Methamphetamine labs, community policing and crowding at the Boone County Jail were among the top issues discussed by the two candidates for Boone County Sheriff at a forum Monday night.
While both candidates have similar concerns about these topics, they differed about the extent of change needed in the sheriff’s department.
Democrat Dwayne Carey, a captain in the sheriff’s department who has been endorsed by outgoing Sheriff Ted Boehm, said that the department has performed well and that he doesn’t want to make major changes.
Republican Mick Covington, a former Columbia Police Department captain who is a director of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association Training Academy, advocated new policies, however.
Carey said that the battle against methamphetamine production might never be won but that the sheriff’s office is on the right track in battling it. He said increased communication with sheriffs in surrounding counties and with the Columbia Police Department, along with new grant money from the state, has improved the department’s campaign against meth.
“The big thing with meth, like crack cocaine or any other controlled substance, is that we will do battle,” he said. “We will probably never win, but we have to start communicating with other agencies, which I think we have done.”
Covington agreed that communication is a key to fighting meth, but he said technology must be reformed to improve those efforts.
“One of the main problems of our police agencies is an unwillingness to share information,” he said.
He said part of the problem is that there’s no central computer system that allows agencies to access information from each other.
“I feel that is not right, I think that’s a disservice to the community and something that needs to be fixed,” he said.
Covington also advocated the use of citizen “reserve officers,” who would be commissioned and have the power to make arrests, to increase community involvement with the department.
Carey, however, questioned the viability of such a program and said community members might not have the time or experience to handle the job.
Instead, Carey advocated the use of noncommissioned citizen patrols in less dangerous situations, such as festivals or fairs. He also said school safety officers should be used during the summer months to expand community patrols.
Both candidates agreed that the future of the Boone County Jail would a big issue facing the new sheriff. Although both said an addition to the jail would be necessary at some point, they also said alternatives to jail time should be pursued for some offenders.
Carey advocated the use of house arrest or the Reality House, a Columbia halfway house, as alternatives to jail sentences. Covington supported these ideas, and also said new sentencing guidelines and the use of recognizance bonds, in which defendants are set free after promising to appear in court, would help alleviate jail sentences for crimes in which the defendants are not a danger to society.
About 40 people attended the forum, at which Carey was asked each question first by moderator Tomi Gill of the Columbia College Criminal Justice Student Association. Covington was then asked the same question after Carey completed his remarks.