Scott Co. sheriff adds 24-hour patrols

Saturday, January 15, 2005

BENTON, Mo. -- Only two weeks into a new job, Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter has added 24-hour patrols, which Scott County has not had before, and kept a campaign promise by keeping most of the employees who worked for his predecessor, Bill Ferrell.

Before Walter took office, patrols ended at 2 a.m., he said. If someone called needing assistance, the dispatcher had to call a deputy at home and get him out of bed, which meant a considerable lag time in responding to calls, Walter said.

"For the first time ever, Scott County has 24-hour coverage where a deputy is out patrolling answering calls," he said.

Walter said he was able to provide the expanded coverage by changing deputies' work schedules. He did not have to hire additional people, he said.

"It works out well for the deputies; they're on 12-hour shifts," Walter said. "It gives them more days off, and they're able to be more productive on each shift."

Walter said having 12-hour shifts saves the county in overtime costs. By having deputies out patrolling around the clock, he said, they will also generate more calls by being out and observing possible illegal activities and being able to respond more quickly.

The only personnel changes he made, he said, were to hire a chief deputy, Thomas Beardslee, and an office manager.

"Everybody else who worked here is still here," he said. "I interviewed everybody, and everybody was given the opportunity to tell me if they wanted to work or not. Everybody seemed to look forward to it."

Walter said that Beardslee had worked with the sheriff's department before. Beardslee also is an instructor at the law enforcement academy at Southeast Missouri State University.

"I got a real good find when I got him," Walter said. "He has a wealth of knowledge."

Residents in Scott County have expressed concern over incidences of underage drinking. In particular, last July, when Chad Chaney of Scott City was stabbed to death in the Red Gate area, Scott County residents complained that there were no patrols to prevent young people from gathering and drinking illegally.

Walter said one way he will address that is to issue deputy powers to Scott City police chief Don Cobb so he can make arrests in similar situations. The Red Gate area is just outside the Scott City limits, and Cobb's proximity to it will enable him to help Walter keep an eye on potentially dangerous situations. Walter said he also plans to issue deputy commissions to the police chiefs in Chaffee and Sikeston so they can respond quickly to incidents just outside their jurisdictions.

Other changes Walter made include a new look for the department. He is changing the logo on the patrol cars and expects to have deputies in new uniforms by March, he said.

335-6611, extension 160

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