SMITH COUNTY — Smith County Sheriff-elect Larry Smith has already begun making plans for the future of the Smith County Sheriff's Department.
Smith tells KFXK that since the primary election, he has "developed a plan to reorganize the Smith County Sheriff’s Office to improve service, streamline operations, cross-train officers, put more deputies on patrol, and increase departmental efficiency and morale. Implementation of this comprehensive plan will begin on January 1, 2013, and will not call for an increase in manpower or budget."
He says, "We look forward to a productive 2013 as we build a premier county law enforcement team known for its integrity, its high quality service, and its dedication to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens."
Here is an outline of some of the details of plan, released by Smith:
Increased patrols for pro-active law enforcement, improved labor & equipment efficiencies
The new organizational chart will allow forty patrol deputies to be assigned to the patrol division, along with eight sergeants, a K-9 unit, and a lieutenant. I have given careful consideration regarding ways to optimize our existing manpower. I have considered an 8-hour, 10-hour, and 12-hour shift in order to determine how to best utilize our work force to provide the best service to the citizens of Smith County.
With the implementation of a 12-hour patrol shift, we will have twelve units on the streets of Smith County on each shift. This is three times the number that are often currently on the streets during a shift. Even allowing for instances where three deputies per shift might take vacation and another deputy could call in sick, this plan still allows eight patrol deputies on the streets during any given shift. Three of those twelve units will work a staggered overlapping shift to allow calls to be answered during patrol briefings. This will decrease the build-up of compensatory time since deputies are currently assigned calls at the end of their shift, causing them to accrue large amounts of compensatory time.
Regardless of the number of patrol units that are working during any given shift, there will be the same number of calls for service. With more units working during a shift, the number of reports required per deputy will be significantly less, which will also decrease accrual of compensatory time, as deputies will not have to work overtime in order to complete their reports at the end of a shift.
The 12-hour shifts also allow for the same deputies to work each shift under the same supervision and with the same individual deputies. This will also allow two deputies on opposite shifts to share a patrol vehicle instead of multiple patrol officers utilizing that patrol vehicle. This has proven to increase the life of a patrol unit because two personnel can be held accountable for the upkeep of a vehicle much easier than multiple deputies being assigned to a particular vehicle. The 12-hour shifts will also allow for a patrol sergeant to be on duty in the northern portion of Smith County and one patrol sergeant to be on duty in the southern portion of Smith County during any given shift. This is especially important since the communications division of the Sheriff’s Office is not co-located with the administrative division.
Command Staff reorganization for improved field support and supervision
We will decrease the command staff by one Lieutenant and increase the Sergeant level positions in order to have more support and supervision in the field in order to best utilize the work force for improved service.
Implement hybrid Patrol/Investigator positions to improve investigations
We will begin the implementation of a Patrol/Investigator position to better pursue criminal investigations of Class A through Class C misdemeanors. These Patrol/Investigators will be the current contingency within the Patrol Operations. The patrol/investigator deputies will receive the proper training and tools required to competently carry out their duties in this new capacity.
Public Information Officer for improved communications
Two positions (one from the jail and one from operations) will be converted into a professional Public Information Officer. The PIO will be responsible for coordinating with news media for information dissemination, setting up a monthly media briefing with the Sheriff, maintaining real-time critical information to the public via social media, maintaining an up-to-date Sheriff’s Office website with critical information for the public, and communicating with countywide crime watch groups and local schools.
Institution of Civil Division for process serving
Patrol deputies will no longer serve civil process. The majority of civil process papers are served in the incorporated city limits of a municipality, which takes patrol deputies out of the patrol areas where they need to be. We will implement a civil division, ending the practice of having first responders tied down serving civil process when they need to be located within their patrol zones in the unincorporated areas of Smith County. We will continue to review the civil process procedures and look for ways to end duplicated effort among county law enforcement agencies.
Saving Fuel Costs – Saving Valuable Patrol Time
Currently, each patrol vehicle must fuel up at the Emergency Operations Center on Spur 248 or at the Smith County Road and Bridge Department yard located on North Glenwood Street in Tyler. By utilizing charge cards at retail locations within the patrol zones, this will allow us to keep our patrol deputies in their areas of responsibility rather than driving across the county for fuel. We have identified several vendors offering discounted fuel prices through co-ops and through credit card sales. This will save tax dollars and improve patrol efficiency by reducing response times.
Consolidation of Duties, Improved Hiring, Training & Promotion Procedures; Internal Affairs
Numerous duties have been consolidated, allowing for better use of time for commissioned deputies. We have created two positions for the purpose of coordinating the interviews for hiring personnel, for promotional interview boards, for background investigations for the hiring process, and for training of personnel. These two individuals will also be responsible for investigating internal affairs through our newly created Office of Professional Responsibility. This ensures that the hiring, promotional and discipline process will be uniform and consistent. It will also ensure that the “good ole boy system” of promotions is gone for good.
A new position for an Internal Affairs Investigator will be implemented within the first week of January 2013. This position will encompass that of an investigator coordinating the hiring and promotional interview process, conducting the background investigations and also conducting all of the internal investigations of personnel who receive complaints against them. The Internal Affairs investigator will be assigned to the newly created Office of Professional Responsibility. This will ensure that each and every disciplinary action taken on an employee will be dealt with in a fair and consistent manner.
Reorganized Co-Chief Deputy Responsibilities
Implementation of a reorganized Co-Chief Deputy system will better balance the span of control. The Administrative Chief Deputy will oversee Communications, Jail Operations, and a newly created Office of Professional Responsibility for internal affairs. The Operations Chief Deputy will oversee Patrol Operations, the Criminal Investigation Division, and a newly created Special Services Unit. The Special Services Unit will have a Lieutenant and two Sergeants. One Sergeant will be over Narcotics Investigations and one Sergeant over Environmental Crimes, Animal Control, Animal Cruelty, Livestock Theft, Estrays, and Sexual Offender Registration.
Employee Support - Chaplain Program to be led by Dr. David O. Dykes
High employee morale is vital for an efficient and effective law enforcement agency. Law enforcement officers and their families often experience great stressors due to the pressures of the job and the types of crimes officers encounter. To support our officers and their families, we will implement a Chaplain program for the employee side of the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. While there has been a system in place meeting the needs of jail inmates, no support program is in place to meet the needs of the employees. We will immediately implement a new Employee Assistance and Chaplain Program to remedy this situation.
Chaplains will soon be in place to counsel with employees undergoing personal family issues, issues of grief, or job-related problems. Dr. David O. Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church, has accepted the responsibility of Smith County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain. Dr. Dykes will soon be contacting other pastors within Smith County to request their assistance in this vital program.
Family-oriented activities and programs will be implemented to build a network of support for law enforcement families.
Ongoing Pursuit of Continuous Improvement
The Smith County Sheriff’s Office will become a cohesive unit working together to provide the best service we can to all of the people of Smith County.