By MELINDA OVERSTREET
Glasgow Daily Times
All four of the candidates for Barren County sheriff participated in a forum hosted by the Park City Lions Club on Saturday morning. They were given a limit of five minutes for a speech and then a couple of minutes longer to take questions.
– Charles “Chuck” Massey Jr., a Maryland native who chose to move to Barren County after he retired from the Baltimore County Police Department, which was among the first to implement community-oriented policing and work with crime tracking programs, he said. The fourth-generation law enforcement officer said he’s noticed is a “big distrust for law enforcement here.”
“The problem is, you have one or two that made some poor choices, and everybody, unfortunately, who wears a badge is painted with the same broad brush. You know, ‘He did it; they’re probably all crooked.’ That’s crap,” Massey said. “Barren County has some good law enforcement officers and some that aren’t so good.”
A person who doesn’t have integrity shouldn’t be wearing a badge, he said.
As sheriff, he said he would look at things like repeat offenders.
“Those need to be targeted on a different level,” Massey said, including working with federal agencies and resources.
The county needs more canine units, he said, preferably one on each shift and particularly some that are cross trained to detect bombs as well as drugs. A canine unit doesn’t cost much, and it’s a personnel enhancer that can do the work of five men when it comes to searches, he said.
Massey is the sole Republican in this race, so he will not be on the ballot until November, when he’ll face whichever of the three Democrats wins on May 20.
– Kent Keen, who was appointed as Barren County sheriff last summer to finish the unexpired term of Chris Eaton, who resigned just before his sentencing for a conviction on two federal witness-tampering charges.
“As a young kid, I knew I wanted to be a police officer,” Keen said.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University and also attended the FBI’s academy. He worked for an ambulance service before starting as a patrol officer in 1991 at the Glasgow Police Department, from which he retired after 20 years as an assistant chief. From there, he went to the Barren County Sheriff’s Office, eventually working as school resource officer.
The department recently got positive remarks on a Department of Education evaluation for having a full-time SRO, which it has had for several years, he said.
One of the greatest concentrations of gangs in the United States, in terms of representation of affiliations, is at Fort Knox, but Barren County doesn’t have organized gang activity, he said.
“We work hard in our schools in Barren County to provide a very safe environment,” Keen said. “… Our goal is to serve the public.”
He has been working to enhance training and equipment as well as networking to get fresh ideas on the best ways to do things, he said.
“We have some fine, trained individuals,” he said. “Every one of them has several hours of Department of Criminal Justice training.”
– Dennis Stephens said he’s a Barren County native who lived in Warren County most of his childhood but has lived in Barren County for 37 years.
“I don’t have the background these guys have got; I commend them for what they’ve done, and I appreciate what they’ve done in the past,” he said.
Stephens said he believes Barren County deserves a fresh face, and he’s willing to learn.
“We’ve got a tremendous force right now,” he said. “I believe that the sheriff’s office and the sheriff himself, need to lead.”
He said he’s been in leadership roles all his life, including being a supervisor in a manufacturing facility for many years and in the business he’s in now.
“I put God first in my life, family second, work third, and that’s how it’ll always be,” Stephens said. “I live by the strong moral values that were [instilled] in me all my life.”
He’s worked with youths in the community and believes in them 100 percent, he said, but more family and parental education are needed.
“I believe there’s so much going on out there right now, that our parents are not aware of what’s going on with our children as far as drugs, as far as prescription drugs, all the little things that are happening …. I think we could do a better job of maybe educating our parents and our adults in the community,” he said.
Stephens said he believes “everyone deserves fairness, regardless of race, regardless of status in the community, whether it be rich, poor, or whatever.”
– Shannon White has worked full time for the county since 2007, with one of his primary duties being hazardous materials coordinator.
“I’m what they call the county catch-all; I’ve got a variety of jobs,” he said. “If they don’t know who to call, they call me.”
For the past seven years, he’s worked with and alongside the men and women of the BCSO, White said,
“I’ve watched; I’ve listened; I’ve learned. I know that office,” he said. “I have experience in that office.”
He’s been successful in acquiring equipment for the BCSO and the county as a whole, through the law enforcement support program of the U.S. military, he said.
“Every piece of that equipment, I requisitioned, I scrambled and I got it,” White said. “And I made arrangements for it to get here.”
He became a methamphetamine lab technician and meth lab instructor – someone who teaches officers how to properly clean up a meth lab. He said he believes he is the only such instructor in the state who is not with Kentucky State Police.
“I’ve cleaned up between 300 and 400 meth labs in this county,” White said. “Right now, Barren County is third in the state for that.”
He would like to think the number is that high because more are being caught rather than because more people are doing manufacturing it, he said.
“I’ve got the experience you need to be a sheriff,” White said.
White also said he has been a member of the Haywood Volunteer Fire Department since May 1999.
For more reports on Saturday’s Park City forums, see Wednesday’s edition of the Glasgow Daily Times.