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Richey Dunlap is one of two candidates vying for Trimble County sheriff with no background or training in law enforcement. But that, he said, should not be an issue among voters in the May 18 Primary Election.
Dunlap said, historically, most candidates elected sheriff in Trimble had no previous law-enforcement experience or training.
“They turned out to be the best sheriffs there ever was,” he said. “To me, all the years of training don’t do you no good if you can’t deal with the public. … I’m a people person; I love to talk to people. You need to treat people right, and treat them with respect.”
Dunlap says passion drives him to run for the office. “I have always wanted to be sheriff. I have a good family; I’m a good family man. I can talk to someone in trouble on their level, not above them. I can put myself in their situation,” he said, adding that these are traits that set him apart from the other candidates. “In my heart, I think I’m the best man for the job. No doubt.”
Dunlap said he would have no problem making arrests when necessary. “I feel, most definitely, I can handle arresting somebody for … breaking the law. … It’s common sense. If you catch somebody breaking in or someone has been robbed, there are guidelines you gotta follow; but if you got proof, do your job.”
Another passion, he said, is helping young people – particularly by steering them away from drugs.
If a young person is found at school to have drugs or be using drugs, it is not always necessary to arrest them, Dunlap said. “Take them to the sheriff’s office and scare him to death. That’s about as far as it needs to go. You don’t need to ruin their future.”
Rather than sending the child to alternative school, Dunlap said he or she should be required to perform community service, which the sheriff’s office could oversee. “Have them spend Saturdays working in peoples’ yards, shoveling snow or doing community work. They’ve got to have consequences.’
If students know “that they’re going to have to spend Saturday on a tobacco farm cutting tobacco, they’ll think twice” about getting into trouble, Dunlap said. “It might not work [in every case], but it’s a start.”
He also believes it’s crucial to have parents involved in the situation. “There is not enough discipline. Some should be stricter at home.”
There are a number of programs the sheriff’s office could offer. For example, he said, get students involved in offering a haunted house at the Morgan Community Center. Proceeds could benefit the senior trip or prom. “They would have a lot more fun, and if the sheriff’s office is involved, then they [students] are gonna respect you more. And a lot of grown-ups could benefit from it, too.”
Dunlap said he’d also like to work with troubled teens, perhaps by operating an in-county camp “three or four times a year,” similar to the Kentucky Sheriff’s Boys and Girls Camp and Trooper Island, sponsored by the Kentucky State Police.
“There are so many young people today that are in need of help,” he said. “I’d be happy to help them, and use myself as an example. I know what depression is. I would help them get into classes [or counseling]. Sometimes, friends and family aren’t enough.”
Dunlap began a bid for sheriff in 2002, but had to pull out of the race to accept a full-time job offer. About the same time, his wife, Jennifer, was killed in a car accident. He said raising his two daughters became the main focus of his life, and doing that kept him from running for sheriff in 2006.
If elected, Dunlap would increase the presence of the sheriff’s office in schools – including providing traffic control at the schools in the morning and the afternoon.
“You need a [presence] at the middle school and high school every day,” he said. “I would get real familiar with the teachers and help them” when problems arise. “I would be seen more than just at football and basketball games. I’d be there for track and softball. Other games could use law enforcement [presence]. I’ve seen arguments arise between parents at volleyball games.”
Dunlap said illegal drugs are a “big, big problem in the county. … I would do what I can and try to eliminate as much of it as I can. But, you’re not going to eliminate it completely. [Drug abuse] has been here before me, and it will be here long after I’m gone.”
Dunlap said the sheriff and deputies must be more accessible to the public. “The first thing I hear is they can’t get a hold of the sheriff now after 5 p.m. … It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job.”
If elected, he said he would ensure that when residents call the sheriff’s office, “you will talk to somebody. There would also be more than one phone number to get a hold of me, and I will answer the phone.”
He said he would staff the office so that someone would be available to answer the phone until midnight. “After midnight, you can call my house.”