Crump credits Gibson, Lawson teamwork

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 1/9/19

Local law enforcement officials spoke Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Cleveland, focusing on a spirit of cooperation.

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Crump credits Gibson, Lawson teamwork

LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT officials spoke Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Cleveland. From left are Rotary Club President Aaron Weatherford, Cleveland Police Chief Mark Gibson, Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson, and 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump.
LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT officials spoke Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Cleveland. From left are Rotary Club President Aaron Weatherford, Cleveland Police Chief Mark Gibson, Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson, and 10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump.
Banner photo, AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted

Local law enforcement officials spoke Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Cleveland, focusing on a spirit of cooperation.

10th Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump introduced Cleveland Police Chief Mark Gibson and Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson, guest speakers for the meeting.

Crump said in talking with other district attorneys, he hears about "turf" disputes between law enforcement agencies, but he is glad to not have that problem, especially in Bradley County where he lives.

Crump said he has known Gibson since he was a patrol officer in Copperhill, adding, "I knew his gifts would lead him to a different level of leadership."

Crump noted Lawson "broke my heart" by leaving the helm of the 10th Judicial District's Drug Task Force to return to the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, eventually running for sheriff and winning his campaign last year.

"We're incredibly fortunate to have these two men leading law enforcement agencies in Bradley County," Crump said.

Introducing a PowerPoint presentation he and Lawson worked on together, Gibson said CPD was previously approved for 91 officers, but now is approved for 103. In addition, there are 16 civilian staffers, six animal control officers and many volunteers and part-time employees.

Gibson said CPD is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., which is achieved by less than 4 percent of law enforcement agencies nationwide. In 2018, CPD was awarded Gold Standard With Excellence. In addition, the agency was reaccredited in 2018 by the Law Enforcement Coalition of Tennessee.

Discussing department divisions, Gibson said CPD has six patrol teams, school crossing guards, a criminal investigations unit, K-9 unit and bike patrol. He said CPD received about 65,000 calls for service in 2018, which is about a 10 percent increase over the year before.

CPD’s newly developed units include a community relations unit that started with a Facebook page but has grown to include a Youth Academy and other programs. In 2018, CPD started a training/accreditation unit "to get more personnel on the street” and a tactical operations unit was also established for SWAT/EOD (explosive ordnance disposal), crime suppression, special events and narcotics investigations.

"They provide support for the teams that are out there working," Gibson said.

Gibson said challenges the entire community faces include the opioid crisis, retail property theft, auto burglaries, the growing homeless population, and issues with mental health. He added that as head of the drug task force, Lawson developed a response plan that the DA's office adopted on how narcotics overdoses will be investigated.

Moving forward, Gibson said he plans to continue to improve CPD’s partnership with the community, and to work closely with the BCSO and other agencies. In addition, he said CPD plans to develop partnerships with community organizations and to continue to communicate effectively.

Lawson opened his comments by saying he has respect for Gibson and Crump. "In this county we work together," he added.

Lawson spoke on jail improvements, school safety and improved cooperation with law enforcement agencies.

Reviewing the BCSO divisions, Lawson said there are four patrol teams, a corrections division, criminal investigations division, school resource officers division, traffic division and forensic division.

Lawson said BCSO’s forensics lab is great and has quick turnaround. He offered its services to other law enforcement agencies in the 10th Judicial District, instead of sending evidence to Nashville and waiting for it to be processed.

Discussing jail improvements, Lawson said the jail is the biggest law enforcement liability in the county. On his first day in office he did a "shakedown" of the jail to uncover contraband, and has been a daily presence in the jail since then.

Lawson said the jail was built for 408 inmates, but there were 5581 inmates on his first day as sheriff.

"We hope that industry buys into" the workhouse, he added.

Among improvements planned for the jail is a new security system. Lawson said the current system is malfunctioning, with doors opening unexpectedly. He said a vendor for the project has been chosen and work should begin soon, adding the Bradley County Commission and County Mayor D. Gary Davis have worked with him on this. 

Other jail improvements include increased security and training, and improving overall cleanliness and maintenance of the jail.

“I’ve got a plan over the next four years,” Lawson said.

In addition, Lawson said he is also working to reduce liability at the jail.

Discussing school safety, Lawson said resource officers and gate guards are all certified by the Peace Officers Standards & Training Commission. In addition, he established the School Threat Multidisciplinary Team, which was an idea that developed during his campaign. Tip 411 and the StopIt app have also been employed for school safety related to student threats and bullying.

“We get a lot of threats, some of them we can handle ourselves,” he said.

Discussing improved cooperation, Lawson said of the BCSO and CPD “we work for this community, we work together.”

After both Gibson and Lawson spoke, Rotary Club members were able to ask questions. The first was about jurisdiction, specifically which agency has jurisdiction where. CPD enforces city ordinances and state laws, while BCSO enforces state laws, they said.

Gibson said CPD operates within the city of Cleveland, but some officers are deputized by the sheriff’s office and can operate outside the city.

The next question concerned proactive efforts to deal with drug and substance abuse, other than incarceration. Gibson said The Bridge looks at education and treatment for those dealing with substance abuse. He added it is “one of the most effective and leading programs I’ve seen in our community.”

“I think we’re ahead of a lot of communities that are facing the same things,” Gibson added.

Lawson said the Bradley County Jail is offering different classes for inmates, giving them the opportunity to “get their life on the right track.”

Another question was about who local residents can contact about substance abuse concerns. Gibson recommended The Bridge, or call one of the local law enforcement agencies.

Lawson added we need to recognize that “bad things happen to good people” and law enforcement is “not out to ruin everybody.”

The comment was made that cooperation between CPD and BCSO is dependent on personalities, but is there a way “to make it continue years from now.”

Gibson said, unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee cooperation and that they can have disagreements, but can also work to resolve them. 


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