With the news article out today in the Laurinburg Exchange about how Scotland County is now ranked # 1 for violent crimes in North Carolina, I’m sure that a large number of people will try to place the blame with long time Scotland County Sheriff Shep Jones. After all, he is the highest ranking law enforcement officer in Scotland County and has been in power for almost eight years. But I don’t think we can place the blame on the sitting Sheriff and here’s why.
Shep is a man of character and strong convictions. He stands up for what he believes in, even if it does result in getting fired from the Sheriff’s Department in 1999 for not following orders, chest-bumping the then-Sheriff Wayne Bryant in a public forum (something that would get anyone else arrested and charged with assault), and then filing a lawsuit against Scotland County, resulting in winning $25,000 of taxpayers money for his anguish and suffering.
Okay, maybe that’s not a good example of Shep’s job as Sheriff. How about the great job he’s done to lower the crime rates of Scotland County. Ooops. Another bad example since the crime rates, especially in East Laurinburg have grown steadily and we’re now top of the list in violent crimes. But he’s out there solving crimes and catching the criminals. Well, not the guys who murdered Erik Watts back in July. Despite the names of the alleged killers being common knowledge in the community, charges have yet to be pressed and no one has been arrested. But we can’t blame Shep for that despite his department being in charge of the investigation, can we? Yeah, maybe we can.
Oh yeah, I’ve got one. Shep has kept the county safe from the violent and evil sins of internet sweepstakes gambling with not one, but two raids (one in July and one just a few weeks ago) of the Cyber Sweepstakes location. Machines were confiscated and businesses were closed. Of course no charges were ever pressed against the owner and the equipment seized has been deemed legal by a sitting judge so the business was in absolute compliance with the law and technically, the equipment was (stolen) and some of it already destroyed, but at least Scotland County doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. It wasn’t illegal or breaking the laws, but our Sheriff and his SWAT team took care of it anyhow.
Maybe we can talk about the facility he runs, the Scotland County Detention Center. Never has a facility been so well run. True, there is overcrowding and the jail was cited for poor inmate living conditions and inadequate supervision by staff back in August of 2013 but we can’t blame the Sheriff on that. He’s just the boss, right? And there’s great security there. True, there have been two deaths that I can think of (November, 2007 and November, 2010), but those were accidents, right? And just because a young woman claimed to be beaten by the jailers (Jessica Duty) and all of her charges were strangely dropped, that’s not suspicious, right? All the jail needs is some new paint and a little cleaning and everything will be fine.
Let’s talk about transparency. Our Sheriff is straight forward and upfront about everything. Just look how quickly he responded to the situation when all those cars strangely appeared in the parking lot at the Sheriff’s Department despite allegedly not being ordered by the Sheriff or his department. It only took a couple of weeks to determine that the Sheriff didn’t know anything about his department ordering all of those new, unapproved cars and that the fault lay with a junior officer in the department.
And of course, the so-called scandal involving the forced donations by members of the Sheriff’s Department to pay for “gas and tires” for patrol cars used to patrol private property and off-duty jobs. Of course, the money was used to pay for parties, flowers from a flower shop belonging to the Sheriff’s wife, alcohol from the ABC store and a gold cross for the Sheriff to wear. But it was all legal and reported as required by law. Oh wait, it wasn’t. The District Attorney referred it to the SBI who investigated and determined that there was wrong-doing. Charges are pending. But that can’t be blamed on Shep. He’s just the Sheriff and man in charge. It’s not his fault!
Well okay, maybe a little of this can be directed towards Shep and the way he conducts himself and runs his department. But at least we can say for sure that Shep is a man of class and dignity who holds himself and his campaign followers to a high standard. Heck, on his official Facebook page, one of the Sheriff’s supporters made a comment that called supporters of Shep’s political opponent in the upcoming Sheriff’s race “dumb as*es”. And Shep immediately went and had that comment removed from public display. Oh wait, it’s still there, eleven days later. Oops. My bad!
So maybe Shep isn’t the best Sheriff we’ve ever had. I’m sure that he had the best of intentions when he came into office all those years ago, but what’s that old cliche’? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But on the bright side, he has a nice flag with his own name on it flying high at the Sheriffs Department’s office. That’s pretty cool, right?
Election time is in just a few weeks. We need a new Sheriff. Think about it…