Hill plans big changes at Polk sheriff’s office

Published 1:57 pm Monday, December 8, 2008

&dquo;(Tinted windows) sends the wrong message to people,&dquo; Hill said this week in an interview with the Bulletin. &dquo;And I want to be more accessible to the public. I don&squo;t like to be stuck behind so many doors.&dquo;

Hill says he wants to send the message to the public that the sheriff&squo;s office is welcoming and friendly, and he doesn&squo;t want to hide from anybody.

&dquo;It&squo;s just Polk County,&dquo; says Hill. &dquo;People have always been used to just walking in and the sheriff&squo;s office being friendly. When people want to find the sheriff, they ought to be able to know where to find him.&dquo;

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Hill says he has many ideas he wants to implement, including better communication with local organizations and municipal police departments. Another short term goal for Hill is to set up a firing range in Polk County for his officers. Currently the county does not have its own firing range.

Hill has already split Polk County into zones for patrolling. The county is split into three zones, he says, and officers are designated to those areas. Hill said during the nominating process that he is a proponent of zones so officers can get to know the communities in which they are patrolling. Hill has also increased visits to check on businesses and residences throughout the county.

The following is a summary of a few of the other changes or initiatives planned by Hill.

Domestic violence

Sheriff Hill has already named a new domestic violence investigator to the force, Kaye Adams. Officer Adams is filling a position that has been on the county&squo;s books for several years, but was left vacant under the Abril administration. Hill said from the beginning that he feels the sheriff&squo;s office plays an important role in dealing with the ongoing problem of domestic violence in Polk County.

Hill said he has also already met with DSS and Steps to Hope to address some concerns and he is appointing officers and detectives to their boards. He is also assigning officers to other boards, such as juvenile crime protection and the child protection team.

&dquo;One of my biggest things is to establish a working relationship with DSS, Steps to HOPE and with all of the police departments,&dquo; Hill said.

Relations with

other law agencies

According to Hill, the sheriff&squo;s office will now have close relationships with the Tryon, Columbus and Saluda police departments. Hill says he plans to join already scheduled monthly meetings between the local agencies. Hill stresses the importance of having positive working relationships especially with local law agencies because of mutual aid agreements between them.

Hill also plans to work with surrounding counties, such as Spartanburg County, S.C. and Rutherford and Henderson counties. He says he plans to set up meetings and assign detectives with those counties in order to share information and help solve crimes.

Often, Hill says, crimes that are occurring in Polk County are being perpetrated by residents from nearby counties and vice-versa.

Crime prevention

One of Hill&squo;s long term goals is to activate a citizens&squo; academy in order to teach volunteers law enforcement tactics. Hill said he is big on volunteers and thinks Polk County has enough interested residents to help the sheriff&squo;s office out in many ways.

Hill is also interested in getting his officers to help neighborhoods set up community watches as well as offer programs throughout the community to teach residents about crimes. Particularly, Hill mentioned wanting to create positions in the sheriff&squo;s office to educate the elderly on crimes such as identity theft and to educate children.

A long-term goal for Hill is for the sheriff&squo;s office to have its own mounted patrol. Hill says the mounted patrol could be used in search and rescue as well as to show in local events.

Too many chiefs

Hill has already gained approval from the Polk County Board of Commissioners to restructure the sheriff&squo;s office ranking system.

Hill said this week that he thought there were &dquo;too many chiefs and not enough Indians&dquo; in the sheriff&squo;s office.

He reclassified many positions on Monday, taking several lieutenant positions and making them deputies or sergeants.

&dquo;I firmly believe that these changes will allow my staff to function more properly and allow us to better serve the citizens of Polk County,&dquo; Hill told commissioners.

The reclassification of officers will save the county $11,841 a year.

No interstate

interdiction team

Sheriff Hill has also already disbanded the former interstate drug interdiction team as he says he feels the role of the sheriff&squo;s office is to focus on protecting Polk County&squo;s people and property. He says he&squo;s not against getting drugs off the interstate, but is more concerned with people dealing drugs within the county.

Hill said when he was nominated that getting drugs off the interstate is why people pay state taxes for the highway patrol. He also said if his sheriff&squo;s office does interdiction on the interstate he wants it all to be very supervised and accountable.

&dquo;I just can&squo;t justify the gas and time of sitting on the interstate for eight hours when there&squo;s 25 break ins going on in Green Creek,&dquo; Hill said. &dquo;Our priorities need to be in the right place. We need to be out there protecting people and property.&dquo;