An Opinion: No Support for Sheriff…Again

Another Columbia County public safety levy has failed, this time with a lowly 39% voter turnout. “Get a gun,” is the answer that echoes from the very bottom of the intellect barrel. This is nothing more than a short-sighted remedy, mostly from angry Face Book trolls who waste hours of their lives posting tough-talk rhetoric with gun graphics depicting these grand scenarios of just exactly what could happen if thieves dared enter their home.

Frankly, this is a tired, ill-witted response based on pure ignorance. I own a gun — actually a few of them — and yet this still doesn’t make me a crime fighter or you either. If owning a gun is a substitute for a competent sheriff’s department, then owning a garden hose is a substitute for the local fire department. It’s no secret that criminals who break into homes also have guns that are just as powerful as the gun the home owner carries.  Perhaps at that point, it just might not be a bad idea to have a few of those deputies they insist on not supporting, respond to their calls while they attempt to defend themselves? 

Although guns are a great first defense, they are not a logical substitute for a sheriff’s department. Your gun can’t patrol our highways and back roads arresting drunk drivers who threaten the safety of you or your family members. Your gun cannot respond to a domestic dispute when a young mother is being beaten mercilessly in full view of her young children.  Your gun cannot serve papers to the shady contractor who gladly took your hard earned money, yet never finished the job. And most importantly here, your gun cannot properly maintain order in a jail filled with women beaters, arsonists, pedophiles, thieves, and other dangerous criminals. Even our early settlers — who all carried guns – in the old west certainly understood this. That’s why they hired professional sheriffs to serve them because they were too busy running their ranches and providing for their families.

Have we really lost our sense of community? While we enjoy an educated, even-tempered sheriff who has served us well by providing an effective, squeaky clean sheriff’s office, free of corruption; perhaps we do not trust him when he asks for the funds that are sorely needed. Each time he’s come to us with hat in hand asking us to support a public safety levy we have flatly turned him down. And each time over the past five years, he’s gone right back to work doing the best he can, but now the game has come to an end.

Stretching a buck is not easy to do, I get that, we all must do it; but we all aren’t housing and feeding criminals and filling patrol cars with fuel every day. Sheriff Jeff Dickerson has been more than gracious about this, scrambling to make ends meet until the situation has now become bleak. Crime within a community reflects its livability, social environment and even property values. I doubt voters don’t trust the sheriff when he lays things out; after all he’s been elected twice. My fear is — judging from the recent voter turnout — people have grown apathetic, and that’s a disturbing situation.

I do accept the argument that many folks cannot afford a tax hike and this opens up another issue: jobs. Just how many jobs have our elected commissioners helped usher into this county lately? That’s an argument for another day. Besides, by now releasing criminals back into the county without serving their time, it doesn’t exactly invite decent companies here who are looking to expand. Being a property owner within a community does come with responsibilities and we have repeatedly ditched those responsibilities. Looking around the United States we see governments failing, towns and counties falling into bankruptcy and crime steadily seeping into places we once thought were safe and livable. Sadly, that day is not too far off in Columbia County.

It’s too late for this levy, I realize, but I am appealing to you, the intelligent, reasonable, respectable and hardworking citizen just to think about the bed we’ve now made. Am I the only one who wants Columbia County to remain a great place to live and perhaps even grow into something better? Am I the only one that has a vision for a community where good paying jobs complement our natural, green surroundings? We have an opportunity to surpass other communities and draw businesses here; good businesses with good jobs! But sadly, without a decent sheriff’s office, we invite lawlessness that will eventually destroy everything that is livable here.