Policing progress in Bradley County
by Jim Ruth Bradley County Sheriff
Mar 16, 2014 | 716 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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As someone who has been around in policing in Bradley County for more than 41 years, I have seen drastic changes in the police institution.

American legal scholars, social scientists and federal officials are usually the people responsible for bringing about sweeping changes in police operations.

Most of the changes made in policing over the last 40 years, unfortunately, have been triggered by police misconduct such as brutality, incompetence, unfairness or corruption. These are just some of the reasons for recommended reforms in policing.

Not too long after I began my career, things began to change, usually for the better. The challenge of fighting crime in a free society, as we have in America, is much harder than in a society that is not free. In a free society, there has to be fairness to our residents, but fighting crime also has to be effective.

To achieve fairness and at the same time be effective there has to be quality training for officers. Laws, ethics, constitutional issues, police procedures and many other subjects have to be regularly taught. Of course, the best officers are the ones who are self-motivated to learn through obtaining college degrees in criminal justice and/or certificates of training at various seminars and classes in the law-enforcement field.

When you couple that with several years of experience in the field as an officer, you have a professional law-enforcement officer.

The reason for this training, education and experience is that an officer has a lot of discretionary authority. If he or she is undertrained, undereducated or undersupervised, he or she can do more harm than good.

There are a lot of protections in our Constitution, criminal codes and case law that are there to stop unreasonableness in policing.

Of course the most recognizable to the average resident is the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures of one’s home and property. For law enforcement to be more effective, we must find a way to be better integrated with the courts and other governmental agencies making up the justice system. Many times it seems those in the justice system have cross purposes, not singular purposes.

When you think about it, law enforcement is not only expensive business, it is also a very large undertaking. It is not just working to control serious crime it is keeping order, safeguarding civil liberties and protecting residents.

Today we have better procedures, better forensics, better communications, more scientific management and administration abilities and more cooperation between law-enforcement agencies.

What a change there has been and it has been better for everyone. Who would have thought just a few years ago that today there would be around 15 females working in law enforcement and around 20 working in corrections at your Sheriff’s Office. Then, who would have thought that a woman would be commanding a shift of patrol officers or that a woman would be the director of operations in our jail. We have come a long way and it is as it should be.

Oh, by the way they are doing their jobs just as good as any man would do it.

Other significant changes in the effort to be more effective are such things as community policing with the goal of fostering better working relationships between law enforcement and the public, evidence-based policing, intelligence-led policing, problem-oriented policing, and hot-spot policing, etc.

The latter is why I created the Sheriff’s Targeted Area Response Team. This STAR Team has had some good results.

Our being effective in reducing crime and making our community safe has to come from many different efforts, such as crime-prevention programs, gun-permit programs, aggressive patrol, good investigative work and modern forensics.

Another way to be effective in law enforcement is to work to reduce recidivism. Jail faith-based ministries are having success in changing several of our inmates to lead productive lives in our community.

As an investigator in years past, I have helped some who I have arrested who wanted help. These were ones who did not already have a record as repeat offenders. Everyone I worked to help in this category has become good citizens.

One guy I chased for selling drugs and arrested later became a minister, and the last I heard was the pastor of a large church in another state. Another I arrested for manufacturing marijuana also made a big turnaround, also becoming a Christian and working in youth programs in the community.

There are still those in the judicial system who want and need a helping hand, instead of long-term incarceration. Some don’t want or deserve help but helping those who do can be very productive in changing lives.

Thanks for reading.