Sheriff J.B. King
Welcome aboard to column 32 for the year 2011. It does seem hard to believe the number is that high already, but yes it is, so hopefully you will enjoy this column. Our calls for service count stands at 6,939 as of 10:39 a.m. on Aug. 6. The inmate count at that same time is 68 which is a drop of several over the past week. I do know that on Friday we sent four inmates to the Department of Corrections to begin serving a sentence.
That is one of the very few things I know about this past week because I was not here. I was in Joplin for the annual Missouri Sheriff’s Association (MSA) summer training session. As I have stated before in this column, under current Missouri law, the sheriff of each county is required to take 20 hours of classroom study each year that is sponsored by the MSA and aimed at the improvement of the office of sheriff. Failure to take this training will result in the county clerk withholding $2,000 from a sheriff's yearly paycheck, so off to class we go and pay attention or else.
The classes started on Sunday, July 31 at 9 a.m. in Joplin. I did not get in on the very start because I was still here Sunday morning doing our sheriff’s employee payroll for submission to the county clerk. I barely made it to Joplin in time for the 2 p.m. opening of the vendor show, and the vendor show is a very important piece of work for us. It is our chance to see the latest equipment or view the newest software services that can help the department. As I walked around and chatted with the vendors this time, I was struck by the fact that over the past six years we have done business with quite a few of the vendors who were at the show. Many of these folks are on a first-name basis with a lot of sheriffs. This first-name basis sure does help to remove problems that have cropped up in the past.
We then moved onto the actual classes for this session. We had the usual legal update on the new Missouri laws that will go into effect on Aug. 28. We had a two hour class that was supposed to help us understand and work with our troubled deputies as they face their personal problems. When that class first started I wanted to shoot the guy who selected the idiot teaching the class for punishing us with his story. Well, you just never know folks, because by the time the “idiot” finished the class the assembled sheriffs, me included, came very close to a standing ovation for his efforts. It was an outstanding teaching effort on his part.
Then we had another three-hour class on Middle Eastern culture and the radical Muslin elements of the world. This was another outstanding class and we requested her back for the winter conference for a full day-and-a-half worth of the same topic. The speaker for this class clearly had her ducks lined up and quacking in unison. We learned quite a bit from her, and as I said, we wanted more training on this topic.
We had a series of training classes on jail problems and another class that was right on target with a problem that I wrote about a few columns ago concerning our 96-hour mental health commitments. I suspect this one class was worth all of the training funds I used up to attend this conference. We will be able to solve some local problems because of this class. When I look at all of the facts, I have to conclude that the overall training session was a success, and I am happy to say that I do have my 20 hours of required training for 2011.
The other major topic for me today is the city of Joplin. Photographs of the tornado damage did not do the scene justice. The Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office sent about 10 volunteer deputies to Joplin in the aftermath of the tornado. Most of the deputies did routine service such as checkpoints and traffic control. However, a couple of our deputies who had special skill sets were sent to the temporary morgue to assist with the identification of the bodies. I believe that I can say these deputies had a very emotional tour of duty. They also did very well at this morgue job because they were requested by name to return a second time for several more days of duty, and they did return to Joplin. I think I can also say they are very happy to be out of that job now that the disaster situation has cleared up.
A few weeks after the tornado, a friend sent me a photo spread that had run in a newspaper in the United Kingdom. This photo spread showed a field of destruction that was one mile wide and six miles long. I was impressed by this photo spread. Rather, I had been impressed by this photo spread until I received a one-on-one special tour of the Joplin damage from an old college friend who lives in Joplin. It was mile after mile of destruction that frankly reminded me of the photographs I had seen of the atomic bomb strikes on the Japanese cities that ended the Second World War -- flat schools, flat business structures, and even flatter homes with a few brick walls and short chimneys still standing here and there.
In the case of Joplin, seeing is believing and you are still almost in disbelief of the destruction even as you watch it roll by your car window, but it is also quite plain that the cleanup effort is in high gear and we saw new roofs and walls being put into place here and there among the huge piles of rubble. The road to recovery has started but they do have a long way to go.
Once again, it is time to close out for today. Please drive with care and please keep your actions legal. We do not need the wrecks or your body in our jail, but as you well know by now, we will leave the bright jail light bulb on just for you.
Click here to follow Pulaski County Daily News on Twitter
Click here to follow Pulaski County Daily News on Facebook
Click here for comments and local opinion