Upon taking the oath as your Sheriff, I made a promise to be transparent to the citizens of Shelby County and have an open door policy. I strongly feel that the public has a right to know what is going on with this office and this is not something that will change.
During a recent Commissioner’s Court meeting, several statements were made about the Sheriff’s Office that I feel need to be clarified. The article was published on Shelby County Today (SCTTX.COM), dated May 31, 2022 and titled: SC Commissioners allow Constable to maintain use of bulletproof vest, add reserve officer.
While I understand that everyone has a right to state their concerns, I can only accept responsibility for the actions that I have had control of since taking office January 1, 2021. Being Sheriff is not an easy task and I quickly learned that it is impossible to make everyone happy and keep everyone satisfied. I feel that if an article is going to be published, both sides deserve the right for clarification.
March 1, 2021, the City of Timpson made the decision to close their police department. As a result of their closure (effective March 4, 2021), the City of Timpson donated a patrol vehicle to the sheriff’s office and the county purchased an additional vehicle from the City of Timpson for $35,000. From January 1, 2021 to March 3, 2021, 98 calls for service came through the sheriff’s office for assistance in Timpson. From March 4, 2021 to the present date, 829 calls for service came through the sheriff’s office for assistance in Timpson area and Precinct 5.
In 2021 during a budget meeting, I asked the commissioners for permission to hire an additional three deputies, we were granted one additional deputy. The position was filled in October 2021. While we were VERY grateful to add another officer to patrol, this did not even touch the need.
In the meeting, the statement was made, “That’s the reason we hired them another deputy and they assured us when the mayor was here to help donate the car, and stuff like that, they would pick up and step up and do more and they’re not doing it.”
From the time Timpson Police Department closed to the time we actually put the additional deputy on patrol was seven months. Prior to adding the deputy, and to the present time, yes, we have stepped up. Yes, we are doing more and we will continue to do all that we can. We have never refused a call and we never will.
In the meeting, Constable Tipton stated that 75% of the calls in Precinct 5 come through his office. While the sheriff’s office has no idea of the personal calls that go directly to Constable Tipton, we do for a fact know that multiple times, on a daily basis, the sheriff’s office is contacted directly for assistance in Timpson. We log every single call that comes in to our office. This is public information.
In the meeting, the comment was made,” We may need to have a sit down with the Sheriff and we may need to hire another deputy or two, have somebody that serves their community, not goes up there once or twice a week.”
Our call logs clearly reflect that we have deputies in Timpson more than once or twice a week. Again, in the budget meeting, I asked for three deputies. We were granted one. The reason I asked for three is simple: there is a NEED. At the minimum, a total of three deputies would allow us to always have two deputies on duty at all times. Three additional deputies can’t even begin to cover the need for additional manpower, but it would be better that what we have now. We cannot work with more than what we have. This has to be understood. If a deputy is sick, or has requested time off – we have to bring another deputy in to cover the shift. This creates overtime. Overtime causes a major problem as it is pulling more money from our already strained budget. To avoid overtime, we often shuffle the schedule around, and have deputies work split shifts. Even by doing this, at some point during the night, that deputy goes off duty leaving ONE deputy on patrol. ONE. One deputy trying to cover approximately 850 square miles- this is impossible. I will continue to ask for more deputies because there is a need.
Shelby County resident Robin Connell was in attendance at the meeting. Connell is a business owner in Timpson and Joaquin , as well as a resident of Precinct 4. Connell made the statement, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called the Sheriff’s Department and this is what I’m told, ‘we don’t have anybody on duty right now, we don’t have anybody we can send, the only people we have on duty are down in Possum Trot.” Connell added, “Emergencies aren’t Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That’s not when you call and you’re scared to death of what’s going on, that’s not when it happens. We had the luxury of having a city police department and I say that in all sincerity we had the luxury of having one, that’s gone. If you call the Sheriff’s Department Monday morning at 9 a.m., you’ll have a whole army show up, but Thursday at 12:15 a.m. it would be a different situation.”
I can only take responsibility for the actions of this office since January 1, 2021. Since I became Sheriff, we have always had a deputy on duty. Our call logs reflect that since January 1, 2021, Ms. Connell, and/or her store associates have called the sheriff’s office for assistance 10 times. Every single time they requested assistance, a deputy showed up. We cannot control the location or time of crime. Obviously, during the day, we have more manpower available. All of our investigators are in the office, as well as Chief Deputy Ruth Gonzales, Captain Tanner Peace, and me. This is not to say that if/when a situation arises at night that no one will respond. We will respond, and we will respond every single time. There just may not be as many of us and depending on where the deputy(s) are in the county will depend on our response time. For instance, if we have a deputy on a call in the southern most part of the county, and an additional call comes in on the most northern part of the county, the response time is going to be right at an hour. Mind you that this is the deputy doing their best to get there as quickly and safely as possible; and that is only if he is able to leave immediately from the call he is on.
At times situations arise and we have two deputies tied up on a call and both are unable to leave. We use every resource available to respond as quickly to the call. This includes reaching out to constables in the surrounding precincts, as well as our on call investigator. Calls are never and will never be turned down under my administration. It has to be understood that our hands are often tied because of lack of deputies.
We are doing our best to manage from where we are, not where we wish we were. Unfortunately, unlimited resources are not provided to us. As I have previously stated, we are going to be transparent to the people of our county. My door here at the office has been and will remain open for any help, questions, or comments. Continuing to build community relations between our office and the people of Shelby County is one priority we will refuse to let wither. I am your Sheriff. One thing I can always promise you is that every decision that I, or my administration makes, will always be in the best interest of this county.
Sheriff Kevin W. Windham