Editor, Times-Union:

I plan to vote for Jim Smith for Kosciusko sheriff in the May primary.  

As a retired law enforcement officer, I was shocked to read about the drugs and tattooing currently occurring in the jail. This information came to light during the Susaraba trial. For those of you not aware, the Susaraba trial was about the overdose death of an inmate – a death Sheriff Dukes told the press was “out of his control.” At the time I write this, there have been another possible four overdoses at the county jail in a two-and-a-half-week timeframe. The one press release issued by the sheriff’s office made it sound like the jail was not searched until after the second possible overdose, which was two days after the first. What leader would wait to do an all-out search until a second overdose occurred?

I am also amazed by the amount of vandalism that has occurred during Sheriff Dukes’ term. The continued damages and costs for repairs were enough that Mike Long, current county councilman and a former county maintenance worker (who left on his own accord), felt compelled to come forward regarding what is happening. Anyone can view the eye-opening videos by visiting Jim Smith for Kosciusko Sheriff on Facebook. I do not blame the jailers for the current situation – I hold leadership accountable, this is happening on his watch.

The drugs, tattooing, and vandalism all point to leadership. I only hear excuses:

• talk about how times have changed,

• how drugs are hard to stop,

• how damages are only caused by inmates being held to go down to state (which I also question) – Sheriff Dukes is responsible for the care of all inmates in the jail.  

What I do not hear from Sheriff Dukes are solutions. Never before in this county has this amount of damages occurred under the watch of one sheriff. The same can be said for drug overdoses. These are leadership issues! As Jim Smith noted in one of his videos, “This is about training, policies, expectations and supervision of staff by leadership.”

What I hear from Jim Smith is someone looking for solutions such as reinstating body cameras for jailers, bringing in a drug canine trained specifically for jails, regular walkthroughs by leadership, clear policies, procedures and training for the body scanner. I hear Jim Smith caring deeply about taking care of the jail, about diminishing damages, about all inmates in his care, about impact on taxpayers.

Again, this is not a jailer issue, this is a leadership or lack thereof issue.

I hope you will join me in voting for Jim Smith for sheriff in May.

Bill Kelly

Retired Kosciusko County Sheriff Deputy

Leesburg, via email