Glasgow Daily Times
In March of 2012, we recommended that then Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton step aside as acting sheriff and allow someone else to manage the operations of his office. He did, in essence, do that, but not in a public declaration.
At that time, there was no need for him to resign his elected position because the legal process was not complete. He had a right to maintain his office until forced to leave. He still, even though he was sentenced to 18 months in prison Thursday, has a right to maintain office until such time as his appeals process has been exhausted. Instead, on Wednesday, he resigned as sheriff of Barren County. It was the proper decision and now the process can begin for finding his successor on an interim basis.
For Judge-Executive Davie Greer, this is likely the toughest thing she has had to tackle in her political career. No one wants to be in her shoes today. The deputies in the sheriff’s office have predominantly maintained a publicly professional manner throughout the last three years. This despite the rumors of prosecution, the prosecution and trial of Eaton and two of his deputies. (Let us not forget that the deputies in the federal case were found not guilty of all charges. Eaton was found guilty of witness tampering.) Many of the deputies in the sheriff’s office are graduates of law enforcement schools and some have training as military police. These are not one-bullet Barney Fife’s patrolling the roads of Barren County.
That’s what makes Greer’s choice to fill the role of sheriff so important. This choice cannot be a political appointment. The person must be able to manage the department and it’s employees. The person must be able to command the respect of the working deputies and others whose duties are not law-enforcement centric. The person will also have to be able to review the office to be sure all things are in order. They must also be willing and able to work effectively with other law enforcement agencies, the commonwealth’s attorney and within the judicial system.
Finally, Greer has the opportunity to pick a sheriff who can begin working on the healing process in our community.
Judge Greer’s pick to be sheriff will also have a leg-up in the 2014 regular election for the office. They will be the incumbent and with that title, will carry with them the historically inherent advantages of running for elected office as an incumbent.
For six years we have witnessed one issue after the next in the realm of public safety and law enforcement; with members of the community given the privilege to protect and serve violating the public’s trust and thereby undermining the institutions for which they work. That leads to public distrust of the individuals in uniform and, eventually, the decay of a lawful community.
Judge Greer’s opportunity carries a heavy burden. A wise, well-informed decision is critical.