Blount County Sheriff's Office
First I would like to thank the ladies and gentlemen of the commission for allowing me the opportunity to speak before the commission tonight.
My name is Patrick England, and I am a citizen of Blount County.
I stand before you tonight a humble man who has always held great pride in how I serve the community as a Deputy with the Blount County Sheriff's Office.
I began my career at the Blount County Sheriff's Office in 1993 as a correction officer. In 1994 I was transferred to the Patrol division as a Deputy Sheriff. In 1995, I was assigned to the School Division as one of the first two SRO's established in Blount County and was assigned to William Blount High School. In 1999, I was promoted to Sergeant over the School Division and cross-trained as evening shift sergeant for patrol.
In 2001 I was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Division as a Sergeant. In 2004, I was promoted to Lieutenant.
I am here tonight to share many concerns that I, along with many deputies at the Blount County Sheriff's Office, have. These concerns came to a head just this past week when the Sheriff conducted a mandatory departmental-wide meeting required by CALEA accreditation. During this meeting it became evident that the Number 1 concern voiced by Sheriff's office employees centered on wages and unnecessary dangers caused by manpower shortages. The concerns were echoed by many deputies, and it became evident that this meeting was the first of its kind in nearly 14 years of service.
These deputies carry many scars bestowed upon them by this profession. Some physical and some emotional. I can tell you tonight that the emotional scars are much harder to deal with than the physical ones.
I pose the following questions to you:
Have you ever responded to an accident where a three-year-old little boy had been just run over by a vehicle as he chased his cat across the roadway? Watched his mother hold him in her arms and beg and scream for you to help? Knowing deep inside you that there was nothing that you could do.
Have you ever investigated a death scene where your training and experiences were the determining factors in revealing that the husband had murdered his wife inside their home, moved her body to a detached garage and attempted to stage her death as a suicide by hanging her from a rope?
Have you ever responded to a stolen vehicle call and, while you were investigating the call, the subject ran into a dark room and began reaching into a closet? All of a sudden, when his hands appeared, there was a gun. He looked into your eyes, trying to decide exactly what he was going to do next when he realized that you had already retrieved your duty weapon in self defense. You watched as he turned the gun upon himself and committed suicide just feet away from you.
Have you ever walked in from work and had your children ask, "How did work go, daddy?" Not wanting to, but you had to tell them that little white lie because, if you did not, they would be afraid to go to sleep at night. So that they would not worry if daddy was going to come home from work even though he has promised them a thousand times before.
I am here tonight to let you know that I have.
These emotional struggles that deputies deal with daily only become compounded when they feel that they do not have the support of their peers, employers, and, in this case, the commission.
We are dealing with these kinds of cases and we watch as officers just across the street make as much as $25,000 more per year.
Deputies at the Blount County Sheriff's office strive for a community where our children and grandchildren can walk the streets without heinous crimes.
Not having a Meth problem doesn't come by chance. Not having kidnappings and murders, like what happened in Knoxville just weeks ago, are not strokes of luck. Its proactive policing at its best.
The Blount County Sheriff's Office and its employees strive for excellence, but when you have employees who are eligible for food stamps and governmental assistance, I ask you, "Is that fair?"
Losing 35 employees in the past six months, is that not enough?
Would it not be more prudent to pay these officers a competitive wage so that they could continue serving the citizens of Blount County? Instead of paying monies that could be used for salaries, we are using these monies to train officers.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I do not have the answers tonight, but I can express the concerns of the men and women of the Blount County Sheriff's office. Let's not have a knee-jerk reaction the first time we have an innocent officer killed in the line of duty. Because the decisions made today might be the only thing that protects us from that civil liability tomorrow.
I am Patrick England, and I thank you for your time and attention.