Oktibbeha County Sheriff Steve Gladney was the keynote speaker at the Starkville Rotary Club meeting Monday, where he gave a report on the state of his department during the first 11 months of his term.
He highlighted several successes under his administration, such as Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department becoming one of only four county law enforcement agencies in the state to earn accreditation from the Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission in November.
OCSD has also obtained several grants — mostly from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety — to purchase equipment such as bulletproof vests handheld breath alcohol testers and to have more manpower on hand to enforce seat belt and DUI laws during football game day weekends.
With the seat belt grant, also referred to as an Occupant Protection Grant, OCSD was awarded $12,182. The DUI enforcement grant awarded the department $23,273, $15,000 of which was used to pay overtime.
“What that does is allows me on these busy football weekends is I can go in and pay a guy overtime or pay a guy on his days off to come in and work,” Gladney said. “Most of the ball games at home this year I’ve had at least eight deputies out. One of them we had 10 out. I don’t know what I would have done if we didn’t have those grants to be able to do that.”
Gladney noted that OCSD has made 187 DUI arrests through the month of November with the help of extra enforcement.
The costs of the 22 new vests were in excess of $17,000, but the grant pays for half, while the other half is paid for by previously forfeited funds seized by OCSD.
“I’m as proud of that as probably about anything we’ve been able to do,” Gladney said. “One of the big concerns for me back when I first became Sheriff … was the bulletproof vests. We had some that were old and outdated and that really bothered me. If I send these guys on these calls and something happens to them it bothers me (even) if I give them the best equipment they’ve got.”
Gladney also discussed the county’s R.U.O.K.? system, which is a telephone reassurance program geared toward the elderly and physically limited in which deputies call people who are signed up seven days a week.
“We call every one of them every morning … up to three times. If we don’t get an answer after the third time … We send a deputy out to check on them,” he said. “We’ve got about 75 people in that program now.”
Another program OCSD offers to residents is a security check for people who have plans to leave their homes for an extended period of time and want to ensure monitoring of the area during their absence. All residents have to do is fill out a form at the Sheriff’s office, he said, and OCSD did approximately 100 such checks in November.
“We’ll send a deputy by every day while you’re gone. We’ll check your home and then when you get back home we’ll send a letter to you with the times we came by and checked your house,” he said. “Then at least if something happened, we’ll have a timeline to go on.”
Also discussed was the county’s purchase of 15 new patrol cars out of OCSD’s budget to replenish an aging fleet. The department will make four annual payments of $102,097.18 for the cars, which cost $26,347 individually. Each vehicle has a five-year $100,000 warranty.
“Most if not all of those cars were well over 200,000 miles on them, some of them had a quarter of a million or more on them,” he said.
“Every time I turned around I was putting transmissions in or air conditioners. We were able to get 15 new ones and we’ll be able to sell these 20 old ones and offset that cost some and get our fleet back in really good shape. To me, when you get that many miles on something it’s a safety issue.”
He mentioned that in the first 11 months of his term, OCSD averages 471 response calls per month and had a total of 5,187 calls through November.
“I was told back in 1996 or (199)7 the sheriff’s department went to four shifts and they were averaging 80 calls a month. We’re still at four shifts (with) four people to a shift and 12-hour shifts and we’re averaging 471 calls. The month of September we answered … 631. That was right in the middle of football season, so a lot of that was because of that, but those guys answer a lot of calls,” Gladney said.