Franklin County's New Sheriff Talks Preparation And Priorities
A new Franklin County Sheriff will take over on January 2: Dallas Baldwin, a retired Lieutenant with the Columbus Police Department.
Baldwin replaces Zach Scott, whom he defeated in the Democratic primary. WOSU's Debbie Holmes talks to Baldwin about his preparations for the position and what his priorities will be.
The below is an automated transcript. Please excuse minor typos and errors.
Debbie Holmes: So how are you preparing right now to take over as the sheriff for Franklin County? I understand you've been attending sheriff school for about two weeks.
Dallas Baldwin: I went to new sheriff's school, which is required for all new sheriffs. It's 80 hours of training before you take office, and an additional 40 hours after you take office.
Debbie Holmes: So what are they teaching you? You served in the Columbus Police Force for 28-and-a-half years.
Dallas Baldwin: Yes. It's a variety. It goes everything from EEO ethics training, to budget, to just management, meeting all of the other current sheriffs. It's a variety of training, very very good.
Debbie Holmes: What do you think that you've learned that maybe, you know, you forgot or didn't quite focus on as much before?
Dallas Baldwin: Well, obviously budget is huge. And Columbus, I dealt some with the budget but not at this magnitude. Franklin County sheriff's office has a very large budget, and encompasses much, much more than I had in the police department.
Debbie Holmes: And you will have to be talking with the Franklin County Commissioners about your budget.
Dallas Baldwin: We have already.
Debbie Holmes: Part of what you'd like to do is improve the relationship between yourself, the sheriff, and the Franklin County Commissioners?
Dallas Baldwin: Yes I would. Past several years, it seems like that relationship may have gone downhill or corroded, and I made it a mission of mine to kind of mend that relationship. And I have met with the commissioners numerous times, had many meetings, and I think we're on the right path.
Debbie Holmes: What will be your priorities then, overall?
Dallas Baldwin: Well, number one, we formed a transition team and we looked at the organization. The men and women there have done a tremendous job and it's well organized, but it looked like it needed some change. And the reason for that is to better address issues and concerns in the community. And I really want to focus on community issues.
Debbie Holmes: What are those community issues?
Dallas Baldwin: Well, number one, is probably heroin right now. The opiate issues, that needs a great deal of attention. We're focusing on that through new concepts in the jail, go into more of a direct supervision and behavioral management-type concept.
Also just the number of issues that actually plague any community, I think we need to have a much closer relationship, closer tied to the residents and the township officials, and see what their issues are. They may not be the biggest issues overall, but in that community there are huge and we need to have a closer communications and determine what those are and combat those.
Debbie Holmes: You said new concepts in the jail to address the opiate crisis.
Dallas Baldwin: Well there is a new jail being planned that will open in a couple of years. And currently the jail is the old concept, I call linear, where deputies have to walk around hallways and observe the inmates. Under the new concepts, it's more of an open - for lack of a better term - a campus type or a classroom type setting, and you're always constantly viewing the inmates. So if anything occurs, your personnel would see that immediately. It's much much safer for the inmates and for the deputies.
Debbie Holmes: So the inmates then aren't necessarily in one cell then?
Dallas Baldwin: They're categorized based on their behavior and many many factors. They get classified, and if they're a moderate risk then they're more of an open concept. They spend much more time together. They have a lot of training, a lot of classes they can attend.
Debbie Holmes: Is the county jail running out of space because of the opioid crisis?
Dallas Baldwin: I wouldn't necessarily say because of that alone. People are held there for a number of reasons, a variety of crimes, but they are crowded and they have been crowded for many years, like many many other facilities.
Debbie Holmes: The city of Columbus, this month, it's getting 12 body cameras. They have about 1800 officers, I believe. Is the sheriff's department thinking about getting body cameras for deputies?
Dallas Baldwin: I've had some very minor discussions. There's has not been a large push for that yet. I've talked with several people from Columbus about it. My attitude was to let them work out all the bugs and start the program and see just how it works. There's issues on when you can and cannot have the camera on, respecting people's privacy rights. There's also major issues on storage and public records release.