Re the July 9 letter by Windy Vest asserting that "Deputies aren't "taken care of by Sheriffs Office":
I do realize, contrary to the statement in the aforementioned letter to the editor, that our employees of the Columbia County Sheriffs Office are valuable assets to the agency and the community we serve. Furthermore, I believe that our professional deputies are the most valuable resource this agency and county have. Recruitment and retention of highly trained and professional law enforcement officers has been an issue for this agency as well as every other law enforcement agency across this great country of ours.
Im happy to state that we are finally at a point in our Sheriffs Office where there are very few openings left to fill. Not everyone wants to, or should, pursue a career in law enforcement. Its not easy to be a law enforcement officer in todays world. Its even harder to be one here in Columbia County. I, and the citizens of this county, expect more than the average agency does of its officers.
Regarding Vests statement that our policy concerning light duty needs to be revised, I wholeheartedly agree. I had a policy that was based upon legal reasoning and liability considerations, but was not compassionate and understanding of the employees needs.
Before I continue, however, I would like to correct an inaccuracy in Vests letter. When she came to me with a letter from her doctor stating that she was not physically able to perform her duties as a certified deputy, I offered to reclassify her position from certified to administrative, thus allowing her to continue to be employed with this agency. Vest stated that she could not accept the offer since an administrative classification would not permit her to work off-duty specials.
In the policy manual of the Columbia County Sheriffs Office, I have a section that deals with policy failure. I realize that this manual is not and never will be an infallible document. Rather, it is an evolving work that must always be in a state of review and revision. The issue that Vest has raised certainly falls within the parameters of policy failure.
I would like to thank Vest for bringing this issue to everyones attention and allowing me an opportunity to change a policy that, while legally defensible, was not geared toward looking out for the best interests of the employees.
Sheriff Clay N. Whittle
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