Two candidates in race for Warren County sheriff

Published 11:59 am Friday, November 4, 2011

Two candidates are seeking the position of sheriff of Warren County. They are Democrat Bubba Comans, 56, and independent Martin Pace, 53, the incumbent.

1. An independent study commissioned by Warren County and completed in 2010 recommended a new jail be built on a 20- to 50-acre tract and have room for at least 350 inmates and various court services. Revenue streams controlled by the Board of Supervisors would pay for any new facility and land tract reviews are ongoing. Which parts of the study’s core recommendations would you, as custodian of the jail, think are most crucial for fighting crime in Warren County?

Comans: We need additional jail space. However, in the current economy we should not burden taxpayers with millions of dollars of debt to build a new jail and millions more each year to operate it. We need innovative solutions, such as: finishing the third floor of the jail (creating around 80 new spaces), or a private-public partnership (which could pay for a new jail in return for a commitment of a certain number of beds) or a county farm, like Hinds County, in which misdemeanor inmates voluntarily work, picking up trash, etc., to reduce their time in jail.

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Pace: The Warren County Jail stays at or near capacity with pretrial felony suspects with no space for misdemeanors, and, without state certification, we can no longer house state prisoners for a work crew. Our overflow population is housed in other county jails at our expense. Whether they expand the existing jail, or build a new building, I would support efforts to provide a building that will serve our community safely, without having to rent space from other counties. I do believe the full scope and size of the study would need to be implemented to accomplish this goal.

2. Crimes against property such as homes, businesses and vehicles compose the types of crime reports filed routinely with the sheriff’s department. What are the most effective ways the sheriff’s department can work with the public to prevent such crimes?

Comans: Only a small number of individuals commit the majority of property crimes. I plan on creating a volunteer auxiliary deputy unit which will free up regular deputies for more time to patrol, investigate crimes and put those individuals responsible for property crimes and drugs in jail. This will also give deputies more time to communicate with the public and create relationships, which will develop leads through better working relations with the community. This will reduce property crimes, improve accountable and improve public relations. This can all be done with very little cost to the taxpayer.

Pace: Crime prevention should always be a priority for law enforcement, and education is the key. By understanding current crime trends and patterns in our community we can better predict and prevent future crime. We are now able to identify these patterns more effectively after implementing a computerized records and reporting system in 2008. This information is provided to uniform deputies patrolling the county and to the public. The public is made aware of crime prevention information through media outlets, community programs and deputies’ day-to-day contact with citizens in the community.

3. Sheriffs and deputies are often visible in the community to reassure a sense of public safety. What qualities in a sheriff can best convey that sense to the public?

Comans: The sheriff is not only the chief law enforcement officer, he is a leader of the community. He is there not only to run the department and the jail, he is there to respond to the public’s concerns and problems. As sheriff, I will be available 24/7 and address citizens’ concerns promptly. The sheriff must lead by example and by being available to the public and requiring his deputies to live up to high standards. I will not only create a sense of public safety, I will in fact improve public safety.

Pace: Honesty, dedication to duty and professionalism are the most important qualities for your sheriff. Today’s sheriff must also be educated, professionally trained and possess good communication skills. The sheriff must be willing to dedicate his or her life, 24 hours a day, to serving the community that has entrusted its safety to him.