Sheriff candidate Asbury touts experience, new plan

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Sheriff candidate Bob Asbury. Photo by Sam Stockard

When Bob Asbury started his career with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department 36 years ago under Craig Snell, he received two pairs of pants, three shirts and a badge. He had to supply the rest of the equipment, including his gun and bullets.

In fact, two older people in the department went with him to Roses to buy bullets because he had to be 21 to purchase ammunition, he says. After that, he rode with former Deputy Ken Roberts for two evenings, then was on his own.

During his 32 years with the department, he worked as a deputy, started the narcotics division as a detective, supervised patrol officers, then managed the jail for 11 years as chief deputy.

The department staff rose from 35 to nearly 450 as Asbury climbed the ranks over three decades. Still, his position wasn’t secure, and when Sheriff Robert Arnold took office four years ago, he resigned after being offered a job as night-shift jailer.

As the Republican primary approaches May 6, Asbury says his experience, management philosophy and conservative fiscal stance separate him from Arnold in the sheriff race.

“I do not agree with the way money has been spent,” Asbury says, pointing out the sheriff’s office budget is up $8 million in the last three years.

In his last year, 2010, the jail budget was $12 million but has jumped to $15 million, he says.

The budget for overtime pay also has risen $1.1 million, about three times as much as it was, according to Asbury. Meanwhile, the drug fund, which is derived largely from narcotics seizures and arrests, is nearly “depleted,” he says.
Besides reining in spending, Asbury says he would change operations in several ways, primarily by eliminating some of the divisions set up by Arnold and allowing patrol deputies to take on more responsibilities. For instance, patrol deputies should be allowed to work wrecks and transport prisoners while working their zones, instead of calling the traffic division or transport division to handle those responsibilities, Asbury says.

In addition, some officers are being paid overtime for hospital duty when that could be split by deputies, he says.

Asbury also disagrees with 12-hour shifts sheriff’s office personnel are working. He says he would go through the entire budget and personnel to simplify matters and make sure people are working in the right areas.

The former chief deputy, who is now working for the marshal’s service at the federal courthouse in Nashville, says he believes the drug fund is being used for “frivolous spending,” such as stereos for unmarked cars, fancy light bars and numerous other items.

Arnold persuaded the Rutherford County Commission in 2013 to remove narcotics detectives’ salaries from the drug fund, largely by arguing that they shouldn’t be trying to arrest people to fund their pay.

“I don’t consider that fishing for your pay. That’s their job,” Asbury says. He adds, “Why does everything have to fall back on property taxpayers?”

Asbury also believes three sets of uniforms, new weapons, furniture and new vehicles purchased during Arnold’s first term were wasteful spending.

“There’s no reason for anyone except patrol officers to get new cars,” Asbury says.

While Arnold has touted numerous renovations at the sheriff’s office during his first term, Asbury says improvements to the jail’s kitchen and several other projects were planned when he was serving as chief deputy. In fact, Asbury says he worked with an architect to draw up plans for the new jail kitchen.

Former Sheriff Truman Jones didn’t give Asbury much choice when he asked him to take over jail operations 15 years ago, but now Asbury calls his 11 years as jail administrator the most rewarding.

At one point in his career, all he focused on was arresting criminals and locking them up. But after he took the post, aside from having to hire about 100 new officers, he realized that the sheriff’s office should be making a positive impact on inmates.

“You need to spend that time to offer them the opportunity to change their lives,” Asbury says.

He began offering them anger management courses, parenting classes, life-skills training and initiated a therapeutic community in which inmates in one pod governed themselves, took classes, helped each other and developed communication skills.

“It was just a fantastic experiment,” he says, noting it also helped dissolve adversarial relationships between jailers and inmates.

Throughout the department, Asbury says he wants to create a “stable work environment,” one in which staff members won’t be afraid of demotion or firing if they hold a different opinion from the sheriff.

With that in mind, he wants to create a civil service or merit system within his first term, if he’s elected, so people won’t be in danger of losing their jobs in a sheriff administration change.

“As long as they’re doing their job they should have nothing to worry about,” Asbury says.

And, of course, they won’t have to buy their own bullets, either.

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Bob Asbury, election, marshall, police, Robert Arnold, sheriff
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Members Opinions:
April 20, 2014 at 3:55pm
I've had the privilege of knowing Bob Asbury and his family for almost 20 years. The citizens of Rutherford County need someone with his integrity and experience to lead the Sheriff's department. I will be voting for him and I encourage everyone else to vote for him as well!
- Tammy Ogles
April 20, 2014 at 4:51pm
Well, it is very easy for Mr. Asbury to sit back and comment about what he would do, when he sat for years and did nothing. I patrol for the SO and had worked for Bob in the back for several years. The jail was a cesspool that he and Jones let go downhill. We requested the 12 hour shifts, we can now do our jobs on patrol without having to sit on hospital duty- most of the time a Detention Deputy is sent for HD during regular shift, leaving more cars on the road. Traffic units are take care of reports of accidents if they are close- all things to streamline the job and allow patrol Deputies to do just that, patrol!! We do not want to go back to the Truman way, which is the only way Bob knows. And be careful Bob- are you stretching the truth about the kitchen a little, or trying to take credit? Cant criticize spending you say was your idea. And civil service? Get real, you know the Mayor and commission have shot that down already. And while you are discussing the Jail you ran, how about mentioning the number of Lawsuits under your watch compared to now?
April 20, 2014 at 4:57pm
And- for the first time in 15 years of working for the RCSO, I see Deputies with the equipment they need, cars that are dependable, shifts and zones covered as they should be. Not to mention a jail where you can work without getting a strep infection because admin would not ask for money for repairs. And a supervisors, including Jail administrators that actually work.. Something that didnt happen 4 years ago.
None of us want that back again.
April 20, 2014 at 10:33pm
You know when Sam Stockard writes an article about Robert Arnold, it will be a "Hit Piece" - Sam, you can change your "stripes" (go to work for a different paper) but you can't change your spots... you're still a bitter liberal democrat trying to upset the applecart of the Republican party... shame
April 21, 2014 at 11:49am
I couldn't agree with you more, AnotherOption. Why the Post ever thought that bringing him on board was a god idea is beyond me. It used to be a newspaper that featured independent reporters who I trusted, but now I've realized that it's really not that different from the other newspaper. It's a shame really. It has changed so much in the past year, and not in a good way.
April 21, 2014 at 8:24pm
Well here we go again.. Sounds like the Truman band just doesn't know when they have done enough or should I say have never done enough. We do not live in the horse and buggy days anymore and need a Sheriff such as Arnold. A sheriff that is not afraid to ask questions and challenge ideas. Very proud of Sheriff Arnold and where he is taking our law enforcement needs.
April 22, 2014 at 8:27am
RC, I am Bob Asbury. I don't know who you are but I sign my name to my comments. You have every right to express your opinion but I do not see the need to be disrespectful or confrontational. I must assume that you were not a supervisor in the last administration and were not aware of the future plans for the Sheriff's office. I have the upmost respect for the staff at the Sheriff's office and the job they have done over the years. Each and every one worked hard and did their best. I look forward to working with them again. Together we will provide professional common sense law enforcement and corrections that we can afford.
April 22, 2014 at 4:20pm
Regarding the world of politics, and those vying for political offices, differences of opinions date back to when Jesus Christ, Himself, walked the earth as a man in an attempt to salvage mankind. And "AnotherOption," I find you in contempt for accusing writer Sam Stockard of doing a "hit piece" on current Rutherford County sheriff Robert Arnold. As for you JRB2429, your comment is more indicative of a personal grudge against - a spiteful attack on - The Post than honest, well-thought-out criticism. However, only you know. Face facts, The Post is one of the better, more diversified hard-copy newspapers out there today. Why do you think it, The Post, is such a hit with MTSU journalism students?!
April 25, 2014 at 2:22pm
My comments are based on the fact that the Post used to make a point of being different from the other newspaper. That's why I first started reading it in the first place. With so many of the old Post reporters gone, how is it different now that so many former DNJ writers are now with it? Why are so many of the old writers not with the Post anymore? What happened to them?
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