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“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt
As with all entities, law enforcement saw its share of struggles due to the pandemic, and unprecedented anti-police sentiment across the nation.
COVID restrictions, quarantine regulations, slow moving judicial processes, limited inmate housing, nationwide protests, calls to dismantle police agencies, and nationwide police reform created a storm of adversity to be reckoned with.
“Despite all of that, our community rallied behind our local agencies, showering us with support,” said Sheriff Lonnie Hodges.
The Metcalfe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), which never closed its doors in the thick of the pandemic, was able to thrive amongst the challenges.
“We added two vehicles to the fleet, sold two used vehicles with over 200,000 miles, and upgraded our technology for a more seamless and efficient operation to serve the county,” Hodges said.
Although manpower is not ideal he has seen to it that there are two deputies out in the field at a time, increasing visibility in problematic areas of the county, and patrolling the community for safeguard.
“It would take a minimum of 8 deputies to have 24/7 coverage. We only have 4, but we have extended our patrol hours to cover 18 to 20 hours/7 days,” Hodges said.
In the way of technology, great strides have been made.
Most significantly, the MCSO partnered with Metcalfe County Schools to acquire new Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) for each of the deputy’s patrol vehicles.
“This project was two years in the making, and was a huge hurdle,” Hodges said.
The acquisition and implementation of the MDTs allow deputies to spend more time out of the office and in the field, something Hodges feels strongly about.
Another obstacle that’s been navigated is creating and meticulously maintaining an evidence room.
When Hodges was first employed, the existence of an evidence room is all but nil.
“We have spent many months getting our evidence room operational and where it needs to be,” he said. “It is very important for our operation, and Judge Stilts and Fiscal Court have been instrumental in accommodating our need for the evidence room.”
Another important improvement made possible thanks to the gracious support of Stilts and the magistrates, was the addition of work stations for patrol deputies in their own patrol room inside the government building.
In order to comply with mandates of recent legislation, and to further streamline functionality, Hodges also completed a Policy Manual for the MCSO that is compliant with OSHA, KLEC, and KACO.
Also in 2020, the Trump administration passed National Police Reform mandates, and those mandates have been implemented as policy.
One of the regrets Hodges has about 2020 was that they were unable to attend scheduled tactical firearms training sessions for every deputy because they were canceled due to COVID, but he hopes they get to do so in the near future.
In 2021, Hodges plans to keep the progress moving forward.
The office area used for vehicle inspections and tax collections will be upgraded to more modern workstations. Another goal is to upgrade the tax collection software to be more compatible with the PVA office.
“This will enable online and credit card pay. We plan to add a secure drop box at the county building, as well as upgrade the tax clerk’s work stations. Their current desktops are over 10 years old. This is going to a massive undertaking,” said Hodges.
Another 2021 improvement will be barcode scanning software for evidence. Not only will the evidence secure, but it will be tracked and recorded.
Although the hours are grueling, and the work is endless, the job is not without reward for Hodges.
“Watching this group of deputies and office staff grow together as a team has been one of the most rewarding parts of the job.”