Tom Caldwell is vying for the Floyd County sheriff position in the Aug. 11 Republican runoff. There is no Democratic candidate so the winner will appear alone on the Nov. 3 election ballot. Caldwell is a former chief deputy at the sheriff’s office. To learn more, visit TomCaldwellForSheriff.com.
What are your specific plans to address the turnover rate, the loss of trained employees, at the sheriff’s office?
The first thing that I will do as sheriff is tackle the serious morale problem. Many of the other issues are directly attributable to poor morale. Turnover, recruitment, training, operations and, yes, even insufficient employee pay are critical issues individually. But stagnant morale over a period of years can be dangerous to our agency.
Specifically, I want to reimplement short- and long-term planning to establish agency goals. We must work together to achieve these goals. Otherwise, our deputies are just going through the motions, punching the time clock every day. I have worked with a newly elected sheriff before to successfully solve these problems while maintaining the budget afforded to us by the taxpayers.
Some training is required by the state. Is there any optional training you would encourage for your command staff, deputies or jail officers?
If elected sheriff, we will continue to earn the public’s trust by being accountable and transparent at all times with our operations. I believe that any law enforcement agency is only as strong as the standards to which they conform on a daily basis. We will maintain this standard by continuing to operate as a nationally accredited agency. We will also empanel a citizen’s oversight committee to review various incidents.
Most law enforcement training leans toward being technical & tactical. I would like to see training to focus on implicit biases for practices our profession may have built up over years. I want to improve our training to include priorities for all staff in racial biases, mental health interdiction, de-escalation and conflict mediation.
The coronavirus is limiting families’ access to incarcerated inmates right now but if and when it is over, how do you envision the visitation system working?
Inmate visitation is an important aspect of the inmate’s overall rehabilitation and mental health. Along with religious services and food quality, visitation provides correctional stability. Our jail is not equipped to support a large number of guests who enter the visitation area and still maintain six feet of social distancing. The lack of manpower is potentially exposed during crisis moments such as these.
When this pandemic is rendered medically manageable and no longer a serious threat, we will return to the video visitation system that would allow visitation for inmates while keeping the facility safe and secure without causing further manpower issues.
Do you have any outreach efforts planned for voters to get to know you better before the Aug. 11 runoff election?
As a candidate during this pandemic, our campaign has faced unprecedented challenges. Traditional neighborhood canvassing and town hall meetings have been off limits for us. We are looking for innovative ways to make ourselves known in the community and stay connected to people over the course of this two-plus year campaign.
We have received a number of online forum invitations scheduled in the coming weeks. We are scheduling events in the coming weeks for outdoor, socially distant and friendly campaigning. We have a Facebook Live event coming up soon to address questions from our community. We have had to reshape how we reach out and communicate with voters and rely more on digital methods rather than the face to face interaction we prefer.