During a visit at our sheriff’s office recently, Sheriff Jim McVicker shared with me some of the changes he has instituted to benefit our county. I was excited to find out he has already accomplished 27 positive changes and has set 11 new goals for the sheriff’s office to implement in the near future.
It would be impossible to list all of these important goals and accomplishments in one space, but here are a few:
— Established and maintained a sound policy and procedures manual
— Increased officer training by 300 percent and fostered training relationships with federal, state and local agencies to more effectively serve the citizens
— Installed cameras in patrol cars by securing a grant
— Placed more officers in schools and officer unannounced visits throughout the day
— Established a school security coordinator to keep communication open between sheriff’s office and schools
— Formed a drug task force with Columbus County
— Assigned a full-time narcotics officer to the DEA task force
— Added a Canine Unit with no expense to taxpayers
— Upgraded officer body armor and helmets partially funded by drug seizure money
— Has made 75 presentations since 2016 to regional and local houses of worship regarding security and crisis events to date.
One of the most important improvements the sheriff has instituted is how officers deal with evidence. Sheriff McVicker hired an Evidence Custodian to monitor and account for evidence collected at crime scenes. In the past administrations, evidence has been brought in by the detective who was called to the crime scene. Once the evidence reached the sheriff’s office, it was logged in and placed into a small evidence room by that same officer. Therefore, since different detectives handled different crime scenes, evidence was often handled in multiple ways. If evidence was requested, any officer could retrieve it from the evidence room.
Since multiple people were handling evidence, this method had the potential for the evidence to be compromised in court. Having evidence placed into the evidence room by multiple people made it difficult to protect, log and store evidence in a logical manner.
Realizing the system did not serve the accused, the victim or the court’s best interest, Sheriff McVicker and his team immediately began a project to make the evidence more secure, cleaner and more accessible. The Evidence Custodian was hired to retrieve evidence at the scene of each crime. He is a specially trained evidence officer who is assisted by one other officer. His partner steps in only if the Evidence Custodian is out of town due to department requirements. Having one officer collecting, storing, and retrieving evidence insures consistency.
Once the Evidence Custodian collects the evidence, he brings it to the evidence section of the sheriff’s office. There are three locked rooms and each room is equipped with cameras. The first room is where the evidence is placed in one side by the Evidence Custodian — the door to room two is locked, and even the sheriff does not enter room two or three. The Evidence Custodian removes the evidence from the box in room two where it is logged, tagged, and given a bar code. The evidence is then shelved according to the bar code in room three. If evidence is requested the Evidence Custodian retrieves it. Since the evidence is stored according to the bar code, the evidence officer can quickly locate the evidence using his computer. Once the evidence has been presented in court, it is replaced using the same system into room three by the Evidence Custodian.
No one may handle evidence except the Evidence Custodian. Anyone who wishes to enter any of the three locked evidence rooms needs permission from the Evidence Custodian. In addition, that visitor must log the time he enters and the time he leaves along with his name and purpose. The visitor is accompanied by the Evidence Custodian at all times. The integrity of the evidence is thus preserved. This benefits the accused, the victim, and the courts.
I am so thankful that we have a sheriff whose career in law enforcement has equipped him to see weaknesses in our sheriff’s office and the wisdom to use resources available to him to correct these weaknesses and strengthen our sheriff’s office procedures, support our officers, and protect each of us. Thank you, Sheriff McVicker.
Jane Pait is a White Oak resident.