“We’re not here to micro-manage. We are here to work with you. I know there’s probably a lot of things that you’ll need to ask us and we want to be able to answer and there will be things we will need to ask you,” Law Enforcement Committee chairman Howard Thompson told Ruth.
Thompson and committee member Ed Elkins addressed the availability need for the county’s environmental officer.
“We need him to be available as much as possible,” said Thompson, who noted the position is funded through the County Commission.
The environmental officer is responsible for investigating complaints related to junk cars in plain view, large equipment or trash left on property for long periods of time, meth labs or unkept property.
Committee member Ed Elkins suggested when the environmental officer wasn’t investigating environmental violation allegations, he or she should be used for investigating crimes within the Criminal Investigations Unit.
A rough draft policy on retiring deputies and their service weapons was presented during Tuesday’s meeting. The draft stated upon retirement a deputy is entitled to keep, without charge, his or her service weapon after a determination by the sheriff if the deputy is retiring honorably with a minimum of 20 years of recognized law enforcement service or is retiring due to a physical disablement as a result of service regardless of number of years served. Elkins indicated committee members should research the policies used in other comparable counties within Tennessee and hold a work session to discuss the policy further.
Ruth reported the jail has reduced toilet paper use in half. Ruth said inmates were wasting a significant amount by flushing excess and/or wetting the paper and making “spitwads.” Today, inmates are issued two rolls of toilet paper each week and can buy additional toilet paper with commissary funds.
“If they don’t have the money and they need the extra toilet paper, we do see that they get it. But we’ve cut the use and cost down by nearly half now,” said Ruth.
Committee members voted to review the jail’s food and commissary contracts. The jail’s current food service contract will expire in December and the commissary contract is contracted on a month-to-month basis. County Commission Chairman Louie Alford suggested the committee search for companies which provide dual services with the potential of cost savings.
“We could really be ahead of the game if we (took) that approach,” said Alford.
Alford and Thompson advised Ruth that commissioners have also been “flooded” with calls about slow-moving traffic on Stuart Road when services end at the new First Baptist Church on Sundays. The complaints received also address the use of county deputies directing the traffic at the location.
Ruth said First Baptist is paying the deputies, who are off-duty, to direct the traffic.
Elkins noted the traffic flow is a “church issue” yet the need for directing traffic is a matter of necessity.
“If you didn’t have someone out there directing traffic, you’d have a terrible mess,” he said.
Law enforcement committee member Brian Smith suggested church members utilize the back entrance to First Baptist as much as possible.
Ruth told the committee he would further discuss the complaints with the BCSO Traffic Unit.
Ruth also addressed an anonymous complaint about inmates using “used undergarments.”
Ruth said inmates are issued undergarments that are used; however the garments are laundered and sanitized before being reissued to inmates.
The law enforcement committee meeting ended with Ruth noting the jail’s administration and inmate trustees have worked hard to clean up the facility since an August audit by Tennessee Corrections reported the BCSO had failed to meet a number of state standards.
“We’re going to pass inspection,” the sheriff said.