By Robert Jordan
Dunn Daily Record
SAMPSON COUNTY – Once again, Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton is sounding the alarm and warns if corrective measures are not soon put into place, “a bad problem will get worse. It won’t go away.”
Thornton says his department lost another deputy. “He’s now working in a county next door which pays deputies more,” the sheriff said.
“Not many people know it, but in Sampson County, the Sheriff’s Department’s budget is not set by the Sheriff. It’s set by the County Manager, Ed Causey,” Thornton said. “And he has underfunded the department. That’s the reason the Sheriff’s Department has 14 vacancies.”
And Thornton says it is also the reason why he “can’t replace the deputies, patrolman, and prison guards who have left.”
Thornton goes on to explain, “That’s a problem only the County Manager, along with the County Commissioners, can fix. And he needs to fix it. If he doesn’t, a bad problem will get worse. It won’t go away.”
The sheriff complains that as a result of inadequate funding, the sheriff’s office is seriously understaffed, and as a result, several impacts are being experienced all across Sampson County.
An animal control deputy has been reassigned to serve civil process, like child support papers, due to all of the vacancies. A second animal control deputy has been pulled and reassigned to protect and assist the grand jury in the courtroom due to shortages at the courthouse. This translates into one deputy handling animal control issues for the second largest county in North Carolina, geographically.
“While we are mostly focused on the impact these shortages have on public safety, let’s not forget who else is impacted in this crisis. Failure to adequately fund the Sheriff’s Office has far reaching effects in Sampson County,” Thornton warns. “Currently, the detention center has seven vacancies, meaning less officers to guard and transport inmates to court. This job is part of the Sheriff’s Office duties, but we are so shorthanded that we have to take deputies from other important assignments to handle it — leaving less officers on the roads. The issues created by the County’s refusal to adequately pay our officers is impacting the service we can provide and making our county less safe — period.”
Thornton encourages concerned residents to contact the Sampson County Finance Office at 910-592-7181 to voice their opinions, or to email the county manager, assistant county manager and county commissioners.