By Stan Welch
Sheriff John Skipper and his opponent for that office, Creed Hashe, faced off at a debate hosted by the White Plains Community Crime Watch Thursday.
The exchange of views was civil and professional, as befits both men’s extensive law enforcement careers; but distinct philosophical differences about law enforcement were obvious.
Hashe wasted no time drawing those distinctions, pointing out in his opening statement to the crowd of approximately 75 people, that he was “more of a hands on operational guy” while Skipper leans towards the administrative side.
The men’s professional differences continued to surface, though they showed an obvious personal respect for each other. Hashe congratulated Skipper and himself for running a clean, issue-oriented campaign.
Among the issues on which they differ is what Hashe sees as Skipper’s “camera chasing”. “I think the ACSO should be blind to politics. Politics should be kept out of it. You won’t see me showing up at every crime scene where there is a television camera. That’s just not my style,” said Hashe.
Skipper responded by saying that he considers meeting with one of the 48 community watch groups that are currently active in the county to be a matter of being connected to the community. “I participate in events when I am asked, if I can. I don’t see that as politics, I see it as responding to the citizens.”
The candidates differed on the approach to law enforcement. Skipper restructured the department into four regional commands when he was elected in 2008, placing a captain over each. Hashe says that when two deputies are in the same end of their district, that can lead to unreasonably long response times.
When I was working for (former Greenville County sheriff) Johnny Mack Brown, we used a beat system. We had twelve beats and the deputies assigned to them knew where the others were. I just think that is a better approach.”
While Hashe, the chief deputy under the late Sheriff David Crenshaw, invoked the well known and well respected Brown, he tried to build some distance between himself and Tim Busha, the chief deputy he replaced, who has since been indicted on charges of securities fraud.
He also reminded the crowd that it is Creed Hashe and not David Crenshaw that Skipper is running against. “David Crenshaw is dead. He’s not here anymore. I’m running for sheriff,” said Hashe.
The matter of jail overcrowding also came up. During Crenshaw’s term, the issue was a hot one, with the Anderson County Detention Center often housing more than twice its legal capacity. A plan was commissioned, with three levels of construction and capacity built in. For 400 beds, the projected cost was $56 million. Six hundred beds would cost $66 million, while the 900 beds eventually expected to be needed would cost $100 million.
Since Skipper came into office, the peak numbers of 550-575 prisoners have dropped dramatically with 315 being a ball park average per day. That lessened strain has allowed for a new plan that calls for a “pod” adjacent to the main part of the existing facility. That pod would cost approximately $34 million.
Hashe said he worries that the federal Department Of Justice will flex its muscles and decide what type and size facility the county has to build. Skipper agreed that the issue has to be faced, saying that since Charleston County opened its new modern facility, Anderson is now the most overcrowded county jail in the state.
Hashe also said that he thinks a restructuring of the Sheriff’s Office would allow the Sheriff to provide school resource officers without charging the school districts for that service, as is currently the case.