10 Questions With The Scioto County Sheriff
Listen to the full interview here
There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s already making changes at the embattled Scioto County Sheriff’s Office. We sat down with Sheriff David Thoroughman to talk about the challenges he faces keeping the peace in Scioto County, the possibility of expanding the jail, and body cameras for deputies.
How Did You Feel When You Won The Election?
SCND: Tell us how it felt when you were elected? How did it feel on day one when you got the keys to the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office?
Sheriff Thoroughman: “I was humbled to have been elected by our citizens. Law enforcement is a job that I have loved and done for many years. I just love serving the citizens and doing what I can for our community.
Day one, was very much excitement. Coming in here for the first time, we began the day off very early. We came in and did a tour of the facility, seeing what was here and meeting the personnel.”
Tell Us About Your New Hires
SCDN: Tell us about your new hires. You had some vacant positions to fill and you’ve had additional hires that were part of your campaign promises.
Sheriff Thoroughman: “So far, we’ve been able to hire two additional deputies for patrol. This is above and beyond what has been allotted in the past. As I said during the campaign, it’s been over 40 years since we’ve added patrol deputies to the Sheriff’s Office.
I was able to do that by working with the FOP and the Scioto County Commissioners. The FOP was very gracious in accepting a lower pay raise and allowing me to use the savings to go towards the hiring of two new deputies. The total cost to the citizens was just over $6,000 a year to hire two additional personnel.
Along with that, we filled many positions that had been vacant for some time. We hired four correctional officers and promoted one to sergeant. We hired a dispatcher, promoted three correctional officers to patrol deputies, we have promoted Detective Jodi Conkel to sergeant, promoted Deputy Malone to detective, and hired two patrol deputies.”
Sheriff Thoroughman filled these positions within the first 100 days on the job. “I think it’s important that we get our staffing where it should be so we can provide the best service to our citizens.”
How Has The Jail Dealt With COVID?
SCDN: How has the Scioto County Jail dealt with challenges and health regulations connected with the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sheriff Thoroughman: “We followed guidelines presented by the Ohio Department of Corrections. We reduced the number of people we have in the jail. That enabled more social distancing and isolation of those who tested positive. It also slowed down the process of transporting people who’d been sentenced to prison. You have to hold onto them for 14 days to make sure they are not infected before transport. This has been hard on the community. Law enforcement has not been able to make physical arrests. They’ve been issuing summonses in lieu of arrest. That doesn’t provide the best service to our community.
We are opening back up and our daily population is increasing.”
Sheriff Thoroughman says that programs such as house arrest and work release are a big help in controlling the jail population. “This helps a lot in keeping the jail population down. It allows a person convicted of a crime to serve the time at their house with an ankle monitor. We’re notified if they leave the residence. “
Tell Us About Your Partnership With PPD
SCDN: It seems as if you have a great working relationship with Portsmouth Police Chief Debby Brewer. Tell us about that partnership.
Sheriff Thoroughman: “We have an excellent relationship. I’ve worked with Chief Brewer for many years. I was with the Portsmouth Police when she was hired. I’ve had many years to work with her and build a relationship.
She is the type of person who is easy to get along with. We see the big, important picture is the service to our community. The better we work together, and work with other agencies as well, the more we can serve our community.
The Car Situation
SCDN: Let’s tackle the infamous car situation. The 70 to 80 cars made news and prompted a state investigation. It was something you needed to deal with. I understand that you have dealt with it. Update us if you can.
Sheriff Thoroughman: “We were able to get an agreement in place with the prosecutor’s office, the commissioners, and the sheriff’s office to remove the vehicles from the property where they were stored and allow for the repair of any damage to the grounds.
We do have a fleet manager in place, and we have taken stock of our inventory. I’ve had our fleet manager review our entire fleet and see what vehicles can be auctioned off. We have to keep a few for spares. There’s no need for us to keep every vehicle that is ever purchased.”
At the last Scioto County Commissioner’s meeting, Commissioner Bryan Davis said the county has recouped back between $16 and $18,000 by selling the excess vehicles.
“The money for repairing the land came from the sale of those vehicles. There was no additional cost to the citizens.”
How Are Bail and Arraignment Dates Set?
SCDN: This is a question we get a lot from our readers. When someone is arrested, who sets the bail and the date for arraignment? What’s the role of the jail in the justice system?
Sheriff Thoroughman: “When anyone is arrested, by law they are given bail. The judge and the courts set the bail. If they are found guilty, there may be a pre-sentence investigation to look into past crimes and the impact on the community.
The jail does not set bail and is not involved in the sentencing. We are there just to hold persons until they are arraigned or released on bail. Of course, we hold them after sentencing.”
Are We Selling Or Buying Patrol Cars?
SCDN: Are we selling or buying patrol cars? Why?
Sheriff Thoroughman: “We are selling patrol cars. We’ll have an auction in the near future. We are also purchasing some vehicles. They are being purchased, for the most part, through the Rotary Fund. Those vehicles will go to the deputies working the townships, school resource officers, and one working at Job and Family Services. Those vehicles are replaced on a regular basis to ensure deputies have the equipment they need to do their jobs.
The vehicles that are replaced are then sent to the open road deputies so their vehicles are also replaced on a regular basis. We’re buying two additional vehicles to be used for admin and for new positions we’re wanting to fill in investigations and drugs.”
Addiction and Mental Health Alternatives
SCDN: What are some alternatives you’d like to see in place to deal with people with mental health or addiction issues? Currently, individuals with those problems have repeated police contact and multiple arrests. There are currently a handful of folks who get arrested once or twice a month and have almost daily contact with officers. If you could wave a magic wand, what would you put in place to help these people?
Sheriff Thoroughman: “We’re doing a lot more for these individuals, now. We’ve been meeting with different groups and working with them to provide services when we come across someone in crisis with mental health issues. We’re also able to reach out to counseling centers for those with addictions. We hope they’ll agree to go to treatment instead of going to jail.
I’m working with these groups to bring these services into the jail as well.”
Sheriff Thoroughman is also moving forward with plans for a chaplain at the jail. “I’ve had two individuals indicate they would like to provide services for the county. I’ll be starting that search in the very near future. I think it’s important to have those services available. They are able to assist in critical incidents when the deputies or personnel are having issues. We respond to a lot of bad things out there. It’s nice to be able to talk with somebody. They could assist us with death notifications.”
Drug Task Force Plans
SCDN: Tell us about your plans for the drug task force. I understand you’re looking to enhance its capabilities.
Sheriff Thoroughman: “I believe it’s important that we do all we can to reduce the amount of drugs in our community. Unfortunately, we have been number one in overdose deaths. I’ve been meeting with state personnel to obtain funding to pay for additional personnel. We’ve also discussed a K9 unit. The state has suggested different routes of obtaining funding.”
How Has The Job Affected Your Family Life
SCND: On a personal level, how has this job affected your life?
Sheriff Thoroughman: “The job does impact the family. Me and my staff have put in many, many hours down here. There’s not enough hours in the day to complete the job. There’s a lot we want to do for our community. Getting what we want in place is taking some work.
I’ve responded to two different calls that came in while I was at church. One to a shooting call and another one to a bomb they thought had been delivered to a residence.”
Bonus Question: Are There Any Plans To Expand The Jail?
SCDN: Are there any plans to expand the jail campus in order to add extra beds to house inmates from other counties or juvenile offenders?
Sheriff Thoroughman: “Yes, we’ve actually had a meeting this week with judges within the county. I’ve been contacted by a number of different sheriffs wanting some space. They are driving hours and hours daily to transport prisoners to court.
We are in the process of looking at the old juvenile detention center across from the Scioto County Courthouse. We could convert that into a 100-person bed location. We’ve had state officials inspect that. We’re in the process of conducting a feasibility study on that.”
Sheriff Thoroughman said even more changes are in store. “We’ll be having body cameras for our deputies in the near future. We were able to obtain a grant working with the commissioners. I’m excited to have that.
We’re adding computers to our fleet. Right now we have some we’ve gotten up and running. They weren’t being used much. They were locked down so tight, the deputies couldn’t use them.”
Thoroughman said the SCSO is changing wireless providers to offer a savings to citizens and better service to law enforcement.