Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond was sworn in as president of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association on Friday, saying he is ready to embark on what he expects will be an exciting year.
“Obviously, my first priority is to remain responsive to matters here at home,” Bond said. “But, I also intend to reach out, represent, and assist my fellow sheriffs as time permits. I would like to tour as many sheriff’s offices as possible and speak one-on-one to better understand the problems that exist in their jurisdictions. I’m expecting to find similar issues that we have here, but that remains to be seen.”
The Missouri Sheriffs’ Association (MSA) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support the Office of Sheriff and the Constitution through legislative efforts, training and technical assistance, in its efforts to make communities a safer, more enjoyable place to live, to work, and to raise a family.
MSA officers are elected by a ballot vote of the member sheriffs of the association and serve a one-year term beginning in August. Now president, Bond said he plans to further professionalism among the sheriffs of Missouri’s 114 counties. He also plans to promote public accessibility to those offices.
“I’m advocating the furtherance of professionalism in the Office of Sheriff,” Bond said. “To attain this, sheriffs must be a strong presence, on many fronts. Citizens want to know their sheriff. We must be accessible to the public. We must preserve citizen rights to keep and bear arms. We must support our families in order that they may strengthen us.”
Nevertheless, Bond added that professionalism starts with the individual.
“We must make good moral and ethical decisions. Doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Not necessarily the popular thing to do, not necessarily the politically correct thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do,” he said. “We need to hire good people, train them well, and let them go out and do their job to protect the citizens. And we must always remember that we are here to represent our fellow citizens.”
Finding and hiring those individuals that not only have the ethics, but the education and training to serve as the chief law enforcement of their counties is not always easy. To recruit qualified candidates, salaries must be competitive. Bond, who makes $56,000 per year, said increases in sheriff’s pay have not kept pace with those in other law enforcement organizations.
“For instance, when I became sheriff 10 years ago, my salary was in the same range as both the Sedalia Chief and local Highway Patrol Zone Sergeant. However since that time, their salaries have both received regular increases while mine has been adjusted once, largely remaining stagnant. Today, both of their positions pay significantly higher salaries. Most other county sheriffs are in the same situation,” Bond said.
According to Bond, the MSA plans to make this their highest legislative priority in the upcoming months.
“We have been successful and are now in our third year of securing salary increases for our deputies with the Deputy Sheriff Salary Supplementation Fund,” Bond said. “It is past time for your county sheriff’s salary to be addressed, just for the person currently holding the office, but for the integrity of the position itself.
“Current sheriffs well understand that what we are advocating may not transpire until others fill our seats in the future. But this is such an important initiative that we must work on it today or face losing the importance of the office tomorrow.”
Even if sheriff’s salaries become commensurate with other agencies, training law enforcement officers requires the state’s police academies to keep up to date with new advancements in the field. With 28 years of experience in law enforcement and 18 years of experience teaching criminal justice courses at State Fair Community College, Bond said he is a firm believer in continuing education for peace officers and plans to make training another priority for the MSA.
“Through the MSATA (Missouri Sheriffs’ Association Training Academy), new peace officers are trained through our police academy classes offered throughout the state, and existing sheriffs, deputies, and other peace officers receive continuing education, which are required to maintain their certifications, at many locations and via the web. In addition, we are actively working to upgrade our online training site to provide more interactive and current curriculum,” said Bond.
Salaries, ethics and training are all important issues to the MSA, but obviously so is crime. One program developed in 2011 that is owned by the Missouri Sheriff’s Association is beginning to be used by the FBI. Iris Scan collects biometric identification by taking a picture of the eye and is currently used in every state prison and approximately half of the county jails in Missouri.
“The identities of all persons processed into or out of a jail or prison are immediately confirmed, and the database is updated to provide a host of information for previous contacts from all participating facilities,” Bond said. “We are currently working with the federal government to expand the system to integrate fingerprint and photograph processing, which will streamline our booking room processing operations.”
The President of the MSA is a highly political position. The public and members of the press seek his or her opinions on a wide array of subjects relevant to criminal justice in Missouri. Lawmakers also seek the council of the MSA in determining legislative action that affects the entire state. Every year the association establishes legislative priorities, which are carried out through the MSA Legislative Committee.
“The president is tasked with multiple duties to represent the Association in legislative and government matters,” Bond said. “Serving on special committees, other association boards as an ex-officio member, and being a constant presence is essential to success for the MSA. This year will be no different and I have already been working closely with key people in an effort to further our initiatives.”