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Hoping jail closure preparations are for naught

Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson contributes a weekly informational article about Sheriff's Office and Columbia County Jail activities


As sheriff, I truly hope that all the preparations we have been making to close our jail will not be needed. This exercise has truly been a painful, humbling experience for me and the dedicated staff in our jail.

Though it is only one aspect of the job, it remains a very important tool for solving local criminal justice problems that occur daily in our county. If and when we send the last inmate out of our facility, it will be a sad day for me, and one that I never pictured for our county when I first decided to run for office in 2007.

Being in law enforcement for over 25 years and seeing the terrible things people can sometimes do to others, I have always believed that I was a member of the “thin blue line” that stood between civilized society and those who lived in defiance of society’s norms.

I still believe, as did Sir Robert Peel in 1829, that “the police are the public and the public are the police; the police are the only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the intent of the community welfare.”

In other words, I have always believed the vast majority of people are on our side and are pulling for us to succeed on their behalf.

I still believe that is true, but it leaves me wondering just where we have gone wrong in communication or actions that have caused too many good citizens to not value the concept of having a lockup to hold those who defiantly break our laws and threaten the public peace.

I do understand there is a tremendous distrust of government, and that law enforcement has not always lived up to the lofty ideal rightfully expected of us. I know also, though, that people still dial 911 and are glad when we respond to the call — and that there is a certain amount of frustration out there — particularly with a severely diminished Sheriff’s Office — when we don’t show up soon enough for the liking of some.

We’ve all heard the saying, “There’s never a cop around when you need one.” I hope we’re not all saying soon that, “there’s never a jail around when you need one, either.”

Jeff Dickerson is the Columbia County sheriff. He writes a weekly informational article Sheriff’s Office and Columbia County Jail operations.