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Sunday, September 2, 2012

How Sheriff Horner Will Communicate

“In terms of public trust for law enforcement,
 recent polls show that only 56 percent of people
 rated the police as having a high or very high ethical standard
as compared with 84 percent for nurses."

(Gallup Poll News, "Nurses Shine, Bankers Slump in Ethics Ratings," November 24, 2008)

What does the public expect of law enforcement? Of course, many trusts are involved in this mutual contract between the public and these civil servants. I believe none are more important than open, effective lines of communication. Without effective voices and open ears, officers go into the field lacking vital communication skills, their most effective tool for resolving conflicts.

Scioto County is in desperate need of law enforcement that will openly listen to citizen complaints, promptly respond to calls, and employ better means of communication to encourage citizens' understanding that “something is being done” about unacceptable criminal behaviors.

Often these days, if you inquire about the reasons officers can't do a more credible job and be more responsive, you will hear excuses such as "no funds" and “under staffing” and “regulations that tie our hands.” I have even heard of responses such as “Yeah, that's too bad. We've had a lot of that crime going on lately, and we'll let you know if we hear any more. You might check on it yourself.” No thorough investigations, just excuses. This is not acceptable.

Even if these excuses contain some truths, the major problem is a lack of sincere, useful communication between law enforcement and the victims of crime. The people expect their trusted officers to pursue answers to their problems and to establish direct communication with them instead of taking the attitude that “there's not much we can do.”

I taught for many years, and I can't imagine refusing to take a personal interest in every problem students brought forth. It was my duty, my concern, and my obligation to communicate further to find a solution for each troubled student. At the very least, I had to offer credible advice and initiate a helpful dialogue.

When enforcement lacks appropriate lines of communication and access, refuses to return calls, and treats citizens in need as if they are “complainers who just don't understand the complexities of police work,” they fail to establish a positive working environment with the public. Then, the public loses trust in them and views them as detriments to improving the community, officers who merely hold positions. This is extremely frustrating to those whom the officers were trusted to serve.

Good communication skills can (in many cases, not always) diffuse violent altercations before they explode, get people to do what they should do, and help to create a good relationship with the public. People will actively participate with enforcement that sincerely talk with them and listen to them instead of treating them as “just another crime statistic.”

  1. Officers should never verbally belittle anyone, and treat all people with mutual respect.
  2. Officers should always start all contacts in an officer friendly tone of voice, avoiding the tone that makes them sound like unapproachable, bad-ass civil servants with an overpowering demeanor.
  3. Officers should always show empathy when talking with victims of crime. These crimes are often very traumatic to people. They should talk to victims the way they would want another officer to talk the their wife or child.
  4. By a wide margin, most people believe the most important skill that officers should develop is being a good listener. Cops too often view communication as a one-way activity meant to direct and control others. True, for the most part, people are lousy listeners, but officers, who should be very skilled at the art, are just as bad or worse. And male officers are usually the worst listeners.

The discussion of communication as related to law enforcement must begin with a definition of the word integrity. One researcher has said that it is "the sum of the virtues required to bring about the general goals of protections and service to the public." (Stephen Vicchio, "Ethics and Police Integrity," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, July 1997, 8-12)
Vicchio created a list of characteristics that he feels officers must possess to have integrity:

1. Transparency, whether in a police station, prison, prosecutor’s office or the justice system more generally.
2. Judicial independence. The idea of restorative justice is key to implementing judgments.
3. Impartiality. This is not a merely theoretical concept, but key to granting equal rights to all citizens and combating systemic and bureaucratic corruption.

4. Civic participation at various levels. Different committees and experts work on law enforcement legislation. Voluntary organizations have direct access to parliamentarians to express their views on legislation and can lobby on behalf of different groups in society and the public interest.

5. Shared responsibility. The failure of law enforcement in a given case is seen as having wider societal consequences. This encourages law enforcement agencies not to hide their problems but to discuss them openly.

6. Feedback on law enforcement. Free and open mass media not only disseminate information but also scrutinize (and criticize) the actions of law enforcement agencies. This professional feedback puts pressure on these agencies to improve their performance and respond to the needs of the public.

7. Public awareness of law enforcement is vital to establishing a good environment for agency activities. Measures include educational programs on TV and introducing law enforcement as a subject in the curricula of schools and other educational institutions.

8. Accountability. Law enforcement agencies are accountable not only to their superiors, but above all to the public. This would facilitate relations of trust between them.

My Take

Charles Horner is running as an independent candidate for Scioto County Sheriff. He has 28 years of law enforcement experience. He has a great record of public service. During his tenure with the Portsmouth Police Department, he has been a dedicated "Team" member with the following:

New Boston Police
Scioto County Sheriff's Office
Ohio Department of Natural Resources
Life Air and Ambulance
SOLE (Southern Ohio Law Enforcement) Drug Task Force
Local Emergency Planning Committee
Homeland Region 7 Law Enforcement Terrorism Planning Committee
Portsmouth Health Department
Ohio Department of Health
Scioto County Emergency Management
Scioto County Drug Action Team
Scioto County Health Coalition
Portsmouth City Schools
Ohio Attorney General's Office
Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation
Governor's Office
Office of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Service
Ohio Opiate Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force
Drug Enforcement Administration
Ohio State Highway Patrol
Garrett Maloney Foundation
Governor's Council on Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services

Horner has goals he hopes to accomplish as sheriff. I believe he is making a great attempt to improve communication on the county level. Many of his goals reflect his attention to better relations between the Sheriff's office and the citizens of Scioto County. The county needs his leadership to effect these changes.

Horner states, “Being rational and realistic, to run for political office and make promises should warrant a heightened level of distrust. Not knowing the assets available, both manpower and money, and the interaction and demands of the organization, I can and will not make promises that I may or may not be able to fulfill. Instead, I have goals that, with cooperation and help, I would like to achieve. Below are listed some of those goals. As others develop in the coming months, I will add those.”

Provide a "Quality Control Program" to insure prompt and responsive service to the citizens of Scioto County. Insure that complaints are being responded to promptly, reports are being taken, and follow-ups on investigations are occurring. Citizens will be contacted by an employee, other than the responding officer, to insure citizen follow-up, contact, and input.

To reinstate the SWAT Program.

To reinstate the Canine Program.

To reinstate the DARE Program.

To work cooperatively with Scioto County Schools to develop a thorough drug education and awareness program.

To work cooperatively with Scioto County Schools to enhance planning to respond to school violence and active-shooter situations.

To review and amend policies and procedures to provide more effective and efficient response to citizen complaints.

To insure adequate and effective service to the community.

To implement a Township Watchman Program whereby one designated person has immediate and direct contact with the Sheriff and meets collectively with the Sheriff and other Watchmen on a quarterly basis to discuss crime and drug issues collectively.

To partner with local, state, and federal agencies to utilize the newly obtained HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) designation to efficiently coordinate local, state, and federal assets for the common goal of addressing the drug issues plaguing our community.

To seek grants to enhance assets and training opportunities.

To be actively involved in the community, attending civic functions and serving on and attending community organizations established for improving our community.

To be active in State of Ohio and United States initiatives, including HIDTA, Homeland Security, Grant Programs, Task Forces, etc.

To be proactive and not reactive.

To be aggressive in pursuing criminals and drug traffickers.

To initiate a Repeat Offender Program where repeat offenders are given top priority in efforts to stop their criminal activity.

To work cooperatively with the Humane Society and Health Departments to insure safe and humane treatment of animals.

To aggressively pursue solutions to the drug problem through inter-agency collaboration, in an effort to reduce drug trafficking and addiction.

To reduce crime and drug abuse, in order to make Scioto County a safer place to raise a family.

To reduce crime and drug abuse, creating a more conducive environment to economic development.

Foremost, to protect the human rights and dignity of everyone.

Teamwork makes the dream work. I support Charles Horner for sheriff of Scioto County. I hope you, too, will understand that we need a change. Feel free to contact Mr. Horner with your questions. Here is his website: and here is his Facebook Group "Horner's Corner!/groups/187723011337885/?bookmark_t=group

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