How many chiefs does KCSO need?

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

In the former Soviet Union, the Communist Party selected a Central Committee which selected a smaller executive committee called the Politburo. It selected the general secretary – a humble title for one who wielded total power – from Lenin to Stalin to Khrushchev to Brezhnev to Gorbachev – 1917-1991.


Since the Soviet Union had no free press, folks in the West had to guess who was “up” or “down” in the political hierarchy. I watched meetings of the Politburo on a black and white TV. Chunky white men in dark suits sat or stood close together. They looked alike to me, but foreign service folks in the United States liked to speculate on power trends by noting who stood closest to the general secretary. Or who didn’t appear at all.

The sheriff and his men – at the press conference to announce a new logo

Forgive me for flashing back to that image last week when I attended a press conference at the Sheriff’s training center to launch a new logo. A new logo? Really?

Later that day, on the Sheriff’s Facebook page, came the announcement and picture of two new chiefs.

Why didn’t Sheriff Spangler introduce the chiefs at the press conference and put the new logo on Facebook?

We reached out to Kimberly Glenn, the KCSO communications director. “Did these two guys replace retirees or are these new positions?”

Here’s the response:

Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler announced the promotion of two veteran members of his office as chiefs.

Chief Wes Norris is a 34-year veteran of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. He will be overseeing KCSO’s Office of Professional Standards-Internal Affairs, civil and criminal warrants, special services unit, chaplains, reserve unit, crossing guards and SCAN.

Chief David Amburn is a 30-year veteran of the KCSO. He will be overseeing the major crimes, property crimes, family crimes, juvenile crimes, forensics, narcotics and cold case units, as well as investigative support, emergency management, property and fleet services.

These are the other assistant chiefs on the law enforcement side:

Chief Brandon Workman – Oversees patrol, K-9, schools, courts (Criminal/Civil/Sessions), juvenile courts, aviation, traffic unit and KCSO precincts (West, East and North).

Chief Brent Gibson – Oversees training which includes academies, in-service training and SWAT commander/trainer.

Chief Mike Ruble – Heads a 3-lawyer team to oversee human resources, recruiting, benefits, support services, LEIDS, Teleserve records & quality control.

Chief William Purvis – Chief Jailer oversees corrections, transportation, work release, inmate industries, medical, commissary, criminal processing, training.

Assistant Chief Brian Bivens – Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility commander.

Assistant Chief Jimmy Stephens – Knox County Jail Facility commander.

Assistant Chief Steve Bravo – RDWF/Programs. KCSO currently has 23 programs to assist incarcerated individuals to transition from jail to society, both the courts and pre-trial release depend on these programs to prevent repeat offenders.

Director Todd Cook – Oversees Pre-Trial Release. KCSO currently has more than 2,400 individuals on court-ordered pre-trial release. When Sheriff Spangler took office we had 400+. This has been a huge increase, especially since COVID-19.

Chief Deputy Bernie Lyon – Promoted by Spangler to replace former Chief Deputy Eddie Biggs, who retired. Lyon had previously been a chief over traffic. That job was not filled.

By my count, this equals 11 chiefs currently. Glenn’s email said six chiefs have retired since Spangler came into office, and Lee Tramel, Spangler’s opponent in the 2018 primary, retired before Spangler came in. Thus, former Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones had 17 chiefs and Spangler has reduced the administrative overhead by six chiefs.

I realize the Sheriff’s Office has over 1,000 employees and a $94 million annual budget. I like Sheriff Spangler and proudly voted for him. He’s been slow to make the changes that I expected. That’s due partly to his temperament. He’s a nice guy. That’s why he got elected. And it’s due in part to the Merit System Council – a group designed to protect officers from political retribution that Sheriff Jones loaded up with everybody on staff.

Glenn says only four jobs – hers and three more – are not covered under the merit system.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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