Three more members of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office command staff were named today by Sheriff-elect Eric Watson; all will begin their duties Sept. 1, once the new sheriff has been sworn into office.
The trio includes Arnold Botts, who will serve as the BCSO director of Administration; Steve Lawson, former captain of the Criminal Investigations Division and current 10th Judicial Drug Task Force director, who will return to the BCSO to lead the detectives unit; and Lt. Keith Edwards, who will be elevated to patrol captain.
Botts is a former Cleveland chief of police and law enforcement veteran who has been working for Logan-Thompson P.C. since his retirement from the Cleveland Police Department in 1991.
According to Watson, Botts was employed by the CPD, where he began his law enforcement career, from 1973 to 1991. He rose through the ranks of the department, serving in both the patrol and criminal investigation divisions, until he was appointed assistant chief. In 1981, Botts was appointed chief of police, a post he held for 10 years.
Watson explained the new duties of director of Administration will actually combine several positions and will result in what he feels will be “a more streamlined and efficient office operation.”
Botts has managed the Logan-Thompson office as well as conducted investigative matters since being with the firm. He has been a licensed Tennessee private investigator and is also a Tennessee Supreme Court Certified mediator.
The duties Botts will assume will include overseeing of all departmental records and official documents, human resources and employee records, public relations and public information access, community outreach programs, including the new Victim Assistance Unit, and most clerical positions within the administration.
Among the many accomplishments Botts achieved during his law enforcement career were graduation from the following: FBI National Academy, FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Training, FBI SWAT Training School, U.S. Secret Service Specialized Training, as well as numerous other specialized schools.
“I am extremely pleased to have someone with Arnold’s experience in law enforcement and office management to be willing to come on board and fill this important post. Having served as police chief, and most recently as office coordinator for Cleveland’s largest and most prestigious law firm, Arnold, in my opinion, is the perfect person to come in and manage the administration of the Sheriff’s Office,” Watson said.
Botts said he is looking forward to his new position.
“I am honored by the faith and confidence Sheriff-elect Watson has shown in me by offering me this opportunity to be part of his new administration. I look forward to the challenge, and being of service to local law enforcement and my community,” Botts said.
Lt. Keith Edwards
Watson said the Patrol Division is a critical part of the BCSO because it is where the first response of a deputy meets the needs of the residents of the county.
Edwards is a 31-year veteran of law enforcement. He began his career with BCSO in 1981.
"I wanted someone to fill this crucial management position and who has worked in every division of the Sheriff's Office, and Keith is exactly that person to fill this post.” Watson noted in his media release naming his administrators.
Edwards worked his way through the ranks by beginning in the Corrections Division, then being appointed to shift supervisor. In 1985, he was transferred to the Patrol Division.
He is a graduate of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy and has attended Criminal Justice classes at Cleveland State Community College, as well as numerous law enforcement specialized schools, including Criminal Investigations, Drug Trafficking and Narcotics Investigations, Child Abuse Investigations, Law Enforcement Leadership, and S.W.A.T. tactics, to name just a few. He received police instructor certification from the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission in 2013, the same year he was awarded the department's Law Enforcement Commendation Medal in recognition of his outstanding career and longtime service to Bradley County, according to Watson.
At present, Edwards serves as the community’s Environmental officer.
He has been an SRO and a DARE instructor for local students as well as instructor for high school Criminal Justice classes.
Edwards has also served as a member of the office’s SWAT unit and a Criminal Investigations Division detective.
According to Watson, it was 1988 when Edwards was first promoted to lieutenant in the Patrol Division. Through the course of his career, Edwards was offered opportunities to build on his profession through a variety of positions within the Sheriff’s Office, including supervisor over the uniform reserve officer program.
"Lieutenant Edwards is what I call a 'natural-born leader' who leads by example. Whatever the job may be, from reserve officer, corrections officer, patrol officer, patrol supervisor, criminal investigator, school resource officer, to environmental enforcement officer, he has truly done it all," the sheriff-elect pointed out.
"He is exactly the leader I was looking for to head up the Patrol Division and to be part of my new management team," Watson said.
Edwards said he is ready to take on the role of captain and that his background in the Sheriff’s Office will allow him to relate to each deputy and their job.
"I am honored to be asked by our new sheriff to take on this huge responsibility. I feel my experience in supervision, and in all aspects of the department's operation, will give me a unique perspective. I will certainly be able to relate to every officer in every division. I can appreciate what they do since I did it myself. I know good things are ahead for this new administration and I am thrilled to be part of it," said Edwards.
Watson said after completing a successful four-year stint as the director of the DTF and Violent Crime Task Force, Lawson “will be coming home to the Sheriff’s Office.”
Lawson led BCSO’s CID under former Sheriff Tim Gobble’s administration, before accepting the position with DTF, under retired 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb.
"I have worked closely with Steve over the years, and I have always been very impressed by his professional approach to criminal investigations. The perfect state audit recently received by Steve and the local DTF underscores my belief Steve Lawson is the best person to fill the post of CID Captain. I feel fortunate he has chosen to be a part of my new administration," Watson said.
Lawson began his service with the BCSO in 1976. He quickly moved up through the ranks as a patrol deputy, detective, and supervisor in both the Patrol and Criminal Investigations Divisions in subsequent years, receiving a promotion to captain of CID in 1987, according to Watson.
Lawson left the Sheriff’s Office in 1988 to work at Bowater Inc. until 2006, when he returned to BCSO as captain of CID.
A lifelong resident of Bradley County, Lawson attended Charleston and Michigan Avenue Elementary Schools, and is a graduate of Bradley Central High School. He has studied criminal justice at Cleveland State Community College, and he is a graduate of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy located in Donelson, as well as the Cleveland State Basic Law Enforcement Training Academy, according to Watson.
In addition to the two basic academies and Criminal Investigators School, Lawson has attended numerous specialized law enforcement schools over the years. His specialized training has included the following: Major case investigations, narcotics and drug trafficking, homicide, auto theft, legal aspects of law enforcement, FBI fingerprint training and more.
He is a graduate of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Executive Development School, the Law Enforcement Management and Administration School, and attended annual Drug Task Force Administration Practices Training as the director of the DTF.
"Director Lawson was an extremely effective and popular CID captain in the past, heading up just about every type of criminal investigation there is, and he is certainly well familiar with the people and operations of the Criminal Investigations Division.
“There is no doubt about his qualifications to perform this critically important job since he has done it successfully before. I am very pleased to have a person of Steve's caliber as a member of my leadership team," Watson concluded.
During his administration, Lawson has received clear and decisive audits from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my service to the 10th Judicial Drug and Violent Crime Task Force over the past four years. I have had the honor of working with some of the finest officers I have ever known," Lawson stated. “I am sure their success will continue."
"But my heart is, and always has been, in the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, even during the years I was away from it. I appreciate the invitation from Sheriff-elect Watson to come back to the department and head up CID," Lawson stated.
Lawson is married to Connie Lawson and has three children, Stephen, Dustin and Chase. He and his family attend Mount Olive Church of God.