Posted on

New sheriff making changes, some ‘major’

If the first full week on the job is any indication, Sheriff C. Wendell Smith may soon need a few day’s vacation. At least.
It’s not that crime and mayhem are running rampant on the back roads in rural Harrison County. “It’s mostly getting policies and procedures down,” Smith said Monday. “I’m learning the ropes; it’s been hectic.
“The first week is over with, and we’re starting the second. Friday (Oct. 19, Smith’s first day on the job) was ‘meet and greet’ and all last week people were coming in,” he said. “It’s working out good. It was a long week, and I’m looking forward to another one.”
Smith has apparently learned the three keys to running an efficient organization: delegate, delegate, delegate.
His chain of command, after the sheriff and chief, begins with Capt. Lee Hancock, who has been promoted to major.
Hancock, whose duties include media relations, said the promotion is in name only, at least for now.
“We’re trying to get things organized, established, and keep the day-to-day business going,” Hancock said.
His new designation clarifies the chain of command, because detective Richard Bauman also has the rank of captain, Hancock said.
Two immediate problems have arisen, he said, which take two of the department’s 15 patrol officers off the road. Officer Carmen Gibson is pregnant and will require light duty, and another, Officer John Dismang, has severely cut on his hand, which may have neurological damage.
Two other officers have been assigned patrol duty in their place, he said.
Smith said because this is the first time the department has had a pregnant officer, the merit board will be asked to set guidelines for the department.
In the meantime, other policies are being clarified.
Smith said job openings that become available will be dealt with fairly and made from within, if possible. “It won’t be the good old buddy boy stuff; it will be who is qualified,” he said.
Training opportunities will be offered in keeping with seniority, and if the officer isn’t interested, then that name will drop to the bottom of the list for the next opportunity, Smith said.
He said shift supervisors are being appointed for the sheriff’s department, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each department — police, jail corrections and communications — will also have an immediate supervisor to oversee normal operations within the department, the sheriff said.
Ronald W. Simpson, Harrison County prosecutor for 15 years, met with the new sheriff shortly after the Republican Party caucus selected him.
“He and I discussed ways in which we think our respective departments can improve law enforcement services,” said Simpson, a Democrat. “I have known Smith for a number of years, and I think he is going to do a good job.”
With the nation on heightened alert due to the war on terrorism, Smith said the metal detector at the Justice Center, which is manned during regular business hours, has been well received. “I’ve gotten a lot of good, positive comments about the metal detector at the front door,” he said.
In keeping with such precautionary safety measures, the schedule of a clerical who has been on duty until 10 at night has been changed to 6 except on Wednesdays, when the clerical will work until 10 p.m. That’s because visiting hours at the jail are on Wednesday evenings so a guard is on duty at the metal detector, Smith said.
Otherwise no changes are expected with the clerical staff. “There’s plenty of work for everybody,” the sheriff said.