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Wednesday, October 31,2012

Sheriff Kelly has greatly improved performance of office

By Robert J. Shostak and Michael M. Hollingsworth

Based upon the progressive, effective changes instituted by Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly, he deserves to be re-elected. Sensing this was true, we conducted our own inquiry for confirmation. We discovered the sheriff had used a multi-faceted approach to develop a more efficient and effective crime-fighting force. This is what we learned:

• Personnel: After taking office, Sheriff Kelly assessed the strong points of his personnel and reassigned his deputies, detectives and officers based on their strengths.  As a result, the department is much more efficient and effective, particularly in fighting crime. Also, Sheriff Kelly has carefully selected new recruits. Several of the department's new deputies we have met are college educated and clearly in excellent physical condition. The department now utilizes reserve deputies and Explorers (those interested in a law enforcement career) to augment the efforts of full-time personnel.

• Training: No doubt based in part upon his 2005 experiences in Iraq when he helped write the training manual for Iraqi law enforcement, Sheriff Kelly instituted a training program for the department's deputies, detectives and officers, mandating far more periodic training than is required by the state of Ohio. This has paid enormous dividends.

Technology: Old "state-of-the-art" computers that never had been installed and had become obsolete were sold or discarded. Following purchases of up-to-date computer equipment and training of personnel in its uses, the department now is in the 21st Century. All cruisers are online. For example, deputies can scan license-plate numbers without making radio calls, and receive information on the vehicle and owner electronically in their cruisers almost instantly. Moreover, a deputy does not have to come in to the office to receive and send messages. That is done in the cruiser. Any citizen who wishes to communicate with a deputy, detective or officer can send an email. The addresses are available on the department's website. Having done so, we know responses are surprisingly fast. 

Major Crime: Murders have been increasing. All murders committed during the sheriff's term have been solved except for one. That investigation continues actively. We understand this is a significant improvement. With ever-increasing amounts of heroin and prescription drugs entering Athens County, the department's efforts to counter these trends have had notable successes. A major pipeline for prescription drugs was busted. The Ohio RICO Act ("Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act") has been used successfully in at least four drug prosecutions. The department has focused effectively on child molestation, domestic violence and kidnappings. All of the bank robberies within the department's jurisdiction, which includes unincorporated Athens County and any village that does not have a police force, were solved. There have been numerous armed robberies in the department's jurisdiction. All have been solved.

Environmental: One of our attorneys lives on a remote gravel township road that had been a notorious dumping ground for trash and other refuse — by the truckloads. Sheriff Kelly instituted a program to stop dumping and clean up the county, with great success.   Many questioned the sheriff's re-hiring of a former deputy to head up this effort while the young man got his life back on track. No one can question, however, the dedication and professionalism the young man brought to this job or his fantastic results. That this young man thereafter was hired as the police chief of Glouster and now is the investigator for the Athens County Prosecutor's Office attests to the sheriff's good judgment in his selection. 

Community Outreach: Sheriff Kelly is an avid user of Facebook and Twitter in order to communicate with Athens County citizens and keep them up to date regarding developments in law enforcement and his department. This was featured in Diane Sawyer's network television special on innovative uses of Facebook. Sheriff Kelly was one of only a few who had pioneered this advancement in law enforcement communications. After the special aired, the sheriff received calls from throughout the nation. As a result, many law-enforcement agencies coast to coast converse with their citizens through social media. Sheriff Kelly has encouraged citizen action programs such as Community Watch to utilize citizen assistance in solving crime. Patterned after similar programs across the nation, Sheriff Kelly also instituted a course to build a social network within Athens County for citizen education about law enforcement and to assist in fighting crime. The Citizens Academy allows Athens County residents to receive, at no cost to the participants, training and orientation, including riding with deputies in cruisers to witness firsthand the challenges the department faces. The social network established between the Athens County citizenry and the department's deputies, detectives and officers is a major plus – a relatively inexpensive, creative way to boost the effectiveness of the department in fighting crime and building camaraderie with Athens County citizens.  Finally, Sheriff Kelly has reached out to seniors in the community with his S.A.L.T. program.

When it comes to fighting crime, all citizens want a tough, effective sheriff. There is no question with his military service as a Marine and years of law-enforcement experience, Pat Kelly is tough. Just as importantly, Sheriff Kelly is progressive. That is what Athens County needs — a tough, progressive sheriff for the future. Re-elect Sheriff Pat Kelly.

Local lawyers Robert J. Shostak and Michael M. Hollingsworth are partners in Shostak & Hollingsworth Co., LPA, with offices at 8 N. Court Street in Athens.


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