the sheriff's jobs.
"The relationship is very important," Davis said. "She is our customer, and everything we do goes through her. I hope to cultivate a good working relationship, and I have had experience in the past working with U.S. attorneys my whole career. County prosecutor is just a different title, and it's the sheriff's job to get the right evidence to the prosecutor. I hope to give her a good, finished product, so she does not have to come back for more and can take the case to court and win it."
Barry County Deputy Justin "Dave" Ruark, D-Cassville, said he does not know Boxx personally, but has worked with her before on cases he has investigated.
"I've worked with her on several different cases and charges, and we get along great," he said. "We share a lot of the same opinions. She does a good job, and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with her. That relationship is very crucial, because the prosecutor and the sheriff work hand-in-hand on a lot of things to make sure the right things get done."
Boxx agreed that the relationship is key.
"The relationship between the prosecutor's
office and the sheriff's department needs to be a working partnership in order to successfully prosecute criminals," she said. "Luckily, we have that in Barry County."
Both candidates also say they plan to set up a meeting with Boxx to help get the two offices on the same page.
"I would like to schedule a meeting with [Boxx] to go over where the sheriff's office can improve and hear her ideas," Ruark said. "We will work ob a game plan to better suit both departments. There's a lot that can be worked out in that kind of meeting."
Davis said he would aim to see what has been done well and what can be done differently.
"I'm not going to her job for her, but I want to make sure we're doing our jobs," he said. "I want us to provide good evidence, a good chain of custody, good reports and good interviews. All of that goes back to training and going above and beyond POST [Police Officer Standards and Training] requirements."
Boxx said she looks forward to a meeting to ensure continuity.
"I hope to have a meeting with the new sheriff in order to ensure that our offices continue to have a good working relationship," she said.
A couple of areas the candidates hope to see improvement include the length of cases being tried in court and arresting repeat offenders.
"It's maybe not her or the judges' fault, but some cases seem to drag on forever," Davis said. "During that time, I'm at the jail responsible for feeding and clothing them, and that's all paid by taxpayer dollars. Some have been there for two years and have not gone to trial yet.
"I'm not shirking my duties, and I know she's covered up. It's my goal to cover her up more [by arresting more criminals], but I want to give her cases where a defendant will take a plea bargain because he's dead to rights. And, it's [Boxx's] choice to offer that plea bargain or take it to trial."
Ruark said the judicial process is out of the sheriff's office's hands.
"All of [the processes that extend cases] are done by the prosecutor or the defense attorney, like making sure a defendant has adequate means of council," he said. "If [a defendant] has to get a public defender, that can be a lengthy process because they have to go through the background and make sure there is not a conflict of interest, and if there is, they have to start the process over again with another public defender.
"All we can do is provide adequate housing and take care of inmates while they are incarcerated."
"Unfortunately, the only way to speed up the judicial process is for the state to approve funding for more judges," Boxx said.
Davis said he also hopes to address the probation process.
"For a first-time offender, that's the way the system is," he said. "But, I hope if someone commits the same crime a second or third time that something different will happen. That's also not always reflective of [Boxx], because she gives her recommendations and the judges give the sentences.
"But, if someone is arrested on Monday, released on Tuesday, then commits a crime again on Wednesday, we will arrest them again. We will get tired of it, but if someone is breaking the law, they are breaking the law. [Boxx] has to establish what the prosecuting priorities are, and I hope to help with that. I thing we would agree that drugs and child abuse are high on the list."
Ruark said repeat offenders would be something he would address in a meeting with Boxx after the election.
"I think she feels the same way about a lot of things as we do, and we may be able to stiffen up a few things to make it where we have less repeat offenders," he said.
Boxx said probation is dictated by state statute, and the legislature would have to get involved to change anything.
"In order to change the probation process, the state legislature will need to change the laws pertaining to the terms of probation," she said.
Davis and Ruark will square off in the Nov. 8 General Election.