Opinion

Kyle Troutman: Pressure building at Sheriff’s Office

Saturday, April 9, 2022

The weight of the world seemingly dropped onto the Barry County Sheriff’s Office this week.

On Saturday, videos began circulating depicting jailers engaging in activities that have led to the Missouri State Highway Patrol conducting an investigation into any wrongdoing.

As the backlash from the videos grew, the Sheriff’s Office hoped it would not affect the Law Enforcement Sales Tax vote scheduled for Tuesday. The tax managed to pass by a 54-46 margin, and now, the work begins.

The tax will not begin collection until October, so unfortunately, the biggest changes won’t be immediate. Things Sheriff Danny Boyd could do with the extra 15 percent of his 2022 budget will have to be on hold most likely until a new budget is submitted for 2023.

While waiting for the funds to give a boost, it was clear last week there’s one area of the office that needs some extra attention — the jail.

Issues at the facility have been ongoing for years, and they have been more and more frequent as of late.

Two jail admins walked off the job in December, and the current admin, now on paid administrative leave as the Patrol conducts “an investigation into the allegation of excessive force by a Barry County jailer and the portrayal of such to determine if criminal conduct actually occurred.”

Jail issues like this in the past have usually reared their ugly heads months afterward in civil court. This time, because of the videos, the issue is about as in-your-face as it gets.

As the week has gone on, it is clear that the court of public opinion has settled on the matter, deeming the actions depicted by the officers as at the very least unbecoming and at the other end of the spectrum, possibly criminal.

I have full faith that the Highway Patrol, acting as an unbiased third party, will conduct a proper investigation and reach a fair decision.

To me, the matter is larger than the two jailers in the videos. That matter is why Seligman Police Officer Terry Burgess released the videos in the first place — to foster more accountability at the jail.

The first item the Sheriff’s Office will spend new money on is salaries, and that’s as it should be. Barry County for a long time has struggled to keep officers, and though it is not the only reason, the pay is a big part of it.

Once salaries are straightened out and deputies are making a competitive wage, the No. 2 expense and focus should be only one thing — training.

Whether in the field or in the jail, as a part of regular training, deputies and jailers need de-escalation training.

Is this something we would have said a week ago? Maybe not.

Is it clear this week? You bet.

With more training and a different approach, both situations in the videos could have turned out differently, and much more favorably.

As the investigation plays out and interest in the videos wanes, I hope one thing our area prides itself on remains — support for law enforcement.

With a full staff, better training and new equipment provided by the sales tax, the Sheriff’s Office has no excuse not to succeed.

That pressure is the office’s to bear, but we entrust our men and women in blue to rise to that challenge and be even better than we expect.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of the Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.

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