Election ’78: Sheriff’s candidates run on similar platforms

The Sentinel-Record 5-25-1978

The race for the Democratic nomination for Garland County Sheriff has drawn three candidates whose philosophies on the office lay along the same lines.

The two challengers in the race – Hot Springs Township Constable Elza Young and former deputy Claude P. Brown – have stressed a need for a professional sheriff’s office in their campaigns, while two-time incumbent Leon Barlow maintains he has already brought the office to that level.

Young, who is in his third term as constable, says he feels the position calls for a person who is professionally and technically trained and added that he began preparing himself for the race four years ago by taking criminal justice courses at Garland County Community College.

“I would not have attempted to run four years ago,” he said. “I have managed to attain more technical training than anyone else in law enforcement in Garland County, with the exception of the FBI.”

Young, 43, says the first step he would take toward bringing professionalism to the office would be to establish or re-establish a working relationship with the various other county law enforcement agencies, particularly the police department.

In the past, he says, there has not been “harmony” between the two agencies.

“Probably the No. 1 goal I am going to set is bring back harmony with the law enforcement agencies throughout the county,” he said. “I am mainly speaking about the police department.

“If you combine the efforts and disregard who is going to get the credit for the arrest or bust, you are doing your job.”

Young said he feels there is a need for a daily exchange of information between the sheriff’s office and the police department and “to my knowledge, there is no daily exchange of information.”

For example, he said, he would ask for written synopses on perpetrated crimes and rap sheets on suspects.

Young also says he intends to see to it that the sheriff’s office concentrates its capabilities in the rural areas of the county, not the city.

“Leave law enforcement in the city to the proper authority,” he said. “I think the majority of the time, in the daytime, they (deputies) are seen inside the city for PR. They make raids in the city without notifying the city police department. I don’t feel like there is harmony between the two agencies as a result of past differences.”

He made particular mention of a letter Barlow wrote to city officials and members of the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission last year concerning a police officer suspected of killing a deputy. He said he does not think the sheriff should have become involved in the matter.

As constable, Young said he has worked closely with the police department and has established good relations.

He also expressed a need to work with the Federal Drug Administration and a Metro-Narcotics Squad because of the increasing drug problem.

Young said he plans to run the sheriff’s office on a business basis, noting that its yearly budget is just short of $400,000. He said he believes he could run the office more efficiently and wiser than the incumbent.

(There are 11 or paragraphs that were not legible on the microfiche) … would like to see a combined city-county narcotics unit “to get away from worrying about who makes an arrest.”

He indicated efforts would be directed at public schools in attempting to control the use of illegal drugs.

“I’d be shooting at the schools,” he said, adding, “That’s where we need to do something on drugs. There should be a place where students can come with information or to get help.”

Brown said he would try to stop the work of drug suppliers rather than concentrate efforts on arresting “so many youths.”

“A big percentage of the crimes committed by young people, like burglary and robbery, are related to drugs. They’re committed by people raising money to support a dope habit,” says Brown.

In addition to the emphasis on drug law enforcement and drug abuse prevention, Brown wants to see the sheriff’s detective bureau solving more cases.

“The people also deserve more patrols,” he continued. “Let the state police take care of state roads and let deputies work on county roads.”

The former deputy says he favors the establishment of a criminal justice complex here.

One of the benefits of such a center, he indicated, would be larger jail facilities.

“I’m for getting away from arresting people, then having to let them out because there’s no place to keep them. Combined jail facilities would be good for the county,” he said.

If Brown is the county’s next sheriff, he says he will hire “qualified men” as his deputies. He says present deputies who are qualified would have the opportunity to remain in the department.

“The department is a long way from being professional from the comments I get. The men need some training. I want them to be qualified and I’ll expect them to treat the public with courtesy.”

“Civil service would be a swell thing, but it has to be done legally, and it’s not legal except in Pulaski County,” continues Brown.

Pointing out that he expects some form of civil service to eventually be adopted for the department, Brown said it would be helpful in attracting and keeping young men who want to have careers in law enforcement.

Brown, like Young, is critical of incumbent Sheriff Leon Barlow for allowing a local security agency to use the department’s radio frequency since the agency is a private business.

Although the oldest candidate in the three-way race, Brown says, “I believe my experience and common sense will overcome age. I don’t feel I have too many enemies, and physically I don’t know of anything wrong with me. I’m running because I believe the people deserve to have the office turned back to them and to have someone in office who will give protection. I think the world of the sheriff’s office so I don’t like to see it mistreated.”

Brown adds, “I’m running for the little people. I will definitely be sheriff if I’m elected. No one will come to me and say, ‘Claude, you have to do this.’ My office will always be open to anyone with a suggestion or complaint.”

Sheriff Barlow, now in his second two-year term, shares the concept of his opponents for offering county residents professional law enforcement.

“People want and deserve the best law enforcement possible, but it’s hard to have the best officers with two-year terms since they might not have a job for long,” said Barlow.

Barlow says he hopes to see a county employee commission established to provide deputies with job security.

Such a commission ultimately would save the county considerable money since personnel would be stabilized and the department would not have to be continually training officers, he said.

“It makes sense to offer a job with some future, and I hope to see legislation enacted to change provisions for civil service commissions.”

However, the sheriff says most of his officers have prior law enforcement experience with additional training regularly offered to all deputies.

“I feel like the sheriff’s office here is trained as well as any law enforcement agency in the state, at least on the city or county level. My opponents would imply there is no harmony between us and the city, but our officers work together often, especially on narcotics cases,” he said.

In addition, he said his office cooperated with state and federal agencies. “It doesn’t matter to us who makes the arrest.”

Barlow said the letter he wrote last year to city officials and members of the Hot Springs Civil Service Commission had not asked for the suspension of an officer suspected in the killing of a deputy.

“I wrote the letter because I thought it was necessary, but I just asked for the officer to be taken off the street and put in the office because of the criticism which might be directed at law enforcement officers in general. I didn’t ask for a resignation or a suspension of the man,” said Barlow.

The sheriff also denied his department fails to respond to calls for assistance.

“No matter how minor the incident, a call will be made,” he said. “We have had complaints of being slow to respond, but I can guarantee we are not slow when it’s an emergency.”

Deputies also are instructed to be courteous and to try to avoid becoming involved in the investigations of minor incidents occurring in the city limits, he says.

Since statistics show that 90 percent of crimes are committed between 3 p.m. and 1 a.m., Barlow said more officers are on duty then.

However, he says, “every officer is on call 24 hours a day, and we have men living in every part of the county who can be called if needed. Two deputies are on duty after 1 a.m. and seven are on call after 1 p.m.”

On other matters, Barlow said he has allowed one security agency to use the departments frequency as a crime prevention measure.

“They call us when they find doors open or a business burglarized so we can investigate. They don’t have the authority to make arrests,” he said.

Barlow agrees with his opponents on drugs as the cause of many crimes.

“Drugs are a big problem because they affect so many people. In fact, the whole county is affected,” he said.

Since becoming sheriff, Barlow said he has created several divisions in the department to provide better service.

The divisions include one for criminal investigation, another for patrol work, one for communications and the jailers and matrons.

In addition, Barlow said a crime prevention program has been established and a confidential code system for county businesses has been set up.

“The biggest accomplishment has been the hiring of several more officers through a federal program,” he said, adding that additional equipment also has been acquired.

If reelected, Barlow says he will continue these programs and work to refine department operations.

“I have tried hard to make this community a secure one where people can feel comfortable living. In the last four years, there has been a great improvement in the efficiency of the department,” he said.

Because of the record, Barlow says he doesn’t expect a runoff. “I hope we’ve done a good enough job the people can see it and will reelect us.”

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