Sheriff hopefuls want community involved
Community oriented policing, open door policy keys for candidates
While there are areas concerning the job the two candidates for Barry County sheriff differ greatly, both agree for the Sheriff's Office to have success, the trust an cooperation of the community is key.
To help foster that relationship, Barry County Deputy Justin "Dave" Ruark, D-Cassville, and former FBI Agent Gary Davis, R-Cassville, each have ideas hoping to get more tips and assistance from residents.
"I had a lady come up to my booth at the Chili Cook-Off on Saturday asking me about this very issue," Ruark said. "She said a lot of reasons people do not give more tips now or report more is because they do not feel safe, or they feel nothing will be done.
"Right now, when someone gives us a tip, we look into it, and we have to make sure we know where the information is coming from and going so there's no retaliation."
Ruark said to help residents feel safer reporting criminal activity, education is important.
"I want to educate the public on how things are done so we can share more information with one another and do more," he said. "I will have the same open door policy [Sheriff Mick Epperly] has, and people have also talked about doing group classes one or two time a month that would be free to the public."
Davis said to foster more trust and a better relationship with residents, community-oriented policing is his goal.
"What I want deputies to do is when they are patrolling the county and stop at the store for a Coke, they don't just leave that store, but strike up a conversation with the manager or employee behind the counter," he said. "I think they try to do that now, but I want to put more emphasis on it.
"If they see someone out in their field or sitting on the porch, they can stop and say, 'Hi, I'm officer so-and-so. I patrol this area. Is there anything I need to be aware of?' That kind of policing will make people a lot more comfortable in approaching us with issues."
Davis also said he wants to have more follow-ups with residents who do report a crime or give tips.
"A lot of citizens will tell the sheriff's office something, then never hear back about it," he said. "Maybe we can't tell them everything, but a thank you call or a follow up would be a good thing."
Ruark said he likes the idea of follow-ups, so long as they are done carefully.
"That can be a double-edged sword because with everything going on, it's hard to get back to everyone," he said. "I would look into creating a call-back program where we call after X number of days from when a case was started. But, we have to be careful because sometimes giving information could be detrimental to the case."
Davis said protecting tipsters is key, and there are plenty of places for people to anonymously tell deputies about criminal activity.
"There are lots of programs like Crime Stoppers that don't cost anything but reap huge benefits," he said. "Any sort of tip line or text line should be explored. We get a lot of help from the Facebook page in certain cases. There are a lot of opportunities in this electronic age, and a lot are inexpensive or free and just require some manpower."
Ruark said other ways to give tips and remain anonymous keep from leaving an electronic footprint.
"Someone right now can write an anonymous letter, put it in an envelope addressed to the sheriff an put it in the mail slot at the sheriff's office," he said. "That will be delivered to the sheriff, and he can look at it in privacy so the person is not named or known."
Davis said whether named or anonymous, community involvement can be a big benefit.
"Residents of the county have 72,000 eyes, and the sheriff's deputies only have 42," he said. "We just want to do all we can so they can live their normal lives."
Davis and Ruark will square off in the Nov. 8 General Election.