Crowds turned out to hear Camden County sheriff candidates in their second forum before the August primary on Tuesday, July 10. Lake Area Conservative Club hosted the event at the Church of Osage Hills in Osage Beach. Before the candidates took to the microphones, Lt. Governor candidate Brad Lager addressed the crowd.
To start the night off, the candidates were questioned if they thought the current Overall Patrol Index (OPI) had improved the sheriff's department. The OPI system was put in place in August 2011. The system is simply a way to keep officers accountable. Lt. Botta, of the Camden County Sheriff's Department, explained the system and said that it is made up of eight categories including reports, supplemental reports, car stops, summons, arrests, business and residence checks, civil and field interviews. Criteria does not include a minimum number for each category. Instead, the deputies set their own standards. Botta calculates the data at the end of each month and averages his findings. Day deputies are compared to day deputies and night deputies are compared to other night deputies. Essentially the OPI system is a way of keeping track of each officer's performance. Supervisors receive a copy of each officers performance and follows up with them accordingly.
When asked about the topic, Cable spoke first and said simply, "Quotas do not belong in the sheriff's department." Payne seemed to agree with Cable, "Taking our calls is the very first thing." Sheriff Franklin feels like the OPI is in place for a reason and is "something that would make them a well rounded deputy."
Emery questioned if the index got in the way of the deputies being able to do their jobs. "It does in a way," he said based on his own experience. Page spoke out about other ways of keeping track of an officer's performance. "I'm not a believer of OPI," he said.
The candidate's thoughts on putting a school resource officer back into local schools was a hot topic of the night. "I'm not going to spend money that we don't have," Franklin said. If it is up to him, he vows to put resources officers back in the schools when the funds are available. Payne, a former school resource officer, is a big believer in resource officers and said that "one way or another," he will get the officers back in the schools. Cable told the crowd that if he is elected, officers will be in the schools. "I support having resource officers," said Emery. He also pointed out that he believes that if you make something a priority, you will find the funds for it. Page took the concept of school resource officers a step further and said that he believes in community resource officers. "I will work to get them back in the community and the schools where they need to be," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - Another question focused on employe turn over and what the candidates would do to maximize longevity with the deputies. Page said that he would try to find more money so he could increase their pay scales. He added, "Training and good equipment has to be a priority for the sheriff's department." Emery suggested working with the deputies and making sure they knew the sheriff cared. "Bring moral up and we will start retaining officers," he said. According to Franklin, longevity is a money issue. "It goes back to dollars and cents. If the money is not there, you can't pay them," commented Franklin. Payne noted that the current structure of the department with 17 supervisors and 21 deputies, "doesn't work." For Cable, it all comes down to leading by example. "I know what it's like to be a leader," he said.
The forum lasted for nearly two hours. Democratic candidate Constance Lawthrop did not attend the forum. Residents were given the opportunity to voice their opinions and ask questions of the candidates. To see video footage from Tuesday night's forum, visit lakenewsonline.com.