Friday, October 19, 2012

TOP STORY >> Staley vs. White for sheriff

Leader staff writer

John Staley and Dean White are running to succeed Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson, who is not seeking re-election.

Staley, a Republican, is the police chief in Austin. White, a Democrat, is Roberson’s chief deputy who has received the sheriff’s endorsement, even though Roberson is a Republican.

Staley and Roberson answered a series of questions from The Leader.

Do you believe Jim Roberson’s endorsement will have an impact on the outcome of the race?

Staley: Clearly, you never wish for a public endorsement of your opponent, but in the end, there is a clear distinction between the two candidates. If I am elected as the Republican sheriff of Lonoke County, I will cut the budget 5 percent my first year, place the budget online for all taxpayers to see where their tax dollars are being spent, and bring total accountability to each and every individual working in the department — no exceptions.

Sheriff Roberson, in my judgment, had no option but to endorse his chief deputy, who is my opponent. The chief deputy has been on Sheriff Roberson’s watch since day one — anything contrary to endorsing him would constitute a breach of confidence in the department. But in the end, the voters of Lonoke County will decide if they want more of the same, or do they desire new leadership and a new direction.

White: I appreciate Sheriff Roberson’s endorsement very much. He’s a good sheriff. He cares about the people. I do believe that his support will help. He is respected by many of the people in the county and his recommendation will count to them. Also, I hope that his endorsement will validate that the position of sheriff is about qualifications, experience and ability instead of one’s political party affiliation.

What concerns do you hear from residents while you are campaigning and how do you respond to those concerns?

Staley: The citizens of Lonoke County are concerned that the sheriff’s department is not proactive, rather reactive to the crime in the county. The citizens know if you are tough on crime and place the bad guys in jail, this will send a strong message to those who engage in unlawful practices. Safety is concern No. 1. I have personally visited with thousands of individuals since I started my quest for the sheriff’s position, and I hear concerns such as drug abuse and distribution, theft, child abuse and a host of other concerns. If I am elected, I want all of those thinking of committing unlawful acts to hear this, “Don’t do it in Lonoke County or you will be caught, you will go to jail!”

White: Drug abuse and theft top the list. Neither of these are new issues. They are issues that are ever-changing and advancing, and we have to change and advance our tactics to better enforce the law. A large percentage of thefts are perpetrated to fund a drug habit. We have already implemented some new programs using video surveillance, leads online and sharing information between agencies.

Abuse of prescription medication is on the rise and finding its way to our children. Education is very important to preserve the future of our young people. DARE programs that include home-schooled children as well as those in the public school system would be beneficial. I believe it is important for our children to be taught that law enforcement is not an entity to fear but the first place you can seek help.

This can be reinforced in our schools and in our homes. And parents need to understand that we want to reach your children not arrest them. So if parents have a concern that their children are into something they shouldn’t be into, we want to help.

Does the county need more deputies and if so, how will you provide them?

Staley: The answer is always going to be yes. My plan, will essentially double our number of deputies at minimal cost.

If we reorganize our current manpower and set guidelines and standards we can put more deputies on the street now, not later. There are many business owners, retired military, active duty military and others, who would love to give back to the community as reserve deputies. As a law enforcement instructor and with the many other instructors in our county, I know we can provide all the training needed for these volunteers to be effective deputies. These volunteers must meet the same background and stringent requirements that any law enforcement officer must meet prior to appointment.

White: Of course, the county always needs more deputies and in a perfect world without budget restrictions and the rising cost of fuel and other variables we would have them. But the simple truth is that we do not live in a perfect world, and we do have all these things preventing us from hiring more deputies. The way to combat this problem is to strengthen the part-time program. We already have some excellent part-time officers who give generously of their time to help protect the citizens of this county. The sheriff’s office currently has a part-time class scheduled for later this year. I would also like to enhance our community crime watches and start a citizen’s patrol group that would be used as an observer/reporting program.

Explain how your experience makes you the best candidate for sheriff.

Staley: I have been in law enforcement for 12 years. My career has taken me from being an auxiliary/reserve officer, rookie officer, senior officer, first line supervisor/sergeant, working in public schools as a resource officer, a skilled negotiator, trained in dealing with crisis, law enforcement instructor, law enforcement firearms instructor and chief of police in one of the fastest growing towns in Arkansas.

I have over 1,500 hours of law enforcement education, training and currently working on a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas State. I know firsthand what has to occur to bring efficiencies to your budget and watch every dollar knowing you have limited financial resources. I run a police department now and my experience speaks for itself.

When my opponent tries to use my age against me, I simply reflect back to those who came before me, people much younger than I have revolutionized the world – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elvis Presley, and a young man named Sam Walton. Age is a critical asset, not a liability — my years of quality service in law enforcement coupled with boundless energy makes me the candidate for the citizens of Lonoke County. There is a vast difference in the years of experience and quality of experience and vision for the future. I would be remiss if I did not ask for your vote.

White: My whole career has been spent preparing for this. I know the job. I am dedicated to the citizens of this county and in doing the best job I can for them. I have over 22 years of law enforcement in Lonoke County backing me. I have served in every division of the sheriff’s office and have a full understanding of the operations, administration and budget.

The sheriff’s office is much different than a police department. It is more than patrol and criminal investigations. The sheriff’s office is responsible for a 911 dispatch center, a large-scale detention center, prisoner transport, bond and fines, administrations office as well as records and reports. I have worked very hard in making the new jail work, gotten grants for new equipment, new computers and a sheriff’s office website that will be active by January. We’ve just finished upgrading our reporting system to keep up with current times. And we were recently able to get 11 new patrol vehicles at no cost to taxpayers.

I strive to continue improving the sheriff’s office for the people of Lonoke County. I hope that my dedication, experience and abilities will speak for themselves.