As promised in his election campaign, changes are being made in the Lonoke County Sheriff’s office, Sheriff John Staley said in an interview Monday. Staley was reviewing his first few weeks in office.
Early in his campaign, Staley said he expected to make changes, “Otherwise why run?”
The first two or three weeks were “hectic,” Staley said. “We started off with a homicide, busted up a burglary ring, so it has been busy.”
“But this is more like fine tuning, building on a foundation that is already there,” Staley remarked. “[Former sheriff Jim Roberson] had things running tight, he had a good hand on things,” Staley said.
Organization and management styles have been the largest part of the changes, along with some rules, Staley said. While there have been “rough spots,” overall the staff has been supportive, the reception has been positive, he said.
Changes to the investigative side have helped put, “More feet on the street,” Staley said. Teams were formed for better communication, there is more contact and follow up with victims, he said.
Also, he is working to ensure the different law enforcement agencies in the county are sharing information, Staley said. “Sometimes we have something, somebody else has something, and when it gets put together we have what we need and we cut each other’s work,” he said.
Calls to the sheriff’s office have increased, Staley said. “There have been more than usual for this time of year. I don’t know why there are more, but we are handling it,” he said.
But the changeover has not been without conflict, Staley said. One involving carrying cell phones into the detention area ended with a change in employment, he said.
“Contraband is contraband, cell phones are contraband just like cigarettes. No one can take them into the jail, not prisoners, not employees,” Staley said. Attempts to find a middle ground were not successful, he said.
“There are some real con men in [the jail]. If they know you have a phone or cigarettes they will talk you into letting them make a call, or into giving them a smoke,” Staley said. “All those are left outside the jail. Put something like that down and it doesn’t take long,” he remarked.
Staley said the Sheriff’s website is now up and running, though he called it a “soft start.”
“It is there, and it has basic information, but we will expand that,” Staley said. Plans are to have sex offender locations, budget information and other details online for easy access, he said.
On the budget, “We are still looking hard at it. Watching the everyday costs. Watching every penny and every dime,” Staley said.
Re-utilization, conserving and using alternative funding, such as the federal forfeiture funds, are part of the process, Staley said.
“I go around turning the lights out in empty rooms. I know it is not much, but it sets the example,” he said.