Angela Ayers stood in the gathering hall of St. Luke United Methodist Church Monday night, watching men spar for her boss’s job.
“I just wanted to see what each one of them had to say; what their vision for the department is,” said Ayers, administrative assistant to Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm.
Three of the four candidates vying for Boehm’s job — former Columbia Police Department Capt. Mick Covington, former Sheriff’s Detective Ken Kreigh and Maj. O.J. Stone of the sheriff’s department — met with about 30 area residents to discuss platform ideas, judicial issues within the county and diversity problems in the department. Capt. Dwayne Carey, the fourth candidate, did not attend the forum, but sent Sheriff’s Detective Mike Stubbs to speak on his behalf.
Carey received Boehm’s endorsement on Sunday, and Stubbs said the candidate also had the support of Boone County officials.
“Dwayne is the one candidate who has the backing of a big percentage of the county office holders,” Stubbs said. “He has their trust, their respect, and will be able to work with them.”
Covington, the lone Republican on the ticket, said his professional experience in both the public and private sectors gave him an appreciation for the citizens, whom he called customers of the department. Covington’s platform focuses on diversity problems within the department, child abuse, road safety, domestic violence, methamphetamine production and traffic.
Kreigh, a former supervisor of the drug enforcement unit, said establishing a stronger connection with the residents of Boone County would be beneficial to the department.
“You citizens living out in the community know what’s going on more than the police do,” Kreigh said.
Alternative methods to incarceration and community policing could help solve problems within the department, Kreigh said. He emphasized a need for a more businesslike approach to the department.
Stone, Boehm’s second in command, said he hoped to continue efforts to introduce officers into the community and also install a citizens advisory board.
“We need to open up the department much more so as to make the community understand what’s going on,” Stone said.
Community members at the forum voiced frustrations with the department’s problem of recruiting and retaining minority employees.
Bill Thompson, vice president of the Frederick Douglass Coalition, said problems with race relations extended beyond the department.”It would be hard for me to be a black sheriff’s deputy and work in northern Boone County because they don’t want you there,” Thompson said.