After a year and a half on the job as Grayson County Sheriff, Norman Chaffins recently looked back at some accomplishments he and his office have made and at some goals yet to be reached.
“I believe in setting goals and I had a lot of them when I took office,” Chaffins said. “Even if you don’t reach those goals, you still have something to strive for.”
Manpower has been a big challenge for the sheriff.
“I feel the more deputies you have, the better you can serve the community,” he said.
But the reality of the situation is that his office must stay within the budget the county sets out for him and he cannot just go out and hire a bunch of new deputies.
His goal entering office was to have 13 deputies, which would allow for two deputies on every shift. Chaffins currently has nine deputies, one of which will be retiring at the end of this month and a couple of others who are talking about retiring within the next few months.
Chaffins would also like to send some of his deputies to the police academy for training, but that is a six-month program which would further stretch his already short staff.
Chaffins said one of the accomplishments he is most proud of is the reduction of outstanding warrants and summonses he was faced with when he entered the office. He said there were 350-400 outstanding warrants and criminal summonses on the wall when he arrived and he would see that wall every day passing through the office.
He began advertising the names of people on those papers and members of the community have begun letting the sheriff know where some of these people are. Some of those people with papers to be served have even turned themselves in.
In addition, Chaffins hired former city policeman Don Burkhead to do nothing but serve papers. Through Burkhead’s efforts and the advertising of names, the SO had been able to reduce the number of outstanding papers by half.
“The result is that three or four times a week, deputies don’t have to go out trying to serve papers,” Chaffins said. “That frees them up to do other tasks in the community, saves gasoline and helps with officer safety.”
Transparency has been an issue Chaffins feels he has addressed, keeping the workings of his office open to public scrutiny. To that end, he has worked with Neighborhood Watch programs and has begun a new program of community Town Hall Meetings in which his office will address the needs of the different communities in the county.
The first such Town Hall Meeting was held in Caneyville last month with a fine turnout of some 45 citizens attending.
“We have done extra patrols there the past month and made some arrests, did some traffic stops and had a couple of DUIs,” Chaffins said.
The next such meeting will take place this coming Thursday in Millwood and his office will be focusing on any problems the citizens there might be facing.
Chaffins said one of his goals for this coming tax season will be the implementation of a mobile tax service where tax payers will not have to make the trip into the office to pay their tax bill. The sheriff hopes to set up a schedule in which tax payers can go to location in the county near them to pay their bills.
Another problem he hopes to improve is the low pay some of his road deputies face. Workers at fast-food restaurants often make more than his deputies make and the deputies are putting their lives on the line every day.
Chaffins has arranged for his deputies to be eligible for Federal Overtime Pay, is working to increase their benefit package, and has also implemented a physical fitness incentive program. For officers making a certain point value on their physical fitness test, they will receive a week’s paid vacation.
Another project Chaffins is hoping to get going while he is in office is a Citizen’s Police Academy. For members of the community who have an interest in learning exactly what deputies go through, the academy would put them through various scenarios in the role of law-enforcement officers as they make traffic stops, break up fights, or confront other situations those officers face every day.
Chaffins said it has been an up-and-down year and a half, with the low point being the shooting death of a Grayson County man last year.
“That’s something I think about every day and probably will for the rest of my life,” he said. Chaffins said he has received a lot of support from the community and said he stays in touch with the victim’s family.
“I feel pretty good about my first year in office an I hope the community feels the same way.”
Reach Don Brown at 270-259-9622, ext. 2016.