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Bruce, Pearson, Smith want to be Sheriff

The Logan County sheriff will seek his fifth term against two Democratic challengers on the May 20 primary ballot.

Logan County Sheriff Steve Smith, 46, will face Crawford County Sheriff’s Office criminal investigator Tom Bruce, 58, of New Blaine, and Logan County Justice of the Peace Charles Pearson, 70, of Paris. The winner of the Democratic primary will face either Joe Gilliam, 35, of Paris, a former Fort Smith police officer and former Arkansas State Police trooper, or Boyd Dan Hicks, 56, of Magazine, the Magazine police chief, in the Nov. 4 general election.

Bruce has served as a criminal investigator with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office since 2005. He has been a law-enforcement officer since 1979 and attended the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy. He was awarded a senior certification from the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training Office and is a state-certified training officer. He also trained police officers in Kosovo during a U.S. peacekeeping mission. Bruce has worked as a chief of police, a criminal investigator, narcotics detective, a motorcycle officer, a patrol sergeant, a patrol officer, a desk officer and a dispatcher. He served in the Arkansas Army National Guard. Bruce was born in Dallas and moved to Arkansas in the late 1970s before moving to Logan County about three years ago. He and wife Lanita have been married six years and have five children and 10 grandchildren.

Pearson has served eight terms as District 6 JP in Logan County. He previously was a Logan County deputy, Paris police officer and Paris police chief. Pearson was born in Scranton. He and his wife Sue have been married 36 years and have two children and five grandchildren. He attends Full Gospel Mission Church in Paris.

Smith has served four terms as Logan County sheriff and has 19 years of law-enforcement experience. He began his career in law enforcement in May 1995 and graduated from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy. Smith was born and raised in Logan County and is a graduate of Magazine High School. He has an 8-year-old son.

The Logan County sheriff serves a two-year term and earns $39,500 annually.

The candidates were asked the same three questions and limited to a 150-word response to each one. Smith, Bruce and Pearson all responded via email.

There has been a lot of discussion of a bi-county jail shared between Logan and Franklin counties. How do you feel about the idea? Would you rather expand the existing jail or build a separate, better-equipped Logan County jail? If you do support the idea of a bi-county jail, would you like it to coexist with the current jail, or would you like to do something else with the current jail?

Bruce: The discussion regarding the bi-county jail is in the very early stages, and there have been no agreements made except to explore the idea. I have yet to form an opinion as to the concept, but I am open-minded to the idea. I also understand that there will many obstacles to overcome. As far as I understand right now, this will be first of its kind in Arkansas. I will attempt to attend any and all meetings the jail committee has, and keep abreast of the progress. I believe that when I am elected, the current jail will still be in operation. I will work to make much-needed improvements to that facility in the areas of efficient operation and physical security.

Pearson: After much thought, I feel there are too many potential problems with a bi-county jail. The initial cost would be the same for each county. A millage increase would not generate enough revenue to build. As a Quorum Court member I am privy to the figures. By law we can only raise the millage rate from 3 to 5 mills. Approximately $480,000 2 mills would bring in. On the other hand, a 1-cent sales tax would generate $1.8 million. The taxpayers should not have to bear the whole burden. A sales tax is the only fair way. It’s enough to build (with a loan) and operate our own jail.

Smith: There is going to have to be something done to address the Logan County jail and if a bi-county jail could save the taxpayers money and work, it is an option that should be explored. I don’t feel expanding the current jail is an option — there are too many issues with the existing facility, including being landlocked. There are some current jail standards that we are unable to comply with because of the design of the existing facility and only a newly designed, up-to-date facility would be able to address those problems. A new jail could not be built to coexist with the current jail because of the many existing issues and design. However, I feel that the existing jail could still be used by the Sheriff’s Office or other county department in some way if a new jail was built.

What do you feel are the biggest issues facing Logan County, crime-wise? How do you intend to go about tackling those issues?

Bruce: … I believe that the major problem is drug use and abuse. Most people associate the term drug use to the use of methamphetamine, commonly called meth. There are also many other drugs abused that are prescription drugs that are obtained through getting prescribed medication from a pharmacy by prescription. People who become addicted or are regular users of drugs often need to steal to support their habit or resort to selling these drugs so they can afford to support their own habit. You also see violent crimes associated with drug use such as domestic abuse, robbery, home invasion and child abuse and neglect. In many of these crimes you see that these are the effects and results of drug use. I believe that if you have an aggressive policy of arresting and prosecuting those involved in dealing in drugs, you will see a decrease in other crimes associated with drug use.

Pearson: A major problem in Logan County — I lost a beautiful granddaughter to drug abuse. We have a Drug Task Force and they do their best, but we must make the public aware of this problem. Approximately 70-80 percent of crime involves drug use. We must gain the trust and respect of an aware public to attack this activity. Once this is done, we can have success in our battle against this killer of young and old. The war on drugs is very personal to me.

Smith: We investigate and strive to apprehend those who commit any crime. The Sheriff’s Office works to provide the Prosecutor’s Office with the case they need to file charges and prosecute offenders. We work with other agencies and the 15th Judicial District Drug Task Force to address drug crimes. The biggest issue in my opinion is the situation with the jail. Without jail space to house inmates, then decisions have to be made on whom to release or whom to keep in jail when there is an overcrowding issue. We have eight different courts in Logan County that could potentially sentence someone to the county jail. The sheriff should not be put in a position to have to decide to release a criminal. Criminals have to fear going to and/or staying in jail and not feel they can commit crimes and possibly avoid spending any length of time in jail due to overcrowding.

In this slowly recovering economy, fiscal issues remain a concern for governmental entities, and funding is tight. What could you do, if anything, as sheriff to either lower costs or keep costs down while at the same time providing needed law-enforcement services to the county?

Bruce: … I would have to look over the budget by each line item throughout the year, as some projected spending may need to be moved from one line to another. There is no way to predict the future as far as what you may have to spend on fuel, food and maintenance for the Detention Center, a damaged patrol unit or anything else that must be dealt with during the year. This will all change throughout the year. My work in administrative and management positions will enable me to recognize spending trends during the year and make necessary adjustments when needed. … I will closely monitor the spending within the Sheriff’s Department and make the necessary adjustments when needed. I will also seek out federal programs and any available grants offered. I will also train within the department to cut back on sending deputies on long trips for training when possible.

Pearson: As for cost-cutting, if elected after taking office I will review all angles and see where costs can be lowered. If they can be, they will, but not in any way to affect services to Logan County citizens.

Smith: To lower or keep costs down, we are constantly looking for options to save money where we can. We have a menu for the food for inmates at the jail that allows us to make volume purchases which can save money. We once were able to purchase a truck load of MREs that we served to inmates for a large savings on the food during that time. When I became sheriff we ceased to give inmates in the jail coffee, which can be expensive. They now must purchase instant coffee though the commissary service that also allows the county to make money from the sales. We also search for an attempt to secure grants to purchase equipment like bullet-proof vests for deputies.

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