Mike Turner, running for Dorchester County Sheriff, sat down with Patch and concerned voters 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Coastal Coffee Roasters.
Coffee with the Candidates is 4:30 p.m. Thursdays.
Here is a recap of Thursday's event with Turner:
Q: Talk of gas expenses and the number of take-home vehicles from the county has been a focus this week. What is your position?
Take-home vehicles for law enforcement is a man-power multiplier, if they are required to respond. But it needs to only be for personnel equipped and ready to respond when duty calls. Having a take-home vehicle and gas card is part of the compensation for a law enforcement officer, but it comes with the responsibility of being willing to drop off the wife while out at dinner and respond to a situation. The current system needs to be managed better. If people are responding in these vehicles, then the benefit far outweighs the cost.
Q: You worked in Sheriff Ray Nash's office at a time when nearly $400,000 was taken from the detention center. How do you respond to those who say you come from that system with ethics violations?
I was one of the officers that took Capt. Arnold Pastor into custody. There were no ethics violations outside that instance. It was not pervasive.
Q: Under Nash's administration, the Sheriff's Office was operating over budget. What do you say to critics who say you will also be unable to operate within budget?
The current administration has received a 20-percent increase in budget from the county. At no time was Nash's budget overages exceeding 20 percent of the budget — even if you added all the overages over a 3-year period it would not equal the $3.1 million extra per year the Sheriff's Office has in the budget now. That said, the current funding is needed for proper public safety. The Sheriff's Office was woefully underfunded before the incumbent took office. I wouldn't brag about your financial prowess if the county gives you more money to work with. And don't brag about money you gave back when you benefited from a higher budget. I'm glad the county realizes they had left public safety sorely in need of funds and has rectified the issue. My background in business administration means I know how to run a budget efficiently.
Q: Should Dorchester County have its own SWAT team?
Under the current administration, every time the county needs the manpower and equipment of a SWAT team, Charleston County sends their team. This creates at least a 45-minute delay in services and makes us bad neighbors to the taxpayers of Charleston County, who pay for that team. It's like your neighbor driving a brand-new Lexus and knocks on your door for eggs and milk. And that's not a one-time occurrence. The county has used their SWAT team several times since the year began. Dorchester County already has the equipment necessary to arm a SWAT team. Instead of devoting manpower to training for pistol competitions, that manpower should be devoted toward keeping deputies in training for the team. It's merely a matter of training the deputy and keeping them trained. The cost isn't that much higher. It's also a matter of policing your own citizens. If you're relying on another agency to help you, they come in and take command. Under the current system, you are taking advantage of Sheriff Cannon's good nature. Somethings are right; somethings are not.
Q: Would you seek to house federal inmates at the detention center to increase funds to the county?
It has benefited the taxpayers of Dorchester County to house these inmates. I'm not sure if there are federal prisoners in the system now or not but the incumbent has shown a reluctance to do anything the previous administration did. There have been fights in the past on exactly who should benefit from the money gained by housing these prisoners, but it shouldn't be a matter of control. It's a matter of benefiting the taxpayers.
Q: What is your position on anti-idling laws?
When I worked under Sheriff Nash, deputies knew of my disdain for idling, empty vehicles. It would drive me crazy to see a car idling and nobody in it. It's wear-and-tear on the vehicles, and a waste of gas money, solely for your comfort. If you have a K-9 unit that needs to be kept out of the heat, bring him inside the Sheriff's Office and house him in the kennel. I would make anti-idling a policy under my administration.
Q: Some have said that you've been out of law enforcement in your current position as head of security for the school district. How do you respond?
I am current on all of my certifications. Unlike the incumbent, I have more than my one-week certification. Since leaving the Sheriff's Office in 2008, I've also worked for Lincolnville Police Department, before stopping to pursue my campaign.
Q: What should every voter know about you?
I will treat every citizen with the dignity and respect they deserve while maintaining an appropriate amount of justice. Not every speeder pulled over needs a ticket. But on the same hand, swift justice needs to be done toward criminals. They need to go to jail for criminal activity.
Q: How will your policies and ideas be assimilated among the current deputies?
It's called leadership. When you set the tone, where the head goes, the body follows. It comes down to leadership.