Challenges faced and overcome by Goins

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By Susan Sharp

Sheriff Robbie Goins has actively faced the challenges in his administration.


“We have got to get officers in cars and get them in neighborhoods,”
 Goins said during a morning briefing with his Chief Deputy Jonathan Finley and Lynn Goins, the department’s fleet supervisor, last Thursday.

The briefing was just one of many meetings he held throughout the long day.

At the root of one of the particular issues he faced on this morning was ensuring each of his officers had a fully equipped patrol unit.

“We don’t have the luxury of time. We have to get things done,” Goins said before sending the fleet supervisor off to inventory the patrol units.

Settling into in an office with dark burgundy walls, Goins moved on to another subject. He is uncomfortable that jail trustees were seemingly and enjoyably playing sports and lounging on a stoop. For the veteran law enforcement officer, that is an insult- not only to the public- but to anyone the inmates may have personally victimized. For a few moments he and Finley mull this over. By the end of the conversation it was evident that neither agreed with the high-schoolish freedoms and activities the inmates had grown accustom to.

Before Finley began to let in the line of constituents waiting to see the sheriff, Goins made a request. He wanted to know when he could get the color in his office changed.

“It’s depressing,” Goins said.

Since taking office 15 days ago there has been two distinct groups filing into the sheriff’s department. Each group has a decidedly different goal in mind. One group wants justice. The other wants jobs.

Watching each group their behavior signals they agree on one thing- they make their cases to a public servant who presents with an even temperament.

A young man, in his early 20s, took a chair opposite to the sheriff. They spoke to one another with a tone of familiarity. The conversation soon progressed to the topic of possible employment.

Since Goins assumed office there has actually been little staff turnover- an anomaly in Campbell County political transitions. Aside from the former sheriff, Gary Perkins, three of his family members and his chief deputy, only four corrections officer resigned. Goins terminated no one.

But the positions are either frozen because annual leave is being paid out or have already filled. Nonetheless, Goins is honest with the young man asking for a job.

“You have got to really watch what you are doing when you are a corrections officer,” the sheriff explained. “One wrong move and you could find yourself in federal prison.” Goins stressed he is not trying to intimidate the job seekers. He simply wants the responsibility of working inside the jail to be accurately portrayed. He added that if the young man were hired, he would “be properly trained.”

By 11a.m. three people have come and gone through Goins’ door. While he was emphatic to their economic plights, the sheriff finds turning them away frustrating.

 “Around 75-precent of them are qualified,” he noted.

In a change of pace the next man through the door is offering something entirely different.

Allen Shepherd, the minister at New Life Ministry, wanted to bend his former classmate’s ear. The two men graduated from high school in 1987. While their career paths took them on different journeys then, Shepherd said he was at the department because he felt their two career paths were intersecting.

Goins invited Shepherd to be a chaplain for the sheriff’s department. The minister gladly accepts the invitation but has also arrived with a counter offer. He asked for the opportunity to minister to inmates.

“I will help wherever I am needed,” Shepherd said.

The pair discussed various spiritual needs the officers may have and how the inmates can best be served. At that moment light bounced off an object on Goins’ desk. Setting just behind the sheriff’s nameplate, between Goins and the minister is a Bible. The black leather bound book with its gold embossed edges seems appropriately placed.

Later Goins admitted there is no way anyone could hold his job without turning to their faith.

“There are so many significant decisions to be made. You need it,” he said gesturing to the Bible.

Before anymore of the day slips away Finley closes the office door to give Goins “the rundown.”

They carefully review the number of inmates versus the number of beds for the day- 170 and 92 respectively.

Finley exercised his expertise on the matter. He explained the number would drop within the next 24 hours because six females are being moved to a prison in Nashville. Securing that many female prison beds is “unheard of,” said the chief deputy. Moving down the list, Detective Brandon Elkins has researched and discovered a number of no cost training sessions for the officers to attend. Among them were basic crime scene investigation and an interview/ interrogation training conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The only hesitation from Goins was his concern on how quick can the classes happen. “I am lining all this up,” Finley assured him.

Also weighing on the new sheriff’s mind is the lack of a School Resource Officer at Campbell County High School. The position needs to be filled immediately, he said. However, given the unique aspects of the job finding the right candidate is difficult, said Goins.

Finley also advises the sheriff on the progress of reaching out to other law enforcement agencies to whom he has extended olive branches in recent days. “We are trying to establish relationships with everybody,” Goins said.

“This is not about ego. We want to work with other agencies to bust drug dealers and criminals. There is enough credit to go around for everybody,” Finley added.

The history between Goins and Finley reaches back over a decade. When Finley started at the sheriff’s department in 1994 Goins was his supervisor. For seven years, they worked the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. What they didn’t know then was one day they would eventually hold the two top leadership positions in the department.

“He taught me how to be a professional law enforcement officer,” Finley said nodding to Goins as he busily took a phone call.

When Finley took his leave to take a call Goins mentioned how invaluable Finley’s been in establishing the new administration’s structure.

 “Jon has been my right hand. I have been really blessed to have him here,” Goins said.

During the Goins administration’s first few days the activity was par for the course.

A priority for the new sheriff’s was to increase countywide patrol. As not to make changes counter- productive he chose to restructure the shifts. Instead of officers working 12 hours at a time, Goins reduced the shifts to eight hours.

“That was too much time to be in a patrol unit,” he said.

Once the logistics of county road patrols were established Goins moved on to keeping a campaign pledge.

On his fourth day in office he reinstituted the DARE program. That achievement brought a beaming smile to his youthful face. Even though it was a promise he made to voters, Goins said it represented the direction he wanted to move the department in.

“We want to keep our children safe. Teaching them the dangers of alcohol and drugs is part of doing that,” he said.                            

Seven days into his term a joint operation with the Eighth Judicial Drug Task Force resulted in two narcotics arrests.

“I believe we have made a great deal of progress in those days,” he said.

Goins said this is just the beginning.

In coming weeks Goins will hold weekly staff meetings so lines of communication can remain as open as they have been. “It was a rough election. We want these people (at the department) to know we are listening to them,” Goins said.

Along with meetings, staff will be subject to performance evaluations. Random drug testing will also be instituted for department personnel.

He said these tools have only one function- to help the employee improve so department performance improves.

In another realignment of duties and focus and with the Campbell County’s children’s safety in mind, Goins said he will have two full time child abuse investigation detectives on staff. Jason Henegar, who left the LaFollette Police Department to become part of the new CCSD staff, will act as the lead investigator. Jami Hall will work with Henegar.

“We want to make sure the kids of this county are taken care of,” Goins said. “We don’t want to see any kid lay their head down in abusive home.”

Time raced by quickly on this particular day in the sheriff’s new term. But as the minutes rushed by, the line outside the office continued to grow.

Goins neither rushed through tight budget requests, questions on the direction of the department and he visibly listened, offering a sympathetic nod when a citizen complained of a vicious neighbor.

From all indications, Goins was striving to be accessible and accountable.

In fact, he welcomed each person with a smile.

“I asked for this,” said Goins again flashing a big grin.