(I found this newsletter I had published in 2010. I just felt compelled to publish the slightly modified version again this evening in light of recent events)
The Sheriff's (My) Opinion, For What it’s Worth...
I am often asked what I think or feel about different issues. Sometimes it's a national issue and sometimes it's a local one. It seems I have been asked my opinion a lot in the past two days over several issues. There are times I think I get asked just so the person can disagree or start an argument. I have always felt if you don't want my opinion, don't ask.
We all have an opinion and in most cases we all are pretty strong in our opinions to the point very few have an open mind as to someone else's opinion. With that in mind it is probably crazy on my part to share some of my thoughts, feelings, beliefs and opinions. I am sure there will be readers who will disagree with my thoughts, and will have different opinions. This is not meant to change anyone's mind or to try and ‘force' my opinions or beliefs on anyone. It’s okay sometimes to agree to disagree.
1. I feel if you ‘do the crime' then you should ‘do the time'. There has to be repercussions when you break the law. Patting someone on the hand and telling them they shouldn't do that again, does not work in my opinion. There are only two reasons people obey the law, because they feel they morally should, or because they are afraid of getting caught. Case in point is why do people obey the speed limit? Why do people automatically hit the brake when they see a cop? Take away the fear of getting caught and there will be those will speed.
2. I believe everyone should be treated the same. To me it doesn't matter who you are, when you break the law. I have made it very clear to our officers that the citation or arrest should be based upon the circumstances and evidence, not who the person is. When someone is arrested, I feel everyone should be treated the same. If there is a bond, everyone should have to post that bond to be released from jail. Just because you have money or stature in the community shouldn't make any difference. And before someone starts quoting the law to me, again, this is my opinion.
Our website displays the inmate roster. The system is designed to update itself automatically every 15 minutes. This means that everyone who is booked into our jail appears on our website. No one can keep a person's name or picture off the website. Everyone gets treated the same. Fear again, I believe, is a deterrent. I have heard from dozens of people who have either said themselves or heard others say they would not have that last drink for fear of ending up on the Sheriff's Website.
3. I think if the law specifies a punishment, it should be carried out. An example is the law concerning someone convicted of driving on a license suspended due to a conviction of DWI. The law says, and I quote, ‘any person whose privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been suspended or revoked, who operates a motor vehicle in this state during the period of suspension or revocation, shall be imprisoned for ten (ten) days. Not might be, could be, up to, but SHALL. I have been in the law enforcement business for the past 25 years and rarely is anyone sent to jail for the 10 days the law requires. The jail time is usually suspended. On top of that, the vast majority of people who are convicted and sentenced to jail are allowed to serve their jail time on weekends and even then they will almost always serve less weekend days that the original jail days sentenced. I believe that if people really knew they were going to jail, most would not drive. The fear of going straight to jail and potentially losing their job would be a strong deterrent. National statistics overwhelming support that the best deterrent for Drinking and Driving is strict enforcement of the law. Again, it’s the fear of getting caught. I think it’s time we do something different because based on the sheer number of repeat offenders, frequent flyers, our current way of punishment is not working very well.
4. It is also my belief that a person should not be allowed to have their felony convictions expunged or erased so easily. Up until about 5 or 6 years ago, we rarely would see an application to have a criminal record expunged or sealed granted and usually then it at was because they had gone for 15 or 20 years without any more violations of the law. But now we are being flooded with court orders to seal or expunge their records. Serious high level felony convictions are being erased as though they never occurred. Many times the person has multiple convictions and is continuing to break the law while an earlier conviction is sealed. There have even been cases where the person was arrested numerous times for violating their probation on the original charge that they are having sealed. This, in my opinion is outrageous and flat out wrong.
5. I think we need to secure our borders, both with Mexico as well as Canada. We need to put whatever resources are necessary to keep them secure. If people want to come into the United States, let them do it legally. Our ancestors came to this Great Country legally. They worked hard and got their citizenship. I also think State and Local Law Enforcement should be able to take action when they find someone in this Country illegally. Now, having said that, I also want to say we have to be smart about it. If ‘we' start taking them into custody, where do we put them? The jails and prisons are already overcrowded. So where do we put them...For example, the latest numbers I heard were that the US deported about 400,000 people last year. Not even close to the actually estimated number of illegal residents here. So, which 400,000 do we arrest and deport this year; the illegals that commit crime or the ones who hang drywall or pick crops? Just something to think about…
In my opinion it really is a supply and demand issue and I believe the long term solution is to shut off the demand. If you made the consequences so harsh to those who hire illegal immigrants, they would be afraid to hire them. No demand means there would be no reason for the supply. Again, there has to be fear of getting caught and the punishment for getting caught has to have teeth.
6. I believe one of the main reasons this Country is in the shape it’s in is because of ‘party politics'. It's the Republicans vs. the Democrats. Look how many votes go down party lines. It’s no longer what's best for the Country, but what's best for the party. Just during this election period I heard a candidate state they would always be a voice for the people, and vote the way their constituents wanted unless it went against the party platform. I think it is high time we listened to the people and not the party and start ‘doing the right thing'.
I had a friend who would always tell me I was doing a great job. He hoped I would be Sheriff for a long time; however, he made it clear to me and others that he would never be able to vote for me because of my party affiliation.
When are we all going to learn the just because someone has an R or a D beside their name does not make them a good or bad person. It doesn't mean they are automatically going to do a good job. We need to start putting good people in office. There is a book written by Author Jim Collins, called ‘From Good to Great'. Basically the author points out that you need to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off. It doesn't matter who or what they do, but if you get the right people on the bus, they will figure out where to drive the bus to; in other words, how to make a company go from a good company to a great company. I think the same holds for our Country. We need to stop blaming the other party. I believe there is enough blame to go around. If we stop playing politics and get the right people in office and, they will figure it out and get this Country back on track. On a personal level, I have stated and promised the people that elected me that I will never put my ‘Party” above my Country, my State or my community. That is a pledge and an oath I would like to see all politicians make.
7. I think people should take responsibility for their own actions. It seems it's always someone else's fault. They never own up to their mistakes. If you look at many of today's generation, there is always an excuse, blaming someone else for their mistakes. I have seen too many parents who defend their children even when they know they are wrong and that learned behavior is passed down to generations. I believe it’s the lack of respect for authority, whether its adults, parents, teachers or law enforcement. Parents getting upset with the cops when their children get caught breaking the law. People blaming others for actions they caused. How many times have you seen or heard about someone in jail getting hurt after starting a fight and they blame the jailers. Or someone commits a robbery and gets hurt by the store owner or the police but they blame everyone else or they sue. What ever happened to ‘I did it? I was wrong. I will accept my punishment'. How about saying its my fault because I shouldn’t have broken the law in the first place. How is it that we have evolved in this Country where the criminal has more rights that their victims or the Police? It seems the people in jail or prison have more rights that those guard them.
8. While I fully realize there are problems in law enforcement like any other profession, I find the typical stereotype of cops is true. There are those who don’t like cops until they need one, and then they complain about how long it took them to get there or that they didn’t take action or enforce the law the way they wanted. Or people will go out of their way or derive miles to complain but won’t take 30 seconds to say thank you. Or they spend days and weeks criticizing and judging the actions of an officer when he or she may have had less than one second to make the decision.
9. I also believe in red white and blue, baseball and apple pie. I believe in our Flag and what it stands for. I believe in ‘one nation under God' in our pledge and ‘in God we trust' on our currency. I believe it’s better to have our kids pray in school than them have to pray from prison.
I believe a strong armed defense keeps us safe, not because we are bullies but because other Countries know we will not back down. I believe that freedom isn't free and I am grateful to all of the men and women who served and to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to give us this freedom. I also believe we need to continue to be compassionate and help other Countries in time of disaster, but I also don't think we need to ram our ideals down their throats.
While it may seem I am disgruntled and unhappy that could not be farther from the truth. In spite of our problems, I am proud to say I am an America. I am proud for what this Country has stood for, for the past 200 plus years. I believe the United States of America is the greatest County on earth. I vow I will continue to work to be part of the solution, not the problem.
I am proud to say I have served in law enforcement for the past 25 years. I am proud of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day, not for the meager paycheck, but for the love of their community and their Country. I am proud to be a part of that thin blue line that keeps this a civilized society. I am honored and blessed to a small part of making and keeping Baxter County, God’s Country. The awesome place it is to live and raise a family.
Sheriff John Montgomery