December 21, 2012

Incoming sheriff plans for future, already making changes

James Bright, Managing Editor,
The Express-Star

GRADY COUNTY — With the coming of the new year Grady County will see a new sheriff come to power in Jim Weir.

Current sheriff, Art Kell will be replaced by Weir Jan. 2, but Weir isn't waiting until he takes office to make changes. He said he has several plans in the works, one of which brings a canine unity back to Grady County.

"We will have one deputy sworn in the day I take office that will help with the canine unit," he said.

Weir said he also plans to add deputies whose responsibilities will be to some of the smaller towns in the county.

"We are bringing back a Bridge Creek resource officer to head over to the school and a deputy that will flow between smaller towns like Pocasset," he said.

Weir said he also plans on working closely with District Attorney Jason Hicks and his task force to combat drug problems on State Highway 81.

"I think relationships between law enforcement agencies in the county will get a lot better when he (Weir) takes office," Hicks said. "Some of the people he plans to bring in as deputies have a lot of experience."

As is the case with all changes, some of Weirs decisions have received criticism from Kell and members of his administration. Weir interviewed all of the current employees of the Grady County sheriff's office earlier this month and Kell said Weir sent out letters to five of the deputies letting them go last week.

"I just don't understand why he did that now," Kell said. "Morale is so low."

Weir said he spoke with several public officials about when to break the new to those he let go and they all unanimously agreed that letting them know prior to taking office was correct decision.

"They all told them to let them know before hand," Weir said. "That way they have two or three weeks to get their ducks in a row. I went solely off of the advice of other elected officials."

Weir has also instituted a new policy stating that those employed by the sheriff's department must live no further than five miles away. This policy affects two deputies currently employed with the department, but the employees are not grandfathered in to current policies setup by Kell.

"From a general perspective, when a new sheriff comes in, as soon as he walks in the door his policies are adopted," Hicks said. "He has full authority to do what he wants as long as he adheres to state statutes I think from a shear legal standpoint he is well within his authority to adopt that standard."

Weir said his reasons for instituting this policy is simply to further increase the security in Grady County.

"We have plenty of people in our county that are CLEET certified," Weir said. "If there is a big emergency then in 20 to 30 minutes we can mobilize most of the staff.  With that in mind, I couldn't in good conscious keep those living far out."

Weir said he plans to tackle the burglaries issues that are still prevalent in Grady County.

"We plan to go back and reinvestigate some of these cases," he said.

The DA's office plans to be involved in this process according to Hicks.

"We have spent some time talking about burglaries and it's something we plan to put a stop to," he said.

Weir will take office in January.