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Issues

There are a number of issues that the citizens of Macon County are concerned about.  I will utilize this section to notify you on where I stand on each of these issues.  As concerns are raised during the campaign, I will add them to this page to enable everyone who may not have the option of asking, to see how I stand on their concern.  

Coverage in Nantahala/Topton, Otto and Highlands

I have a plan to reorganize the Department and put additional manpower into areas where they are needed during peak times.  I believe I can immediately add three Deputies to the road patrol and once accomplished, they will be allocated to the areas of Nantahala/Topton, Otto and Highlands to provide coverage when needed.   Additionally, once the department is reorganized, I believe there will be a much more efficient use of manpower and thereby make better use of the scarce taxpayer funds allocated to the Sheriff's Department. (Read More)


Out of control Drug problem.

This is an area I have much expertise in.  I will work with our federal and local partners to address drug related crimes in our county.  However, while I will enforce all laws and make arrests of those who violate the laws, I realize we cannot arrest our way out of this issue.  My goal will be to make Macon County a place where those who sell drugs would not want to be.  I have more experience than any of my opponents in addressing this matter.   I will utilize all the tools at my disposal to eradicate our county of those who want to sell their poison here.  Once a person with a drug problem enters the legal system, I will expand the programs already in place to offer rehabilitation to those who are willing to participate.  My goal would be to never have to arrest the same addict twice.  Education and treatment will go a long way towards meeting that goal.  I will work with the District Attorney to try to establish a drug court that can adequately deal with people who have drug addictions.   (Read More)


Transparency in Sheriff's Department

I will work to ensure that this Sheriff's Department is as transparent and responsive as it can be.  I will work to ensure that all officers are equipped with body worn cameras.  I will work with the District Attorney to release recordings when necessary as quickly as necessary.  This will ensure that trust and professionalism is continuing to be built between the citizens of Macon County and the Sheriff's Department.  I will work to investigate all complaints of corruption and wrongdoing by our Deputies.  I will release the results of those investigations in accordance with state statutes as soon as possible to ensure our citizens are confident in the process.  

In the event we have an incident where an officer causes great bodily harm or death, an immediate investigation will be initiated. I will work with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation to conduct the investigation to ensure the citizens of Macon County are confident that it was done in a fair and transparent manner.   I will ensure that outcomes are made public, consistent with state statutes, regardless of whether my officer was at fault to ensure the process is as transparent as possible.  If I find that there were deficiencies noted, they will be corrected as soon as possible to build trust with our communities.  

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Where do you stand on Macon County being a 2A sanctuary?

Alex Palachnik asked the question on Macon Co. Politics.  I thought it was a good question and felt you should know where I am on it.  My response was:

Alex Palachnik I will support whatever the constitution of the United States  and the State of North Carolina says.  When it comes to our rights under the constitution,  until congress and the people change that right by vote it is the law which I will swear and affirm to uphold.  Until the people of this country and state decide to vote to give up their rights to bear arms, I will support their right to do so.  

North Carolina Constitution says:
State Right to Bear Arms in North Carolina
Last Updated
DECEMBER 1, 2020
Article I, § 30 of the North Carolina State Constitution, entitled “Militia and the right to bear arms,” provides:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; and, as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they shall not be maintained, and the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice.”


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Department Efficiency

I would like to continue with the information concerning the efficiency of the Sheriff’s Department. The MCSO currently has a number of K-9 officers who do not answer calls. This is a poor use of their manpower. When the department is between six and ten officers down on patrol, having a number of officers who do not transport prisoners nor answer calls for service (as a general rule) is an indication of poor management by those in leadership. These officers can be assigned to shifts during peak hours that can overlap shifts. This would add an extra deputy to the busiest shifts which will make it safer for those on patrol and the citizens they protect. Additionally, as I noted in a previous musing, reassigning those deputies from SRO positions that can be assumed by Franklin PD would also add deputies to the street. These deputies would be assigned areas that would enable them to respond to underserved areas like Nantahala and Otto during peak times within a reasonable amount of time. Manpower will be reviewed on a weekly basis and revisions made as they are deemed necessary to address issues that arise.
I was asked once already if me putting my ideas out like this could possible result in some or all of them being implemented prior to the election. I am not concerned about that. If the department is moved toward more transparency and efficiency and therefore making it a more responsive agency, isn’t that what we all want? It will go a long way towards showing who is better suited to lead the Macon County Sheriff’s Department. The choice is clear. The voters can do what they have done for the past twenty plus years and vote the same old system in, or they can vote for someone who comes from outside that department and brings fresh ideas and direction. I have been leadership tested and experience proven. I can be that leader.
Add your issue summary here. (Read More)


Manpower usage

Today’s issue will address the efficiency of the department. I believe that if the department runs with the highest efficiency possible, it will show the citizens of Macon County that we are good stewards of their money. This one could take a number of different Monday Musings. We will start with patrol coverage.
I have studied this particular issue. It is one of the most important issues that affects us as citizens of Macon County. We all pay for coverage and the simple fact is we don’t all get it. The primary reason given is the deficit of manpower within the Sheriff’s Office. There have been a number of Deputies who have resigned and moved to other departments for higher pay and some have moved just because of management style by the leadership within the department, still others have chosen to retire because they have had enough of the daily stress that comes with the job.
There are portions of this county that see very little patrol activity. Nantahala is one of those areas. I have heard Nantahala described in a number of ways from the “Wild West” of Macon County to just plain remote. The patrol activities in that particular area of the county tend to be reactive instead of proactive. That needs to change. Will it be 100% around the clock? I would have to look at the calls for service. I believe if we can get an Officer out there at least during average peak times it will improve the responses to that area dramatically. My understanding is the County Commissioners at one time funded positions with the intent of manning the Nantahala area around the clock. That appears to have been put on a back burner. I will work with the County Commissioners to bring those positions back.
Do you know that as citizens of Macon County, we pay three deputies to perform SRO duties inside the city limits of Franklin? Franklin PD has a minimal manpower deficit and they enjoy a higher rate of pay. That being said, I will work with Chief Harrell of the Franklin PD to transfer the duties of those SROs to his department which in turn will add three Deputies for the road. I have been told that one reason they are supplying the SROs for those schools within Franklin city limits may be because they are county owned buildings. I have also been told by some within the department that “that is the way we have always done it.” That is not an answer, just an excuse. After looking at other city police departments, it appears there are a number of city Police Departments who supply SROs which negates that argument. Those three deputies would go a long way in providing some coverage in areas like Nantahala.
The purpose of providing these musings are to make sure all know what I stand for. I do not believe in complaining without providing at least an idea of a solution. A reorganization would increase the efficiency of this department which makes better use of those scarce tax dollars the citizens of Macon County provide. Ensuring the department is efficient and solutions are given, reassures the great citizens of this county that a vote for me gives them someone who is leadership tested and experience proven!
Add your issue summary here. (Read More)


Response to Department Efficiency

Nick Lofthouse

Bob,
I am a little offended by your post. As one of the K9 handlers you are talking about I take my job very personal. With that being said I would like you to understand that the information that you have is not correct.
I understand the point you are trying to make but before posting something like this. I ask you to please understand that you are running to my boss. In that roll I would want you to do the most research you can before making a statement that others are going to take as truth. We are held to a higher standard.
I say all this to tell you that the k9 teams work a split shift 4pm to 2am. Then rotate with the other k9 handlers. We have the ability to transport people in our front seat and we do this when it is needed. We also respond to calls with road patrol when needed. We clear houses on alarms and b and e calls as well as take all narcotics calls that come thru dispatch while we are working. Our primary goal are narcotics but we are all still out during the busy call volume times and do respond to calls.
The current K9 shift is a New dedicated shift. Prior to the current set up, K9 handlers were on patrol, and I served as Sgt. Of my shift. We ran into the problem on patrol as being tied up with patrol duties and not able to respond when a k9 was needed in the time required under the law. We also found that based on stats of k9 stops and arrests, the most efficient time for K9s to be on the road and working are during the times that the new shift was created.
It wasn’t an arbitrary or rushed decision, but rather something both the sheriff and 1st sgt over K9 developed based on thorough examination
A lot of time goes in to the handler and the k9 training. Personally I feel that the setup that we have now gets the most use of the k9 teams.
Please understand this is not a personal attack on you. This is to let you know that we are doing what you suggested already.
 

 

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My response on Department Efficiency

Robert W. Cook

Nick Lofthouse awesome response Nick. I understand your concerns and want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you. However, in my research I spoke to both leadership and Deputies when I asked about this particular issue. Maybe it is a perception issue and that also can be worked on. You should take no offense to anything that was posted. My opinion of the job the deputies do is extremely high. That goes for the K9 Unit too. The common response I received is pretty much what I posted. In these austere times, we need all hands on deck to cover the areas we are responsible for. That is the 519 square miles of Macon County.
My point is that until we are fully manned up, we need to all be doing what we can to ensure the safety of the citizens of Macon County and the deputies that patrol it. I am happy that there is currently a split shift being worked. However, that shift will be determined by the Lieutenants and myself. It should coincide pretty closely to what you are already working. I am a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it guy.” I also believe in making our work environment as good as possible for the deputies that put their lives on the line every day.
My idea of how a K9 should be utilized is as a 2nd Officer assigned (backup) which will allow the K9 to break away if necessary once the situation is secure. This will reduce the need to send officers to disturbance and domestics alone. Nothing is ever perfect. My ideas and plans are not carved in stone. If there is a better way, I am going to listen.
As you know, Narcotics are my specialty. I see that as one of the biggest challenges in our county. (Not the only one though.) To that end, the K-9 unit is essential to the successful interdiction of drugs passing through our area. There was a recent post by a deputy concerning the K9 handler in Rabun County. The comment was concerning the fear that is in the minds of drug traffickers as they pass through that county. I will work hard to provide you and others the tools to make the drug traffickers even more fearful to enter Macon County. If they hold their breath traversing Rabun County, they will have passed out due to lack of oxygen by the time they get through ours. Metaphorically speaking!
Nothing will be changed that will endanger the legal requirements of the K-9 unit. However, I am not oblivious to how it should operate. To that end, it appears you understand that everything can be tweaked a bit. The K9 Unit is no different. I also appreciate that the Sheriff and 1st Sergeant worked on this. I only see one issue and it may have occurred but there appears to have been one import person left out of that decision. The Lieutenant. Chain of command is important and each individual will be held accountable for his or her area of responsibility. Otherwise, why have the position?
And finally, admittedly I have not ridden with anyone in the department. That is why I ask questions. A lot of questions. I only hope that when I get answers, they are not perceived, but actual.
Again, please do not hesitate to challenge my assertions. That is what enables me to grow and make the best decisions I can make! I do not believe in surrounding myself with “yes” men. It is that type of leadership style that perpetuates the “good ole boy” system that so many complain about. I will not be that way. That is what it means when I say I have been leadership tested and experience proven!
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And yet more response to Department Efficiency

  • Blake Buchanan
    Robert W. Cook Nick Lofthouse just to clarify on a point made here, concerning the post I made about the RCSO K9 Unit, I believe that it may have been taken out of context. MSCO works closely with RCSO, and that post was simply me cheering on their successes. As far as the quote mentioned in the post, the quoted individual was referring to the county line in general, not specifically the Macon/Rabun line. (This interview didn’t take place in Macon Co.) I assure you, if drug traffickers feel at ease traveling through Macon, it’s only because of their own ignorance. MCSO investigative efforts have created ripples in the drug trafficking industry that extends well into North GA, and beyond. The MCSO Narcotics and K9 Divisions are often looked at as the premier drug enforcement entities in the area. Beyond Macon County, both units are also heavily involved in the investigative and criminal interdiction efforts of several Western NC and North Georgia law enforcement agencies. As you know, Narcotics investigations is and always will be a team effort, involving multiple jurisdictions and investigative agencies. All this to say, the guys and gals at MCSO are carrying their weight on the team, and often the weight of others.
    I’m one of the first to talk about the value of tools and resources.. and that’s something that’ll always be constantly evolving.. but I tell ya, a resource you can’t campaign into or out of is the heart of those out there doing the job day in and day out. To them, this is beyond a mission, this is blood red and personal.
    Narcotics Supervisor - B.Buchanan
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    Author
    Bob Cook for Sheriff
    Blake Buchanan thank you for your input. Too bad that anyone who read my post took it as a disrespect or indication that I had anything but the highest regard for not only the Narcotics team but the K9. My point was about the management and utilization of the members of the K9 unit. Every Unit within the department will be scrutinized when we plan the reorganization. I believe the citizens of Franklin deserve to be secure in the knowledge that their Sheriff's Office is putting all assets into the prevention of ALL crime. Not just Narcotics. I am well aware of the far reaching effects of a Narcotics investigation. I have authored a large number of highly complex investigations involving wire tap and federal prosecution. Until we are 100% manned on the street and in the jail, we all may have to change the way we do business just a bit. As a matter of fact, I said in my responses that the life of a K9 officer may not change a whole lot. It just needs to be under the control of a Lieutenant who, along with the Chief Deputy and I will decide on the best use of our assets. You guys rock! But while I have to worry about Narcotics in the county, I also have to answer the calls for service. As I said before, nothing is carved in stone. If a better idea comes along, that too will be considered. Again, I always appreciate the input from members of the department and the citizens of Macon County.
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Department Organization

For the past number of years, the current administration of the Macon County Sheriff's Office has had a second in command that was working only in a part time capacity.  I am not sure how effective that would be for such an important position.  One of the items on my "to do" list would be to ensure that is a fully staffed position.  As it is, it leaves the chain of command with huge hole within it.  Additionally, it keeps the Sheriff from being as effective as he can be (in my opinion) as he would have to handle much of what that position entails in addition to his normal duties.  I plan on a complete study of the department from top to bottom and reorganizing it to ensure the greatest efficiency possible.  I also will make leadership responsible and accountable for their positions withing the chain of command.

 

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Transparency

This week I will address the issue of transparency.  I have spoken to a number of citizens and this is one of several issues that are mentioned.  They are concerned they do not get a response from the Sheriff's Office when they make inquiries.   There have been those who run local social media blogs/news outlets that have made inquiries to no avail.  I will change that.  While I don't play gotcha type games, I will entertain any and all questions to the best of my ability.  You will get a response from either myself or from someone within the organization that is responsible for that function.  When an elected official fails to respond, it appears they are hiding something.   Even if that is not the case, there is the image of impropriety.   I do not want that image in my administration.   I believe the citizens of Macon County deserve to know what is going on.  The more they know, good or bad, the more they will be willing to listen when the important things like funding arise.

One thing I will work hard to do is ensure that every Deputy is outfitted with body worn cameras as well as in-car cameras.  There are some already in use and have been for nearly a year.  However, as an organization, it is absolutely necessary to have the proper policies and procedures in place to govern how that equipment is utilized and when video footage can be released.   It is my understanding the department has not had the necessary formal polices in place which has put them in a position of liability.   Even if the policies are "in process" the use of equipment without proper policies being in place is just as bad as not having them.  As an administrator, the Sheriff is negligent and can be held personally responsible if his deputies  are operating without directions.  This is but one area that I had mentioned early on.  It is an indication that now is the time for a change. 

In the first month of my administration I will institute a review of all policies and procedures to ensure they are up to date.  Where there are areas, such as the lack of policies concerning body worn cameras; I will get it corrected immediately.  There are hundreds of departments within the state of North Carolina alone who are currently utilizing the cameras.   We do not have to reinvent the wheel.  It has already been invented.  We just have to modify to meet our particular needs.  This refers to the need for efficiency, transparency and professionalism.   It is also an indication of how little things change when an administration doesn't.  It is time for a change.  

It is time for new ideas.  It is time for a new Sheriff; one who has been leadership tested and experience proven.  It is time to elect Bob Cook as Sheriff of Macon County.
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Transparency

A number of my posts have been in reference to transparency.  I feel it is important that the citizens of Macon County know what the Department is doing, especially when it comes to interactions with citizens.  Equally important is that the citizens have confidence in the department to handle issues when they arise and report the results to those they work for.  There are rules regarding personnel matters and they must be followed.  However, waiting until it is reported in the news to address it is not in the best interest of the citizens.  Every officer who is accused of something is absolutely entitled to an investigation to prove or disprove the allegations.  It is necessary to let the public know the details of the issue.  Without reporting the results of an investigation within a reasonable amount of time, it has the appearance of impropriety even if the officer is exonerated.  The delay in an investigation is detrimental to the officer involved, the department as a whole and the citizens of Macon County.  If I am elected Sheriff of Macon County, I pledge to report back the results of an investigation as soon as I am legally able.  

https://www.newsbreakapp.com/n/0aWAAjaO?&share_destination_id=MTUyMjMyMTMwLTE2MjM4OTM1MjgzNTU=&s=a7&pd=0AIkWwSh&hl=en_US&lp=v4
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Corruption

I was asked in a post last week if I “have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with bad cops”.  

I have been tasked with investigating officers I’ve known in the past.  I have also lost investigations because those I worked with were involved with who I was investigating.  The way I see it, if you are an officer and are involved in corruption of any type, you have no place in the department and no place in law enforcement.  I conducted those investigations just as I did any others I was tasked with.  On occasion there was no proof and I moved on.  It was difficult to get through a wire tap investigation without picking up at least one officer with whom I worked who was associating with my target.  When I had the occasion where that did happen, I immediately reported it to my supervisors.  They would then determine if it should be turned over to the unit that handled criminal investigations involving law enforcement within our department.  In no way did they receive any protection from me.   Many times the Officer that was dealing with the target had no criminal intent.  Often, when an officer appears corrupt and hanging out with a criminal or one who is known to commit crimes, it is because  he or she may be associating with someone they grew up with or went to school with and have known for a long time.  Other times, sadly, they are involved.

Now on to the question of what would I do if I discovered corruption within the Macon County Sheriff’s Department.  Depending on the offense, if it is of a serious nature such as a felony, I would contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation or the appropriate federal agency to conduct the investigation.  This is one area that I think the mere image of impropriety can be devastating to the reputation and morale of the department.  If the violation is not a felony, I would direct my staff to conduct an investigation and if borne out to be true, the appropriate level of discipline would be the result.  I will review each and every investigation into corruption within my department to ensure it’s thoroughness.  There will be no place in my organization for any type of corruption.  We must have the trust of those we serve.  Completed investigations involving criminal behavior will be turned over to the District Attorney for possible charges.

I have been told on more than one occasion by a citizen of this county that they are tired of law enforcement getting away with things that they themselves can’t do without penalty.  As Police Officers, we are held to a much higher standard.  There are always mistakes that will be made.  I can deal with that and violations of policy will be dealt with in accordance with those policies and personnel rules.  But, deliberately violating the law and policies, will not be tolerated and handled accordingly.  We cannot afford even the image of impropriety!

One thing I must make clear though is any Officer accused of wrongdoing will get an absolutely fair investigation and responses to complaints will NOT be dealt with in ways just to placate the complainant.  The Deputies have the same rights as any other citizen.  I cannot and will not be bullied into making a decision without a full investigation!  I owe that to each and every Deputy working for that department. Additionally, I will not be making comments on the merits of any case until the investigation is completed.  The citizens of Macon County deserve that.  It is the only way to ensure a fair process for all involved.

One of the other things that seems to be a common perception is how some people can get away with violations while others cannot.  The common complaint is that it appears that one person avoids being cited or arrested, while others suffer the consequences.  (Remember what I said about image of impropriety?).  We can not tolerate that.  I can assure everyone that if they break the law, they will be treated equally in accordance with the law.  Everyone gets equal treatment regardless of who they are.  I have arrested people I’ve known in the past, one who was a very good friend and an ex-officer I worked closely with.  I have also arrested informants I was using because they violated the law once again while I was utilizing them.  Hopefully the arrest of someone cooperating with authorities will not jeopardize an ongoing case but if it does, we will have to find another way to prove it.  That is where my Detective’s investigative skills will shine as they find another way to prove the case.  I have been there and done that.  That is where I differ from my opponents.  I know it can be done because I have done it.

If I am presented with a complaint of corruption, it will be fully investigated and a report of the results will be released in accordance with the laws governing internal investigations.  I have seen and lived through the devastation that can be caused by corrupt Officers.  It takes years to get past the damage even from the cases that are handled appropriately.  

As I have not been able to review the department policies and procedures, I can only assume there are policies on how to handle citizen complaints.  These will be reviewed, updated and strengthened to ensure that each complaint is properly handled.  The complainant will always receive a report from me that lets them know whether the complaint was sustained or not.  This is how we build trust.

This is a tough issue that always evokes strong emotions.  Transparency is one of my key issues and I will be transparent.   The citizens of Macon County demand it and if we are to have their trust, they will get it.

 

 

 


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Pay and Benefits

This week I would like to address the pay and benefits for the MCSO. Several months ago, before I had even decided to run, I stood in front of the County Commissioners and spoke in support of pay raises for the members of the Sheriff’s department. While there is a pay scale for each level of the Sheriff’s office, it is my understanding that even though the range has a top end rate of pay for each level, it is rare that a Deputy reaches it. The average pay for a Deputy in North Carolina is approximately $40,000.00. The average pay for Sheriff’s across the state is approximately $105,000.00. The Sheriff in Macon County makes nearly the average, according to Salary.com. The average pay for Deputies in Macon County is approximately $33,000.00 a year. A Deputy in Macon County will start at around 15.51 an hour. At that rate of pay, they are starting at around $30,000 a year.

 

My purpose for providing this information is to reinforce the idea that if we are to attract highly educated and qualified police applicants, we need to provide them an incentive to apply. The Sheriff has been the Sheriff about 20 years and certainly deserves to be at the top of his pay scale for this area. However there are Deputies who cannot afford to pay for the health insurance after paying their living expenses. This must change. I also believe that many if not all Deputies will soon receive a pay raise as a result of a pay study that was completed. That will help a lot. We should not have a single Deputy with a family on Medicaid because they can not afford the health insurance that is provided by the County.

 

If elected, I will fight hard to get our deputies a decent wage. I will review the pay study to ensure we are in line with the results of the study. With a starting salary at least at the state average, we may be able to attract the additional applicants that we so desperately need. There is a lot of competition for new applicants not only in our area, but all across the state. We should have affordable health care. When these Deputies were hired, they were provided with a pay range they could expect to reach if they remained employed with us for the long term. However, that high end of the scale is rarely if ever reached. If we do not have the intent that anyone reaches that peak salary, why are they told it is a possibility?

 

Finally, the NC state statute states that the incoming Sheriff will be paid the same rate as the outgoing Sheriff, UNLESS the County Commissioners pass a resolution to reduce the new Sheriff’s pay. I will challenge the County Commissioners to pass that resolution to the lowest end of the range for the Sheriff. The only caveat is that I believe the Sheriff pay should be no more than 15% above the Chief Deputy pay. (Conversely, I believe that there should be a 10% difference between pay levels.) In order to maintain our budget at the same level I would ask that the difference in pay between the old and new Sheriff be divided amongst the Deputies with the rank of Sergeant and below. This would further improve their pay to a point that is competitive with other departments in the area. Additionally, I am going on record stating that if elected, I do not want a single pay raise during my tenure as the Sheriff. Any monies that are available for pay should be given to the members of the Department.
I have reviewed the salaries as they were reported on govsalaries.com (as of 2019). There is a huge disparity between the deputies at the bottom and those at the top. I assume that the majority of the difference is due to overtime payments, some of which are quite large. Though some may be due to special compensation from separate contracts with the county and those will be addressed at some point also. This brings up far more questions than it answers if it is accurate. The problem with those at the top who may be getting a large amount of overtime as compared to those at the bottom is that it skews the average rate of pay to all deputies and therefore it gives the impression those at the bottom make more than they actually do. Any compensation from any contractual obligations with the county should be separate from their pay and therefore reported on a 1099 or W2 separate from their service with the MCSO.

 

I also want to be fair. I am pretty sure that Sheriff Holland tried to get the commissioners to provide pay raises to the Deputies and I respect that. I will just try harder.

 

I have no problem with having to use overtime when and where it is needed. Until we start to recruit and retain, that may still be in use for some time to come. It is certainly not the most efficient use of taxpayers money. It becomes a catch 22 situation though. We don’t have enough to hire new recruits because we don’t have the money to pay them. We don’t have enough new recruits because we are not competitive.

 

The greatest asset we have in this county are our employees. When I was a leader in the military I prided myself on taking care of those who worked for and with me. I will take this same philosophy to the Macon County Sheriff’s Office. Raising their morale alone will increase the quality of service to the citizens in Macon County. I am willing to lead by example to ensure our Deputies are paid a wage that makes others want to come here and work. That is what proven leadership is.
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Corruption

I was asked in a post last week if I “have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with bad cops”.
I have been tasked with investigating officers I’ve known in the past. I have also lost investigations because those I worked with were involved with who I was investigating. The way I see it, if you are an officer and are involved in corruption of any type, you have no place in the department and no place in law enforcement. I conducted those investigations just as I did any others I was tasked with. On occasion there was no proof and I moved on. It was difficult to get through a wire tap investigation without picking up at least one officer with whom I worked who was associating with my target. When I had the occasion where that did happen, I immediately reported it to my supervisors. They would then determine if it should be turned over to the unit that handled criminal investigations involving law enforcement within our department. In no way did they receive any protection from me. Many times the Officer that was dealing with the target had no criminal intent. Often, when an officer appears corrupt and hanging out with a criminal or one who is known to commit crimes, it is because he or she may be associating with someone they grew up with or went to school with and have known for a long time. Other times, sadly, they are involved.

 

Now on to the question of what would I do if I discovered corruption within the Macon County Sheriff’s Department. Depending on the offense, if it is of a serious nature such as a felony, I would contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation or the appropriate federal agency to conduct the investigation. This is one area that I think the mere image of impropriety can be devastating to the reputation and morale of the department. If the violation is not a felony, I would direct my staff to conduct an investigation and if borne out to be true, the appropriate level of discipline would be the result. I will review each and every investigation into corruption within my department to ensure it’s thoroughness. There will be no place in my organization for any type of corruption. We must have the trust of those we serve. Completed investigations involving criminal behavior will be turned over to the District Attorney for possible charges.

 

I have been told on more than one occasion by a citizen of this county that they are tired of law enforcement getting away with things that they themselves can’t do without penalty. As Police Officers, we are held to a much higher standard. There are always mistakes that will be made. I can deal with that and violations of policy will be dealt with in accordance with those policies and personnel rules. But, deliberately violating the law and policies, will not be tolerated and handled accordingly. We cannot afford even the image of impropriety!

 

One thing I must make clear though is any Officer accused of wrongdoing will get an absolutely fair investigation and responses to complaints will NOT be dealt with in ways just to placate the complainant. The Deputies have the same rights as any other citizen. I cannot and will not be bullied into making a decision without a full investigation! I owe that to each and every Deputy working for that department. Additionally, I will not be making comments on the merits of any case until the investigation is completed. The citizens of Macon County deserve that. It is the only way to ensure a fair process for all involved.

 

One of the other things that seems to be a common perception is how some people can get away with violations while others cannot. The common complaint is that it appears that one person avoids being cited or arrested, while others suffer the consequences. (Remember what I said about image of impropriety?). We can not tolerate that. I can assure everyone that if they break the law, they will be treated equally in accordance with the law. Everyone gets equal treatment regardless of who they are. I have arrested people I’ve known in the past, one who was a very good friend and an ex-officer I worked closely with. I have also arrested informants I was using because they violated the law once again while I was utilizing them. Hopefully the arrest of someone cooperating with authorities will not jeopardize an ongoing case but if it does, we will have to find another way to prove it. That is where my Detective’s investigative skills will shine as they find another way to prove the case. I have been there and done that. That is where I differ from my opponents. I know it can be done because I have done it.

 

If I am presented with a complaint of corruption, it will be fully investigated and a report of the results will be released in accordance with the laws governing internal investigations. I have seen and lived through the devastation that can be caused by corrupt Officers. It takes years to get past the damage even from the cases that are handled appropriately.

 

As I have not been able to review the department policies and procedures, I can only assume there are policies on how to handle citizen complaints. These will be reviewed, updated and strengthened to ensure that each complaint is properly handled. The complainant will always receive a report from me that lets them know whether the complaint was sustained or not. This is how we build trust.

 

This is a tough issue that always evokes strong emotions. Transparency is one of my key issues and I will be transparent. The citizens of Macon County demand it and if we are to have their trust, they will get it.
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Building Leaders in MCSO

This week I am going to address building leaders within the Macon County Sheriff’s Office. My intention will be to train supervisors to be better leaders. As a Chief Petty Officer, I was a deck plate leader. That means that I was the front line between the troops and the Officers. I ensured they were well taken care of. I believe that if a person is happy and secure in their employment, they will give 110% to the organization. When your team is unsure of where they stand with the administration or what is expected of them, they begin to find other places to work. The Macon County Sheriff’s Department is currently down several positions. One big reason is the lack of reasonable pay and benefits. Others leave because of the administration they work for. While I plan to work on the first reason, I completely control the second.

 

I will work very hard at knowing those who work in the organization and their needs. One of those needs will be to seek the leadership training that best suits them for their NEXT position. I will seek the cooperation of outside trainers to host necessary training for my frontline supervisors. One of my opponents has indicated that he will continue the strong relationship with our local college. I worked at that college for the past two plus years and was tasked with coordinating training. During that entire time I rarely saw a deputy from the Macon County Sheriff’s Department participate in what was offered. My question is why? Why would they not participate in training that is in their own backyard. I will change that. I will work with them to attract the training we need. Not only for our supervisors, but for the Deputies.

 

Next I want to address the promotional process. Currently it appears there is no assessment process to determine who is best suited for promotion. This is very detrimental to the members of the department. It also gives the appearance of a strong “good old boy” system where if you are not in with the boss, you don’t get promoted. I will develop an assessment process consisting of testing and interviewing to determine who is best suited to lead. The process will take into account their work ethic and performance. There will be standards that lead to promotion. There will be very little cost, if any involved as it could be developed in house. There is no perfect way to promote. This just appears to be the fairest and most transparent.

 

And finally, I will lead by example. I will not expect anyone to do anything that I wouldn’t do. It is that proven experience based on that tested leadership that those who work for you respect. I will always be honest in my dealings with those who work for me and they will always know where they stand. That is the only way you can have any credibility with those who work for you.
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Efficiency through technology

I think we can improve our efficiency in our ability to serve the citizens of Macon County by the implementation of technology in law enforcement. One area I am interested in exploring is the usage of drones as it relates to Law Enforcement. I believe that this is a relatively inexpensive method that will add immensely to the capabilities of the Macon County Sheriff’s Office. I have been researching this subject and believe that the addition of at least one drone to the MCSO will enable us to better respond to missing persons, escapees, crash scenes and scenes of natural disasters such as land slides. This technology is extremely useful in the mapping of crime scenes for presentation of cases in court.
There are a number of concerns that citizens typically have when law enforcement uses new technology. One of those is the privacy issue. I can assure every citizen of Macon County that I will protect their constitutional rights to privacy. I do not anticipate there would ever be a situation where a drone would be used for any type of surveillance. Any situation that is even close to being questionable would require a warrant issued by the court.
In our area there are large tracts of land that are difficult at best to access. The utilization of drone technology would take the place of large numbers of officers and civilians. In front can easily do the searching of 10 to 20 searchers.
I will bring this forward thinking to the Office of the Sheriff of Macon County. I am leadership tested and experience proven. It is because of my experience that I can bring fresh ideas to better serve the citizens of Macon County making the Sheriff’s department more responsive, efficient and more professional!
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Think outside the box in Drug Enforcement

I was reading with interest one of my candidate’s stand on drug enforcement. I spoke about this in my second post on the issues (see my website cookforsheriff.com and look up issue “out of control drug problem”). There are many facets to this issue and many require extensive experience to solve the problem. You have to be able to know what tools you have to use and be able to think outside the box of the usual plans. However I am glad to see that my opponent does agree with much of what I plan to do. It is apparent that there is a level of inexperience with his plan as there are few details. Not everyone has had the opportunity to make a difference in this very important enforcement issue that I was able to.

 

As I was hoping to release some of what I have been working on later in the campaign, I will begin to be more specific so that you, the voter are better able to make an informed decision. Kind of an “apples to apples” comparison.

 

First, I have already met with the Chief Official in the building inspections division. I asked him what currently can be done with nuisance properties where drugs and other criminal activities take place. The answer I got was expected, but not acceptable as a citizen of this county. There is currently not a process that can force those property owners to take responsibility for their property where criminal activity is taking place.
I have a plan that would entail a team of people consisting of a building inspector, electrical and plumbing inspector as well as a few others being brought to the scene of homes where search warrants are being conducted. Once the scene is secured, they would be brought in to conduct a health and safety inspection of the premises. Any violations found would be sent to the owner of the property who will be given a specified amount of time to correct the deficiencies noted. If the property is in serious disrepair, the property may end up being condemned until repairs are made. It will not take many of these inspections to encourage those who own these nuisance properties to take responsibility. This will enable those who live near these constant sources of activity to live in quiet, peace and safety in their homes.

 

Mr. Bishop stated that in order to accomplish this, a county ordinance would need to be passed to allow this to happen. So, to facilitate this, I have begun working on the framework of a county ordinance to present to the County Commissioners and that will begin the process of allowing this to happen. I want to make sure you know this would be VERY NARROW in scope and would very carefully define when and where this process can be applied. This is not to control property owners whose property is junky or just “not pretty.” That is not a police issue. Crime is.

 

I noted my opponent mentioned he would be looking for grants to help in the rehab programs offered in the jail. I had previously mentioned the need to expand this very important program. Aside from the uncertainty of getting such a grant, most citizens are unaware that even if the Sheriff’s Office is awarded a grant, they must have the county commissioners approval before they can accept it. This is where you the voters can help. We need county commissioners who are just as dedicated to getting the Sheriff’s Office what they need to perform these important functions.

 

This one of several specific plans that I have begun working on and will begin to share in the near future. This is the difference between limited experience and being leadership tested and experience proven.
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Transparency and it's necessity!

A number of my posts have been in reference to transparency. I feel it is important that the citizens of Macon County know what the Department is doing, especially when it comes to interactions with citizens. Equally important is that the citizens have confidence in the department to handle issues when they arise and report the results to those they work for. There are rules regarding personnel matters and they must be followed. However, waiting until it is reported in the news to address it is not in the best interest of the citizens. Every officer who is accused of something is absolutely entitled to an investigation to prove or disprove the allegations. It is necessary to let the public know the details of the issue. Without reporting the results of an investigation within a reasonable amount of time, it has the appearance of impropriety even if the officer is exonerated. The delay in an investigation is detrimental to the officer involved, the department as a whole and the citizens of Macon County. If I am elected Sheriff of Macon County, I pledge to report back the results of an investigation as soon as I am legally able. (Read More)


Technology Efficiency and Cost Savings

As I check into how the Macon County Sheriff’s Department operates, I see much room for improvement.  
 
I was researching how to make an arrest more efficient for a deputy patrolling the outlying areas, particularly the Nantahala/Topton area of Macon County.  I was curious of the processes, so I made contact with a Magistrate.  Currently, according to what I was told, there is no process to speed up arrest procedures to get the Deputy back onto the street in remote areas of the county.   
 
I will change that.  North Carolina has a program that was instituted in 2017 called the Magistrate Video Project (MVP).  Under that project, when an Deputy makes an arrest, he video conferences with the Magistrate for arraignment.  This program was initiated in 2012 and provided software and equipment to allow Deputies to video conference with a Magistrate to discuss probable cause determinations for the issuance of criminal processes, the issuance of search warrants (or at least start the process) and the conducting of first appearance and setting of conditions of release.  
 
Macon County was one of sixty five counties approved for initial use of the MVP.  After speaking with a Magistrate, it appears our county has yet to participate fully.  This program is a time saver for both the Magistrate and the Deputy.  Time saver means money saver for the  citizens of Macon County.  Time saver means the prisoners spend less time handcuffed in the rear of a patrol car.  
 
How does this work? When a Deputy makes an arrest, video technology is utilized to begin the processes much sooner.  Once an arrest is made, contact will be made via video with a Magistrate.  If a search warrant is needed, the magistrate can be provided the information for the probable cause. This allows for the Warrant to be completed, which enables the warrant to be executed much sooner, saving the Deputy time and the citizens of Macon County money.  This would also reduce the necessity of paying deputies overtime, again saving the citizens of Macon county valuable tax dollars.
 
One thing that keeps Macon County from being able to fully utilize this program is a lack of computers in all cars.  This is an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.  There are many areas in this county where communication by radio is spotty.  That is a safety issue.  Each fire station should have a wireless system that is accessible to each officer.  This enables this process to begin once the arrest is made without having to wait until they reach the jail (primarily after hours).  Additionally, if all cars were outfitted with computers then reports could be initiated, completed and sent from their patrol cars, leaving them in their respective patrol areas.  The Sergeant/shift supervisor would approve the report leaving the Deputy to patrol his or her assigned area.  
 
I will not be sticking with status quo.  That process has failed the citizens of Macon County.  This is one of many very specific plans and while this plan may not be perfect, it is a great starting place.  It is something more than “we will be tough on….”  or continuing the same old processes that have left much room for improvement.  
 
This will be beneficial to the citizens of Macon County because it will enable a quicker transition back into service for the Deputy enabling him or her to be back on patrol in these underserved areas.  
 
I am working on solutions.  Solutions are the result of being leadership tested….experience proven.
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