Administrative changes & transparency: New Washington Co. Sheriff provides departmental update

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JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Washington County, Tennessee Sheriff Keith Sexton announced leadership changes within the department on Thursday morning, introducing new administrators and the sheriff’s office’s strive for transparency.

Sexton introduced newly appointed Chief Deputy John Lowry, Capt. Thomas Dillard to lead the Criminal Investigations Department, Jail Administrator Don Finley, Lt. Kevin Sanders over the School Resource Officer Unit and SWAT team member, Sgt. Kevin Hurd in charge of new-hire training, Lt. Coit Dixon as new SWAT Team Commander and Patrol Capt. Randall Wines in charge of day-to-day patrol and SRO operations.

“We should always be developing someone to replace us,” Sexton said. “You never want to just hold everything to yourself. If you’re a sergeant, you should be developing that patrolman to be the next sergeant.”

After announcing promotions within the administration, Sexton did note that demotions occurred within the department following the transition of leadership.

“Anytime a new sheriff comes in, there’s going to be a change in administration,” he said. “I don’t want to go into the demotions; I don’t think that would be respectful of those who have taken demotions. They’ve been very cooperative, and I consider them an integral part of this team.

“People have been very receptive to the new changes, and from what I understand and from what I’ve seen, it’s been a breath of fresh air for most people.”

Sexton emphasized the department’s goal for community involvement and transparency moving forward, and the new sheriff stressed that community members should not have to undergo numerous steps to obtain public records.

“It is my intention that if it’s a law enforcement matter, and there’s an active investigation, then there are certain things we are not going to be able to make open to the public,” he said. “But if someone wants to know where money is being spent or a public record or someone needs a report, you shouldn’t have to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get a public record, in my opinion. It should be pretty immediate.”

While new leadership has been established, Sexton revealed the Washington County Detention Center remains short-staffed, and the department is currently short five patrol officers. He said the department continues to work to fill those positions.

Sexton revealed leaders have outlined a 30-day and 100-day plan focusing on filling positions and revamping the department’s mental health resources. This includes further crisis intervention training for both detention and patrol officers.

“Everyone who’s in this jail — they’re a human being, and they need to be treated like they’re a human being,” Sexton said.

“I want this sheriff’s department to be open and a place void of intimidation,” Sexton said. “I want them to know that they have a profession — a family atmosphere where we take care of each other as we do what we do to take care of the community.”

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