How honest should a sheriff be?

Updated 11/15

By Sandy . . . To what standard of honest and ethical behavior should a law enforcement officer be held? A recent experience involving the Twiggs County Sheriff’s Dept. in Georgia and Sheriff Darren Mitchum has reinforced to me the importance of this question.

Sheriff Mitchum saw fit to do a bit of bragging about his department’s efforts in protecting his little piece of the world by participating in a statewide initiative called “Operation Watchful Eye.” It targets persons on the sexual offense registry for special scrutiny during a week’s time period that encompasses Halloween.

Some of the verbiage and rhetoric used in relating the success of the operation was, not surprisingly, offensive to those of us who deal more in the factual realm of sexual offense issues, and having no comment board connected with the article on which to express our points of view, we took to the County Sheriff’s Facebook page where all of the points made in the article were repeated and elaborated upon.

Quite a few comments supportive of Sheriff Mitchum and Operation Watchful Eye were made, and I proceeded to place one of my own. This is what mine said: Law enforcement’s primary job is to keep its citizens safe from harm. This is done by enacting and enforcing policies and laws that are grounded in facts. Current policies addressing those who have been convicted of sexual crime are not validated by any research, facts, or experts as being effective in preventing sexual crime — committed almost exclusively by those who are NOT already on the registry — or protecting citizens, especially children, who, when they are sexually abused, are almost always victims of family members and others close to them. Please get some facts at www.narsol.org. Thank you.

Mine was quickly followed by at least two others offering a point of view that did not support the actions of the sheriff. There may have been more, but I saw at least two others.

I cannot verify how many because they have now been removed, or at least hidden, by whoever manages the page. Chatter began fairly soon among NARSOL advocates, chatter saying that the comments that didn’t support the sheriff were visible for a short while but now couldn’t be seen any more.

I verified that this was true and sent Sheriff Mitchum a private message: Sheriff Mitchum, you may or may not be aware, but your FB page manager has chosen to hide all comments attempting to show a different point of view to the Operation Watchful Eye piece. This borders on dishonest; it is certainly unethical and deceptive, a poor stance for a law enforcement officer to be a participant in. Would those who praise you so highly be pleased to know that the comments are being skewed so that any opposition is hidden?

I have waited for a reply, but I have waited in vain. I cannot answer my question to the sheriff. As far as I know, those who praise and support him might be tickled pink to know that opposing comments are hidden. Although, given the disparity between hiding  comments and his saying, “Honesty and integrity runs deep with me. I do my best to keep everything transparent. I think transparency is a big thing with any law enforcement agency. It has to be transparent,” some might find the hypocrisy a bit too much.

But what about the larger question, the larger issue: Should a law enforcement officer be held to a higher standard of what is honest and ethical?

For my part, I would be satisfied if he were held to the standard of normal, ordinary people, the standard that says that suppressing all opposition, silencing all voices that offer a differing point of view, is not only a strategy associated with a dictator but is also DISHONEST, UNETHICAL, and just plain WRONG.

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Sandy is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.

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