All good things come from trial, error and change and for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department there is no exception. Since taking over in April, Sheriff John Cottle has implemented several old and new ideas that have more than made their presence known throughout, not just the county, but the state.
One such idea is the “Pass it On” program. According to Cottle, he is not nor has he ever been the guy that says he’s going to do something and not do it
“When I do things, I always try to do them 100 percent,” said Cottle. “To get the community involvement, to get them to understand that it’s not about money, which don’t get me wrong, we want to make money and we’re trying to make money, but we make nothing off of tickets and the way the economy is it’s hard for people to pay them.”
Having that mentality and trying to look at ways that not only prove his concern for community, but also reawaken the respect for law enforcement, is what inspired his idea for the Pass it on program. When an officer pulls over an individual for speeding, seat belt or whatever, they have the option of giving that person a card that indicates what the ticket could have cost them. But instead of them paying it to the sheriff’s office they use that amount to either donate to a charitable organization, to help another person in need or even take their family out for an outing.
According to him, people are going to do what they’re going to do and the ones they would write a ticket to that stop still accomplishes what they need to. The ones they write a ticket to and don’t stop are just going to get it again down the road. So what Cottle said seemed to be the latter of the evils was treating people as they would want to be treated themselves.
“Everything right now, in this day and age, is immediate gratification. They want it now,” explained Cottle. “By doing passing on a good deed, people see something and hopefully do something that benefits more than themselves.”
Another big change Cottle has helped implement is helping the inmates make mental and healthier changes within themselves, such as providing them jobs within the jail or allowing them to earn privileges that many other places do not.
One such item was simply a new kiosk system, which was designed to help eliminate the handling of cash, which protected them and our employees. Another was the creating of the new inmate garden that not only serves taxpayers but makes life a little better for inmates.
“About ten non-violent and good behavior inmates, known as ‘trustees,’ take part in tending a garden that grows fresh vegetables of all types just outside the jail walls,” explained Cottle. “Inmates are supervised by corrections officers while tending the garden and the vegetables are implemented into meals served within the jail.
The program not only keeps inmates occupied but it requires them to incorporate patience, diligence and hard work. This program is expected to save the Sheriff’s Department approximately $1,000 in food savings over the summer alone, which benefits taxpayers as opposed to costing them money. Future plans include canning the left over vegetables for the winter when vegetables prices rise.
More recently, Cottle and other Lincoln County Deputies conducted active shooter training for Main St. Elementary School employees, where they presented a real life scenario for teachers and staff to experience and better understand how to respond to active shooter events. According to Cottle, he plans on providing every school in Lincoln County this training.
“Like I said from day one, I want to see the community involved. I want to see our deputies treating and being treated like a person and not a criminal. We are all human and we all make mistakes,” said Cottle. “Don’t get me wrong we have real criminals out there and we deal with them, but what I don’t want is every person to be treated as such. Some of these guys are good guys that just made dumb mistakes.”
E-cigarettes for inmates was also implemented, which has lowered stress for anxiety medication needs, fights and several other benefits.
“It’s also a way for us to make money for the county,” said Cottle. “We sell them for $10 each and they’re worth their weight in gold. Our inmates our calmer, stress is low, violence is low and the cost of medications are down.”
There are several other things he would like to see changed over the next few months and years, but he is proud at the turn around they have made since his election.
“Like I said I do what I say and I will always do so,” said Cottle. “A man is only as good as his word and I think over the years a lot of people have forgotten that. But I think over the last couple months we are starting to see that come back. My job now is to continue doing what is best for our residences, our officers and our overall community and that is my word.”
For more on this and other stories pick up your copy of The Elsberry Democrat today from one of our several locations. You can also sign up for the online edition by visiting http://elsberrydemocrat.com and clicking on Subscribe …