Trey Gooch (left), Doug Shafer and other commissioners listen as Sheriff Robert Arnold shows them around the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (TMP Photo/M. Kemph)
Citing rapid population growth and the need for up-to-date facilities, the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office has outlined an ambitious five-year strategic plan that includes, among other requests, adding more than 50 new detention officers.
“This plan focuses on being proactive, not reactive, to crime and other issues that affect public safety,” Sheriff Robert Arnold said, during a meeting held Monday to review the strategic plan with members of the Rutherford County Commission.
Even though it is not an official request for funds, strategic plans are often used during annual budget negotiations.
“None of these requests will be considered until the Sheriff’s Office formally submits its budget,” said Commissioner Gary Farley (Dist. 7), who chairs the Public Safety Committee. “However, all of this information does help us prioritize what items will receive funding.”
The strategic plan, which took more than a year to prepare, consists of long-term capital outlay needs for divisions within the Sheriff’s Office, one of which is the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center.
The full-time positions would be gradually added over the next few years in order to reach an adequate number of staff to manage daily operations, as recommended by officials with the County Technical Service, an arm of the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service.
Although the jail has arguably been understaffed for nearly a decade, many of the other requests included in the strategic plan are designed to address a newer challenge – Rutherford County is no longer rural.
“We would like to keep up with the growth of Rutherford County,” Chief Deputy Joe Russell said. “In the next five years, the population is expected to exceed 300,000 people. As the population grows, so will crime.”
One such way officials said they are trying to achieve that goal is through a newly formed division, the Criminal Intelligence and Analysis Unit.
“The purpose of this unit is to produce intelligence and analytical products that will assist the sheriff and his management (team) in making critical decisions regarding staff allocation,” Lt. Larry Pace said, “and responding to organized criminal activity or associated threats in Rutherford County.”
In order to successfully complete those tasks, Pace said the unit needs funds to purchase licensing software, integrate existing databases, and hire a full-time employee to help him analyze the data.
“This unit improves our ability to share information with other agencies,” he said, “and spot crime trends and patterns in specific areas of the county.”
Arnold agreed, noting the new unit was formed by combining various responsibilities that were divvied up among other divisions into one cohesive program.
“So far, this is proving to be a huge success,” he said. “By putting resources together, we have been able to target patrols in high-crime areas. … This is just one of the ways we are taking a proactive approach to prevent crime, which in my opinion, is worth the cost.”