Learn about John Kings experience, attitude toward public service and much more in this interview. Richard Urban Show episode #53.
Excerpts from the John King Interview
John King: Good Morning, Richard, thank you for having me on your show. I’m so happy to be here today with all of you. My name is John King. I’ve lived in Jefferson County quite a few years now. I retired from the federal government after 32 years with the US Capital Police, where I was a police officer, Special Agent, Supervisor, manager, Did a gamut of things. My last position was a Canine unit with 55 handlers; with a 14.3 million budget. I really want to give back to Jefferson County. The reason I got involved in running for office; when I retired two years ago, I had really intend to go back to work, and Mr. Jack Hewitt and a few people up in the community got together and convinced me to run for office, I told him I would do it, but the condition was I wasn’t going to take a salary from Jefferson County. Public Service to me is about public service, and I’d be honored to serve the people of Jefferson County to the fullest of my abilities.
Richard: From your viewpoint, what do you think are the three or three or so top priorities for the Sheriff here in Jefferson County?
John King: Well, that’s a little bit of a loaded question. I really need to get in there and do a needs assessment and look at the totality of the environment of the entire Sheriff’s Office because, we have the Tax Office, and we have the bailiffs, and we have, of course, the law enforcement, Sheriff’s department, and we have animal control. There are things that will cost money, and are there things that will not cost funding. We really need to go through and look at everything operationally, administratively, and then prioritize things in order to come up with a plan to meet our goals over the next, short-term goals, maybe six months to a year out and long-term, three to four years out. That’s kind of where we are. I really couldn’t give you… I have a couple of ideas of things I know that I think should be done right away, but I really need to get in there and really dig in to make sure I’m doing the right thing for the Sheriff’s office and for the people of Jefferson County.
Richard: A lot of the news is involving, of course, the whole COVID-19 and then the whole different mandates, like The Governor seems to like to make a lot of mandates, like mask mandates and business closures and these kind of things. So, my question as far as how that would pertain to the Sheriff; say there was some kind of orders from the Governor; would you enforce things that would cause business owners to be arrested for not following mandates. In fact, there was a case just brought, I know in Hurricane about some place that allowed their employees not to wear masks. And the Health Department said, No, no. And they were going to shut it down. Would you enforce such kind of regulations?
John King: Well, if you’re talking about the health department, that’s a completely different issue than the Sheriff’s office. The Health Department goes in, for example, if they’re expecting a restaurant or they’re doing their normal inspections, they find a violation, they usually notify, you have so many days to fix or we have to fix it immediately, and they close you down, the only thing the Sheriff’s office is designed to do is to go in and say, ‘No, the business has to be closed’. I know there’s been a lot of questions about the masks. Well, the masks, in a business situation, just like Walmart, any of the stores; the business owners, ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’. The same thing applies to a mask. So if the requirement is you have to wear a mask in the store, and if they don’t wear the mask in the store; the owner asks you to leave; if you don’t leave, then they can call the Sheriff’s Office, they can charge you with trespassing. The Sheriff’s office cannot enforce laws that aren’t legislated and put onto the books and actually in the code.
Richard: What about this situation. In the Spring I noticed that Moulton Park was closed and there were signs up. They even removed the picnic tables; I guess people could have criminal activity by sitting at the picnic table. But anyway, point being, people were still congregating in the park and nobody was bothering them, but theoretically could the Sheriff say, ‘Hey, you know, you can’t congregate here’, or even theoretically arrest those people?
John King: No, you can’t go around and arrest people for things that aren’t on the laws and in the books. You can’t do it. You’ll get sued. I’ve been sued in my career. I was not even in the United States twice when I got sued. So, being a manager and being the Sheriff, you take on all that liability, but you can enforce codes; you can provide recommendations. Basically, people need to be respectful of others, and if people are not comfortable being around you without a mask, then you need to try and go along and be a good citizen with folks. I think the businesses are doing a great job here in Charles Town and Jefferson County, by having people wear masks in the business. I think it’s a good precaution, especially inside.
Richard: One issue that’s relevant here in Shannondale, we’re concerned about the fact that here in Shannondale and vicinity we have over 4000 plus people down Mission Road, and there’s only one northern exit. There’s no way to exit any other way, which causes a possible hazard if there’s an emergency. So, question is, would you support having a southern exit for Shannondale and vicinity to the south?
John King: I think it’s a great idea. I don’t think it’s really the Sheriff’s privy to decide the roads, but I would support anything that would open up the second entrance in there. I think it’s a good idea for the residents, also can provide more fire apparatus and support. One of the things I’d like to see happen up in Shannondale, I’d like to see that substation, that’s up on the mountain be occupied by two deputies Open that back up; put two deputies in there, let them live there for free, and make them the deputies of the mountain, to build a community relationship with the people in Shannondale. I would come up to the mountain at least once or twice a month in the evening, 6,70 o’clock after people get home from work and listen to their concerns…
Richard: What about the opioid and drug crisis in Jefferson County. Is there anything you can say about how you would you handle things, what could or should be done?
John King: Oh, certainly, the drug problem working in DC all the years, I saw the gamut of drug problems and illegal drugs. The end user, unfortunately, is the victim in the equation usually, and what we need to do is use some technology too to help us. In the city, we used a system with cameras and tag readers, so you stage those in critical places in the county, and I don’t want to go too far into the weeds with this, but you’re able to track people through a database back all the way to Baltimore and to other jurisdictions. You start combining technology and where these vehicles are going and who’s operating them. You start setting up association matrixes. That’s the enforcement side of it. The next phase is the treatment, you have things like the daily report and you have, for the Court, to try and get people back into, being their own standalone person in society and getting back, not on their feet, I guess, I’d probably say more independent. One thing most people don’t understand about drug addicts, especially with opioids and the fentanyl, when they get on to these drugs, people think you can weave them off and kind of like you’re doing with alcohol, but what you find is the people generally relapse after six months. Some people will just have to take these drugs the rest of their lives to be able to get back to function normally, not overdose. And not that they’re gonna keep taking that, there’s not really a lot of heroin here it’s mostly the fentanyl mixed with the opioids, but that’s a huge part, just to get those people treatment and get them, because people need that opportunity to come back. The third thing we have to do is to educate people. We’ve got to give them jobs and finding places and trades and things, so that they have a skill set to go out and work. A lot of the skills and people that we have to work, they’re just not there anymore, and we need some trades, need to get these people back and functioning and see progressive, that they’re doing well in society and that they’re self-sufficient.
Richard: I’ve been active in the non-profit sector in abstinence-centered HIV prevention, health education. And also part of our message is not to use drugs and alcohol. I guess there’s multiple aspects. The character aspect, I think, is a really big one. And another one, I guess, is that maybe the over-prescription of opioids.
John King: One of the big problems, too, is you’re seeing a lot more, since the pill factories have shut down in the state, you’re seeing a lot more of the methamphetamine, which is a real bad thing to get into the community. And there’s some technologies to use with drones and different things that can go in and you get the Feds to come in at no cost to the people of Jefferson County. And my thought would be to give them an office here in the city and let them go after some of these heavy duty drugs dealers, not to infringe on the citizens. We want to get them in there and do good enforcement that spreads across state lines to get these people back to the sources…..
Richard: How would you differentiate yourself from the other candidates? Why should the voters choose you instead of one of the other candidates, Republican, Democrat or Independent?
John King: My credentials stand on their own merits. I spent 32 years in the government. I’ve commanded over 100 people at a time. I understand budgeting, I understand the culture. I’ve all the experience in the world to run the Sheriff’s Office, I’m a level three incident commander for FEMA standards. The county needs someone who can make decisions, who has mad proven decisions for decades, and has the confidence of the rank and file not only from the sheriff’s office but from the tax office and the bailiffs, and from animal control. The sheriff’s office is 95% law enforcement, and I have the most experience and most skill sets and education in dealing with any aspect of law enforcement. I was a patrol officer. Like I said, a canine handler canine supervisor, bomb technician, special agent, investigator. I’ve done the gamut in law enforcement. My agency, I came from, had 1800 gun carriers, and we had a $430 million budget, like I said, which I control $14.3 million for canine. That was my last command.
Richard: How would you ensure deputies are properly trained in order to avoid some of the bad situations that get excessive news coverage?
John King: Training is training. Training is how to do a function. I want to educate people. So when I educate people, the purpose is to make them grow and learn about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. I want to bring CIT training here, crisis intervention training. We did it in our agency. A lot of people need empathy out there in the public and putting the bracelets on when someone is the last alternative. You look at the use of force policies. We need to make sure we’re documenting things, that we’re doing all the steps and giving confidence in the public for us and for them. You need to build the bridges, not build walls, and that’s another whole part of community policing that I support. It needs to be out there. We need to be out there in the public. We need to build relationships. And the training, the mental health training is key to dealing with people, it really is. I’ve seen so many people that really were mental duress and they just needed that help. And you need to have the ability to know where to go and get that help. And the Sheriff’s officers is tasked with all the mental hygiene hearings here in the county too. So that’s another whole function of the Sheriff’s office most people aren’t aware of.
Richard: You mean, if someone will be reported by their family or some people for commitment to a mental institution? Is that what you’re talking about?
John King: Yes, if they believe they’re a danger to themselves or others, they’ll have a hearing with an appointed judge to come in and medical people are involved, and they decide whether or not they’re going to be sent somewhere for treatment, and then they put it out in state wide to find out where they’re going to send them for the treatment. Martinsburg, I think has 16 beds. A lot of times, unfortunately, their tasked with taking them down to Huntington, and that’s a long trip down there to get him there and back. And that’s another thing that falls in the sheriff’s office. Just like conservatorships for people, that falls in the sheriff’s office. There’s a whole lot of things more than just the law enforcement aspect.
Richard: Do you know what part of the Sheriff’s office the tax office budget-wise is?
John King: I think it’s about $11 million a year. It’s probably about 15% to 18%. I don’t have my hands on an itemized budget. I wanted to get one, but I couldn’t get Pete to give me one. He didn’t have it ready yet for this year, I guess.
Richard: Anything you’d like to say to the voters in conclusion?
John King: Well, I really just like to tell them that I really look forward to serving the residents of Jefferson County. I love this county, I love the people here. I want to be the community outreach, I want to be the sheriff who’s approachable, that you all can come to with any problems, I’m not in any party. I’m not a Republican, I’m not a Democrat. My loyalty is to the people of Jefferson County. And like I said, I retired two years ago, I’m the0 most current law enforcement person who’s running for office. Some have very little, some have quite a bit. But, when I decided to run for office, it was, like I said, it was Mr. Jack Hewitt, a few people got together, and they thought I was the right guy for the safety and security of the county and the treasury in the county. And when I decided to do this, I said, I will not take a salary, like I said, I’m going to do this for the people, and we’re going to be fair and we’re going to be equitable across the board to everyone, and everyone’s going to get treated with humanity.
Richard: Thank you for joining us today. Everybody get out and vote on November 3rd.