Jones, Spangler face off for Knox Sheriff
Knox County’s Republican and Democratic primary election is Tuesday, May 3. Early voting is currently ongoing through next Wednesday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Early voting locations including Farragut Town Hall and Downtown West. Visit https://www.knoxcounty.org/election/ for more information.
Farragutpress will be profiling several Republican candidates in the weeks ahead because no Democratic contested Primary elections involve, either directly or indirectly, the Farragut area.
This will change, of course, to include Democratic candidates in the County General Election Aug. 4, which is also Election Day in the Town of Farragut.
Most GOP profiles are taken from candidates who presented their cases for being elected within the Town of Farragut — specifically the Concord-Farragut Republican Club — in February and March.
None of these profiles exceeds 400 words. If one is noticeably shorter than others, it is only because that candidate cut his/her presentation short.
These profiles will run weekly until the issue prior to the Tuesday, May 3, Knox County Primary election.
Knox County Sheriff from 2007 to 2018, Jimmy “J.J.” Jones said, “We don’t have a problem with ‘defund the police.’ … That’s not a reason we can’t keep (officers) here.
“In East Tennessee, people love law enforcement.”
Pointing out “almost one half of the entire workforce” at KCSO “has left in less than four years,” he added, “… there’s no reason whatsoever for anyone to ever leave an agency like the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. It’s a great place to work.
“… Except for CONTRA (funding temporarily resulting in some vacancies) … when I was sheriff we never had vacancies, ever.”
He warned of “people in the jail who are working 16-hour shifts” while also saying KCSO patrols “don’t have enough time to patrol through your neighborhood and see if someone is breaking into your house” due to staff shortages.
He also said fewer officers, 11 fewer as of Dec. 31, 2021, “were in the schools” versus his time as sheriff. … Some officers are having to guard three and four schools.”
As for school security overall, “We’re getting to the point where it’s not going to be safe. … It’s because we’re losing officers.”
He said not addressing the county’s homelessness issue means homeless are so prevalent “people can’t even use the greenway” in some places, including Farragut.
About filling manpower shortages, “what we have to do now” is ID those officers being “run off” from, or who left, other agencies: “Those are the people we need to be picking and choosing from.”
However, Jones said he “100 percent disagrees with” dropping the minimum age for corrections officers to 18.
About increased pay, he said “there’s one way only that police officers’ pay is going to be brought up to a (higher) level and that’s a property tax (increase), and no one is for [that] especially right now.”
However, a veteran KCSO detective who worked under both candidates said during this debate “one year” during the Jones administration, the rank-in-file “got four extra vacation days as our bonus, but all the chiefs got big bonuses.”
Tom Spangler was hired by Knox County Sheriff’s Office in 1980.
“I started off as a correctional officer and worked my way to patrol, then made it to supervisor, detective — all the way through the ranks to chief deputy. In 2007 … I was appointed as acting sheriff for about six months, and then was chief deputy for the last two sheriffs.
“I retired in 2009 … right after that I went to work for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. … I was over training units for the next five years.”
Elected Knox Sheriff in 2018, “We changed patrol officers (shifts) to get them off a 12-hour shift and put them back on a six-four rotation, to give them more time for family and more time to recuperate. Those 12-hour shifts, at times, would turn into 14, 15, 16 hours. … You put a tired individual out on the street, and a split-second decision could be a life-ending decision.
“My feeling was we had too many chiefs within our agency. … We were going to reduce those numbers when people either retired or left — whatever it was. At this time we have
reduced five of those positions. … With those five positions
we created more patrol and
we created more correctional officers.
“For the last two years of having to fight something like (de-funding law enforcement) has been tremendous. … Knox County has taken care of our law enforcement when it comes to trying to defund the police. … I’m still fighting to make sure these men and women (officers) get paid a decent salary.”
Among KCSO staff, “We gave them a $3,000 bonus.”
A detective who worked under both sheriffs said the Spangler bonuses went to those ranked “captain or below, not the big guys who are already making six digits.”
Spangler said, “… We can’t afford to lose any more officers. … or support staff. … Our correction positions, we’ re down 70 right now. … We have a total, across the agency, of around 145 vacancies.”
However, “We’re continuing to recruit. We just hired two from KPD. … and one from Minnesota, one from Chicago.”
Spangler said he wants the minimum age for corrections officers to be dropped to 18. “If a person is able to fight for this country at 18, then by gosh they can be a corrections officer.”
Overall, “I feel like so far we’ve led this agency in the right direction.”