Rey Rodriguez . . . My Campaign Platform for Sheriff of Bulloch County

My platform for successfully building a better Bulloch County Sheriff's Office is comprised of nine topics identified by Bulloch County's citizens as important which current and past Sheriffs have not fully addressed.

Any candidate for the Office of Sheriff can "talk" about running for office, make promises to various groups, and claim to be the best candidate for office. But I am different; I intend on keeping my word and ACTING on my campaign platform topics once elected .

I will put a plan into place to address each and every one of these platform items on a timely basis, report to the public on our goals, achievements and levels of success. I plan to involve my fellow law enforcement officers, Bulloch County officials, representatives from the towns within our county, and most of all, citizens representatives from throughout our county.

My top goals are; 1) to make Bulloch County a safer community in which to raise families and live, 2), to chase crime and criminals from our community, and 3), to live up to the promises I make.

If you have questions about any of my platform topics, or if you want to discuss your thoughts on any other items that you feel I should address, please contact me directly at:

Safety for All Our Citizens

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I want to quickly restart the Crime Suppression Team, with the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) as the spearhead. Crime has gone up since the last election of a Sheriff in the county. We read about it weekly in the local newspapers and hear about it on radio and television. It's as if criminals see Bulloch County as an easy place to come and take advantage of our citizens because of what appears to be minimal law enforcement presence.

Additionally, Road Patrol (deputies patrolling in their cars and responding to calls from citizens) should be proactive not reactive, and Bulloch County should be split into geographical zones to minimize response times to calls. Road Patrol coverage of our county has become abysmal at times, and we need to make sure all areas of our county are covered by deputies around the clock.

Writing multi-page reports for simple traffic stops has become such a burden to deputies that many times they let the law-breakers go without issuing a citation. Not having a cohesive plan for patrolling our highways and roads often times leads to large areas of Bulloch County going without a BCSO deputy within 10 or 20 miles.

The safety of all our citizens, and the visitors to our county, is the most important aspect of the BCSO. We need to do this in the safest, most efficient, and most financial responsible manner as possible.

Fiscal Responsibility

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Implement a plan for financial responsibility . . . IMMEDIATELY!

The BCSO can cut overtime cost by holding all employees, officers, investigators, jailers, supervisors, and the Sheriff himself, accountable for their need for overtime hours. All requests should be made with a valid explanation of why the time is needed, or active case numbers from existing cases and investigations. The "million dollar plus" overage on overtime pay has got to stop now!

If elected I will stop orders on all purchases and review all requests with department heads using a "wants vs. needs" method of determining which requests are approved. Until the entire BCSO purchasing system has been thoroughly reviewed we need to only purchase items that are NEEDED, not those that we simply want to have. We have to find a way to live within our budgets!

To assist the BCSO with these efforts, I will hire a full-time or part-time employee with a successful background in financial accounting. This newly-hired deputy would assure the BCSO's budget is financially responsible and comprehensive when submitted to the County Commissioners, and then followed to assure the Office does not go over budget. Being over budget by over $1,000,000 for overtime pay in an 18-to-24 month period under the current Sheriff is unacceptable, and the citizens of Bulloch County deserve to not face these types of overages any longer.

Another way to control expenses is by using common sense in everyday activities. One example is the fueling of BCSO cars and trucks. Road Patrol Officers should be issued gasoline credit cards. Currently all Road Patrol cars and trucks must return to the BCSO facility on Hwy. 301 North in Statesboro in order to refill their fuel tanks. This takes our Road Patrol Officers off their assigned areas traveling sometimes 20 or 30 minutes each way just to take on fuel; refueling can take up to 10% of our officers' time each and every day. By issuing gasoline credit cards our officers can refill their tanks in just a few minutes and be back patrolling county roads. This is an easy fix to a huge time consuming daily task.

Cooperation with Outside Agencies

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The Georgia Department of Highway Safety HEAT program (Highway Enforcement and Aggressive Traffic), which is funded by the state, exists to help counties organize their units. They have resources that can allow the BCSO to better organize and run our county unit. HEAT is a multi-jurisdictional task force specifically designed to combat aggressive traffic in the county. Bulloch County, the Cities of Statesboro, Brooklet, Portal and Register, and the Georgia Southern Police Department could work together to make the streets and highways of our home county a safer place to drive.

We also need to work together with our fellow in-county agencies and the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, to start a Traffic Enforcement Unit that focuses on getting drunk drivers off our roads and conducting safety checks. Responding to and taking accident reports with minor or no serious injuries would free up State Troopers within our county for additional patrols and tasks.

We have to work better and more cohesively with the Statesboro Police Department and investigators. One item to discuss is the merging of the Bulloch County, Statesboro Police and GSU SWAT teams. We would require all SWAT members to pass SWAT level one training, and then train as a team in order to build and maintain a cohesive SWAT unit.

If elected Sheriff, I plan to reestablish the BCSO's US Marshal Prisoner Housing Agreement, which was dropped by the current Sheriff. Funds received from this agreement will help pay our officers' salaries/benefits, and the BCSO will receive an estimated $1,000,000 in revenue per year for housing 20-30 inmates. The cost per day for housing these inmates is approximately $40 per day, which includes housing and meal costs, expanded personnel at our jail, and travel costs transporting the prisoners to and from Federal Courthouse in Statesboro and Savannah. With all costs figured in, this should allow Bulloch County to recoup all expenses PLUS an additional $200,000+ per year. The expansion of the Bulloch Jail to 400 beds was completed with this program, being one of the primary justifications for the work and we are not wisely taking advantage of the resources in which we have already paid.

Addressing Bulloch's Disadvantaged Youth

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Youth programs are essential to a better community. It's not about handing out big checks for a photo opportunity . . . its about really being involved.

The YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and other after school programs in the county are a great place for children to see and interact with law enforcement officers more. Our inner-city youth needs to see deputies in the neighborhoods in a caring manner. Holding monthly get-togethers, block parties or cook outs, baseball games and other events should take place year-round, not just once a year. Our inner-city youth are at risk and are a target for criminals and gangs for recruitment.

Also, parents should be educated on cell phone, computer text language, symbols and acronyms. Everyone should be aware of social media dangers and apps that sexual predators use to gain access to children.

If we work together as a community and are involved in our children’s life it changes the future for the better.

Improvements to County Jail

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The Bulloch County Jail is the biggest responsibility for the Sheriff’s Office and the biggest division within the department.

Improving our jail starts with the restructuring and reorganization of the staff and hiring qualified people that want the job. Jailers must have a pathway for promotion and selection for duties within the jail division, transfers to Road Patrol and Courthouse duty; these opportunities must be made available to them. Our Jailers must be crossed trained in the various jobs within the facility, and the Jail Administrator needs more help, as this job is an overwhelming position.

Our Jail facility itself has to be better maintained and the safety of our inmates must be guaranteed. Our county jail is not intended to be a place for punishment but rather a facility for housing inmates. Keeping a clean, functional and safe jail takes constant effort. The maintenance of the jail is a 24 hours a day responsibility. All cells, showers and bathrooms must be operational, the air conditioning system has to be maintained, and medical services must provided for the inmates.

Full inspections of our jail must also be done on a regular basis! These inspections should be conducted weekly and all safety issues addressed immediately. Inmates should be separated properly, by offenses and dispositions, and transfers to state facilities should happen as quickly as possible to free up space.

Improved Training & Pay for Deputies

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Improved training is the key component to the BCSO improving and providing better service to Bulloch's citizens. We need to immediately implement a system for sending Deputies to the Georgia Public Training Center in Forsyth that is fair & impartial as to who is selected for these classes. Too often the same deputies are chosen for offsite hands-on training, while the remaining deputies can only take advantage of online training.

This training at the Georgia Public Training Center will be in addition to the 20-hour minimum required for deputies as mandated by state law. We want our deputies and employees to be well trained. As a result, we are able to provide better services to Bulloch County taxpayers.

Once I'm elected, I will make sure all BCSO employees (deputies, jailers and staff) have a written plan for training and promotions as part of their employment and work duties. Pay raises and service grade promotions will be incorporated into their individual plans in order to give them a more clear path towards job growth, promotion and increased pay. The more training our deputies receive, and the more classes they take and pass, will only enhance the job performance they will provide our citizens.

We will take full advantage of all resources offered by the Georgia Public Training Center, including on-campus housing at less than 50% the cost of our current practice of housing officers in hotels during their stays in Forsyth. Rooming in the on-campus housing will allow our deputies to develop friendships and relationships with fellow law enforcement officers across the state and allow our deputies to share and glean information and methods other departments use that can then be successfully implemented back in Bulloch County.

Adding BCSO deputies to federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Task Forces will be high on my list of projects. BCSO officers have the opportunity to assist DEA agents and investigators with active cases, which then entitles Bulloch County to a share of dollars received through federal funding dollars and asset forfeitures. These dollars usually exceed the cost of the deputies’ time and benefits, and their salaries and benefits are paid by the Federal authorities while he/she are on assignment with the task forces. Our deputies receive more hands-on experience, their salaries and benefits are paid by the Feds, and they bring new ideas and methods back to Bulloch County for use by the BCSO. Rey intends to take steps to make sure we participate with these Federal Task Forces.

Open & Frank Discussion of Issues with County Officials and the Public

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The Sheriff’s office must work hand-in-hand with the Bulloch County Commissioners and we need to strive to make sure that issues never become one-way conversations. The Sheriff needs to be able to compromise, deal and negotiate with county officials in the best interest of all the citizens in Bulloch County, not just the ones who contributed to his campaign or voted for him.

Open meetings, with public discussion and input, with the Bulloch County Sheriffs Office and the heads of Public Safety, and Chiefs of Police from all municipalities within the county should be held at least every four-to-six months. These meetings would allow the public and law enforcement to voice their concerns in an open forum.

Being Held Accountable for Promises Made

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The Sheriff should also honor the promises he has made to Bulloch citizens and address all concerns from BCSO employees. Having everyone operating on the same playing field and pulling in the same direction will allow Bulloch to become a safer community.

Bulloch County's Sheriff needs to represent all the citizens in Bulloch County, not just the ones who contributed to his campaign or voted for him. Telling people "what they want to hear" during a political campaign and then not following up on these promises and plans is not the way for the BCSO to instill trust with our citizens. If I look you in the eye, shake your hand, and tell you I'm going to do something, then you can count on me keeping that promise!

The Sheriff MUST be held accountable for what he does and says not only during election years, but in his everyday actions as the chief law enforcement officer within the county.

Deputy, Jailer and Staff Wellness

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As your Sheriff, one of my highest concerns will be the safety, wellness and health of all employees of the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office. I want to make sure all the women and men working under me are physically and mentally fit, and that they should not worry about future finances or retirement challenges.

Mental Wellness I want to make sure that Jailers and Deputies have the ability to ask for help when they need it. Sometimes the stresses of home life bleed over to the job and job stress bleeds over to home life. Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office employees must have the availability to seek counseling, at no cost to them. Sometimes Deputies and Jailers see and witness traumatic events, and they need an outlet. It’s ok to say you’re not ok.

Financial Wellness I want to ensure all BCSO employees are aware and participate with and truly understanding their 401(k) and 457(b) Retirement Plans. They need to know they have the ability to shift and move stocks, move to aggressive accounts or non-aggressive account’s to protect or grow their money. I want all BCSO employees to be more involved with their benefits and financial planning options; Roth IRA, College Plans, etc. Be it being vested as an employee, leaving for a new job, or transferring their retirement plans.

Physical Wellness Most employees get into a busy routine and never go to a doctor; I would like for all BCSO employees to have a physical exam with a Physician every two years, with the county paying their co-pay. Additionally, I want to start a smoking secession program to reduce the numbers of employees who smoke. I also intend to start a physical fitness test for BCSO employees who wants to participate, and the employees who pass their physical training exam will get an additional 3 days paid time off. Another item I feel strongly about is that employees should, if they feel the need to, see a nutritionist for body building or weight loss. I would also attempt to fund a work out area at the Sheriff’s Office.

Family Wellness Most employees never want to think of this day! Unfortunately we don’t live forever and accidents and tragic events happen. I would request the help of local attorneys, working pro bono, to assist any employee who wishes to have a Will, Legal or Medical Power of Attorney, and Final Testament made and notarized. I would also ask local insurance companies to visit with BCSO employees and their families to explain the costs of having life, long-term care and additional insurance policies for the themselves and their immediate family members.