Sheriff Tom Spangler is not a funny guy. But then there’s not much humor in managing the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Spangler spoke recently to the Halls Business & Professional Association. Highlights:
Retail Task Force: Made 380 arrests between Thanksgiving and Christmas 2018, primarily for shoplifting and selling knockoffs (trademark violations). “We recovered over $160,000 of property and five stolen vehicles.” Businesses can call 865-392-1670 to discuss loss-prevention programs.
Credit card skimmers: Jiggle the ATM card reader to see if it’s loose. Skimmers will come off, Spangler said, because often they are fitted on top of the regular card reader. “But not too hard. I don’t want to have to serve a warrant on you for destruction of property.”
$80 million budget: Budget pressure comes on the corrections side because the sheriff’s office cannot control the number of inmates incarcerated. “When the judge sentences someone, we take them to jail.” Knox County is under a federal cap of 215 inmates at the City County Building, and subject to a $5,000-per-day per inmate fine for violating that order. So, most inmates are housed at the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility on Maloneyville Road in East Knox County. And now, as reported here, inmates in that facility have filed a lawsuit alleging overcrowding and other issues.
Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center: Built by former Mayor Tim Burchett and former Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones over neighborhood opposition – it’s a 16-bed unit for mentally ill persons, operated by Helen Ross McNabb Center on Dewine Road in Northwest Knoxville at an annual cost of $2.5 million. In response to a question, Spangler said, “It’s not really helped,” primarily because it’s too small. “We have 60 inmates now at the Roger D. Wilson facility with mental-health issues.”
Marijuana: Carl Tindell asked about legalization in Tennessee, and Spangler said that idea has “no support from law enforcement,” primarily because legalization will lead to more arrests and create problems with juveniles.
Church security: Ben Johnson asked what the Sheriff’s Office is doing to help, and Spangler said officers will “come out and talk about what you can and cannot do.” And then he offered gallows humor: “There are so many people carrying (guns with permits) in church that at the first sign of trouble, I get as close to the ground as possible.”
Thinking about health care
Health care is on everyone’s mind these days. While legislators including Sens. Becky Massey and Richard Briggs and Rep. Gloria Johnson are scrambling to expand health insurance coverage for the working poor, Gov. Bill Lee has announced plans to repeal the amusement tax on gym memberships.
“Unfortunately, we’ve discouraged Tennesseans from investing in their health and wellness by taxing their efforts,” said Lee in a press statement. “The skyrocketing costs of health care and Tennessee’s high rates of obesity and diabetes means (sic) we simply cannot afford to discourage healthy habits.”
Lee says the repeal would cost the state about $10 million.