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By David Klein
Running on his experience, Knox County Sherriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones said he was proud of his accomplishments over the last four years. Jones was appointed sheriff in January 2007, and reappointed on February 20, 2008. He was then elected Sheriff in a county-wide election on August 7, 2008 for a partial term and re-elected to a four-year term on August 5, 2010.
He has increased the number of sheriff department officers on the street during his tenure and said officer response times have become quicker. Emergency call response times are between 4 to 10.5 minutes depending on traffic and the time of day and non-emergency response times are between 15 to 16 minutes, Jones said. “We’re constantly analyzing the calls for service and the response times for service,” he said. “That’s how we determine how many officers are on the street. We have to continuously analyze that because it changes on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.”
Another issue of importance to Jones is keeping kids at safe at school. “I was an advocate to have an officer in every school,” Jones said. “There are officers in every school, whether it be a sheriff’s officer, a Knoxville police department officer, or a security officer.”
Jones is in his 34th year of service in the Knoxville area and has a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Tennessee. He has done just about everything there is to do in the sheriff’s office. He started his career in police work as a jailer in the Sheriff’s Office in 1980 and 18 months later entered the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy in Donelson, Tennessee. When he graduated, he became a patrol officer. In 1984, Jones became an investigator with the Metro Narcotics Unit where he served until 1997, becoming a lieutenant in the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Major Crimes Unit. He would then start a new group that would work on unsolved homicide cases, doing that for five years before serving as Liaison Officer assigned to the Knox County District Attorney’s Office. He then resumed work in the sheriff’s office as Assistant Chief of Administration before becoming Knox County Sheriff.
One of the programs Jones started is a safety center as an alternative to jail for mentally ill people. “It’s a diversionary program that takes up someone who has some kind of mental illness that is dependant on alcohol or drugs and diverts them from jail,” he said. “The Safety Center diverts those individuals away from jail, and gives them the type of help and counseling they need to be productive,” he added.
Jones has also expanded an inmate labor program for public projects and nonprofits. “The first year, our inmates did over 80,000 man hours for non-profit organizations,” Jones said. “Last year they did over 125,000 man hours. It helps our taxpayers save money.”
For example, an inmate who is serving a six-month term can reduce that to three months by working in the program, Jones said. “For every day the inmate works, they get credit for two days. This saves our taxpayers a $100 a day for every day they are out early.”
Jones stressed that his experience is a big advantage over his opponents. “Neither one of these individuals will be able to take over and start immediately,” Jones said of his Republican opponents, Charles S. Hammett Jr. and Robert L. ‘Bobby’ Waggoner. There are no Democrats running, so the winner of the May 6 primary will be the new sheriff. “I’m ready to go immediately, they’re not,” he emphasized.
Another thing Jones touts is the readily available statistics on crime in the county. Arrest records, when a crime has been committed, traffic stops-these are all records that can be accessed. “Someone can put in their address and select a radius and pull up everything an officer has done within that radius, including traffic stops, crimes committed, and every report in their neighborhood,” Jones said. “Before this crime mapping, there was no way for the public to find out what was going on,” Jones added. “This is free to anyone who wants to log on,” Jones stressed.
One community program Jones mentioned is SCAN, Senior Citizens Awareness Network. “Sometimes they are the only people that these people (seniors) see,” Jones said. “It is a group of individuals who volunteer who go out and visit elderly people that have no one else to help them. “We’re very proud of them,” Jones said.
While Jones said the job demands a lot of time, he said it is rewarding too. “It’s a very time consuming job. You have to listen to everyone’s problems and deal with them.” However, “that’s probably the most rewarding part of it too. You get to solve and help people with their problems. Each day is different.”