A candidate and incumbent for Troup County Sheriff spoke to the Troup County republicans Tuesday, telling the group why they were suited for the office.
Sheriff Donny Turner, who has served since 1993, started by breaking down the duties of the sheriff’s office, which includes security and transport for courts, serving civil papers, inmate transfers, and patrol and investigation units. He said the jail, which his office oversees, “is an issue.”
Dealing with inmates that cause damage to the facility, cost of housing and feeding inmates, and overcrowding are some of the biggest problems. At the jail over the last four years there were more than 72,000 bookings into the jail, about twice the population of LaGrange, Turner said. The jail is built to handle 240 people, but averages more than twice that.
“My lowest day was in 2001, I had 306 inmates,” he said. “My worst day was in 2008, I had 490 people … When you get crowded and have that many people crammed into that space, in each other’s face, it gets hard to handle the people down there.”
Turner said many improvement have been made to the jail and sheriff’s office that don’t cost tax payers. Drug money, federal and state programs, and consignment from inmate purchases help offset the costs.
Candidate Danny Harrington said he decided to run for office in 2009, not because he was interested in politics, but because he was concerned with the direction the country is headed. A former Army Ranger, he served nine years until he was sidelined by an injury, then became a drill sergeant and earned several honors.
His experience as a drill sergeant gave him leadership skills that he feels makes him a candidate that will be able to lead the sheriff’s department and set an example in the community. He said the sheriff’s office currently is not involved in the community as much as it should be and he would make sure deputies and he were out meeting people and talking to people in the areas they patrol.
The first duty of a sheriff should be to uphold the Constitution, Harrington said. Although he has no law enforcement experience, he felt his military record, competitive nature and leadership skills give him the experience needed.
“I will lead by example and treat people fair,” Harrington said. “That’s all people want to do, is treat people fair. My dad was a deputy (and) he treated everybody fair.”
Fielding questions from attendees, both candidates said they support the right to bear arms and gun safety. Turner said the sheriff’s office has a gun range to train people about guns. Harrington said he would setup a program to teach people about weapons at home.
Regarding the powers of a sheriff, Harrington said it is about defending the Constitution and said people need to know their rights. Turner agreed that his duty is to uphold the Constitution and uphold the rights of people, and if the sheriff doesn’t, he can violate someone’s civil rights, which in turn can cost the county in lawsuits.
Comparing the role of the sheriff to federal authorities, Turner said the sheriff’s office has worked with federal authorities in the past, and as long as they both follow the law, there is no problem, but the federal authorities don’t “roll over” his authority in the county’s jurisdiction. Harrington said federal agencies have no jurisdiction over the county and said law enforcement should be less like a business depending on state and federal funding, and get back to basics of serving and protecting.