Sheriff’s race heats up

Published 1:53 am Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Challengers cite response times; sheriff praises officers

Both candidates challenging Sheriff Dennis Meeks for sheriff this year cited a need for better response time and feedback from officers in the sheriff’s office in a GOP political forum held Tuesday night.

“I’ve talked to numerous people who’ve been victimized, stolen from, and can’t get anything done,” candidate Nickey Carnley said. “I cannot sit back and let people continue to be victimized.

“People are so desperate, they’re using trail cameras and have gotten pictures of crimes. They still can’t get anything done.”

Candidate Blake Turman said if elected, he would improve communications with the public and with victims.

“We will keep victims of crimes informed,” he said. “There is no reason if you are involved in a crime, that you should not hear back from and investigator.”

Turman pledged a better relationship with all areas of law enforcement.

“It’s time to unclench our fists, put our big boy pants on, and have the best law enforcement officers we can possibly have.”

The sheriff’s race is the only local race on the 2018 ballot in which the incumbent drew opposition. At Tuesday’s forum, each candidate was given 10 minutes to talk about himself and his platform. The candidates spoke alphabetically, which put Meeks in the middle.

The sheriff did not answer the criticism during this allotted time, but cited the progress made in his 11 years in office. He said his administration has implemented more efficient patrols, added officers, added more security at the courthouse, improved security at the jail, and secured grants for equipment and training.

Asked about the criticism after the forum, Meeks said, “I have the best group of officers. Do we need more? Absolutely, we do. What they don’t understand is we’ve got a budget, and we have to live within it.”

Carnley worked in the Covington Sheriff’s Department in a previous administration. He then worked in the Opp Police Department, and retired there as chief. At present, he works as an investigator in the district attorney’s office.

Touching on the current cry to arm teachers in the wake of deadly school shootings, Carnley said he’d prefer to spend the resources it would take to arm teachers by putting more officers in schools.

Turman has worked with the Alabama State Troopers for 22 years, 14 of which he has had supervisory responsibility. His proposals included adding more school resource officers, having deputies work minor traffic accidents rather than waiting for troopers to file reports, and improving the pistol permits issued by the county.

Meeks, who is seeking his fourth term in office, said he has spent his entire career with the Covington County Sheriff’s Department, and understands all facets of it. He has been a corrections officer, worked patrol, and served as investigator and chief deputy.

The Covington County Republican Party hosted the forum at Andalusia City Hall.