Seven weeks after taking office, Sheriff Chad Partin unveiled internal changes to the Coffee County Sheriff Department and jail to the Times.
Partin’s been a busy: he’s spent 80 percent of his time inside the jail and the remainder reworking internal affairs in the department. In the past 2.5 months, he’s hired school resources officers for all of the county schools (eight of the nine are new to the district), created two new positions in the sheriff’s department, moved inmates and more. The new positions were made possible at no extra cost to the county by the restructuring the staff.
After taking office Sept. 1, Partin said he walked into what he was expecting.
“I had an idea of the problems here,” he said. “I was hearing them, so I came into it and spent first 1.5 months analyzing problems, now we’re tasked with correcting the problems.”
Partin made it clear that he did not want to speak poorly about the past administration and he did not want to spread any negativity about their actions and policies. He wanted to only speak about what he was doing to modernize policies, organize the department and restructure how things worked.
A sheriff’s department deals with law enforcement, the court system, civil process and administrative work.
“Fortunately for me, I came from this environment. I started my career in corrections…I’ve been around all of this for my entire career,” Partin said.
Temporarily closing the annex
In the last two weeks, he moved all of the inmates in the Coffee County Annex into the main jail. This move was done due to staffing issues – Partin did not have enough staff to properly man the annex and the jail, which would have created safety concerns at both locations. Because of this, Partin decided to move the 24 inmates (as of August 31, 2018) into the main corrections facility.
“The move was because of internal issues. The inmates in the annex didn’t do anything wrong,” Partin emphasized.
At the time, overcrowding was not an issue at the jail either. As of August 31, 2018, the Coffee County Jail had 375 inmates out of 400 available beds, according to the state’s official Jail Summary Report. The population dropped further in September, allowing for the annex inmates to be absorbed without putting strain on the jail’s population.
The annex inmates are still working and they are being kept in the same area of the jail.
“We hope to get the annex back up soon,” Partin said. “Soon might be six months to a year, though. We want to expand on that program. And if there is an influx of inmates, we still have those 36 beds open.”
Changes in the jail
Partin is restructuring the supervision of the jail. He recently hired an internal affairs/corrections officer to oversee all internal affairs at the jail level.
“We’re trying it another way due to the state of the internal problems we were having with smuggled in contraband, mistreatment of inmates, officers that have been in violation of policies,” Partin explained.
A large majority of the contraband, which includes tobacco and drugs, were smuggled in through the jail garden – a program that started in August for female inmates. Partin explained the inmates were burying and unburying the contraband, which is anything not allowed in a cell, and bringing it back into the jail. While he is not against the garden program, he believes it needs to be reworked to prevent this from occurring.
Other issues include pockets of inmate mistreatment – nothing widespread, but small things that need to be addressed to keep inmates calm. Partin outlined things like making sure they all have sleeping mats, their codes are working so they can order personal care items through the jail’s online system, and that all officers are treating them like human beings.
“We’ve just got to take time to care for them; it could be any of our family that’s back there,” Partin said. He has a no tolerance policy for mistreatment – he expects his officers to treat inmates the way officers want to be treated.
Though his employees have been following this procedure and do not have a history of mistreatment, Partin explained that “It just takes one to get a big lawsuit.”
As an example of this, the jail was without hot water for the second time since 2016. A water line in the boiler room broke. The ensuing leak shortage out the computer system that controlled the boiler. Partin personally went to every cell in the jail and explained to the inmates what was going on and how they were fixing it.
Corrections officers are also working with spiritual leaders, bible studies, the courts and more to ensure there are no time conflicts with scheduled meetings.
The daily average costs in the jail are down. In August, the jail spent $3,700 on food. In September, the jail spent $3,200 due to the lower population.
“That’s what we like to see,” Partin said.
Partin is working on all facets of the department, from training to the courthouse.
“I am trying to analyze everything from the time you come up the driveway to when you go down the driveway and leave – mitigate issues that cost us money and downtime and cost us safety issues,” he said. “It just takes time to build.”
Daniel Ray was hired as the general department instruction officer. He has been working to compile and build individual training records for all department personnel. What Ray and Partin have found, many of the employees have training records listed in the wrong files – it’s Ray’s job to find all of that information and compile it into one training document per officer. Ray is working with Captain Chris Patterson from Manchester Police and plans on mimicking his process.
The files are important for ease of access for department officials and auditors. This way, all of the information will be in one place and nothing will be left out. Ray explained that many of the officers are instructors in certain topics, which he didn’t necessarily know about until he started organizing their files.
This won’t only make in-service training better, it “Takes these officers and pull out the potential they have,” Ray said.
The investigations divisions is going back to the basics and being trained up. Billy Butler, who is captain in investigation and patrol, is focusing on investigation to get everyone trained and up to speed, Partin explained.
Lieutenant Brian Roberts has been supervising patrol to assist Butler.
“Both of these guys, I couldn’t have done any better,” Partin said.
In the courthouse, Partin is having conversations with judicial personnel to figure out who needs to be in the courthouse and ensuring they have the proper training.
He is working on implementing a new program to the sheriff’s department website as well. The program, Vine, allows victims of crimes to track the person who committed the crime while they are in jail. It will show the inmates release date, if they were transferred, their death date or if they escaped.
“They will know what we know in live time,” Partin said.
Partin is also in talks with various department heads, such as the district attorney general, the public defender and courthouse officials. Together, they are working out plans to manage the judicial process and make plans for when an influx of inmates does occur.
“I am very lucky to have these individuals that are willing to work with me and communicate,” Partin said. “We may differ on an issue, but we will sit down and explain ourselves…I won’t leave those meetings until everyone is happy with decisions. I’m just glad that they are willing to work with me.”
Partin installed seven of the nine new SROs in county schools as soon as he took office. Coffee Middle School SRO Laura Nettle was appointed as the program’s overseer.
“The SRO program is the biggest positive I’ve got going on in my life right now,” Partin said.
He has big plans for them as well – the SROs will be working with bus drivers to ensure student safety on hazardous routes. The biggest issue is dealing with road rage – drivers who attempt to go around a stopped bus that is picking up students.
“We don’t need that to happen. Nothing should endanger a child’s life as they get on the school bus or off the bus,” Partin said.
His long-term goal is to work with the district and create an individualized curriculum for each SRO to teach at their school — subjects like drug awareness, stranger danger, social media etiquette, reporting issues and more.