This time a year ago Keith O. Wood was preparing to take office as Meigs County Sheriff.
It has been a busy first year in office for the Sheriff, who recently took time to reflect on many of the events of 2013. Sheriff Wood took office on Jan. 6. “One of the biggest goals at the beginning was to build a foundation for a safer community, with focus on the kids,” said Wood. That goal has been accomplished through many different programs and projects this year including the School Resource Officer, K-9 unit, partnering with the Department of Job and Family Services and the formation of a task force.
Wood noted that one priority was to reach out to the youth of Meigs County prior to them becoming involved in drugs. The formation of a School Resource Officer (SRO) program over the summer help take a big step toward reaching that goal. Deputy Mark Griffin (who will become a Sergeant on Jan. 6) took the lead on the program, becoming the counties first SRO. Griffin, along with Deputy James Riley, are working with students in the area schools to implement Project ALERT. Project ALERT is an age-appropriate substance abuse prevention curriculum proven effective in reducing experimentation among teens and in reducing usage among teens who experiment. The program is geared toward seventh and eighth grades students. Lessons taught through the program focus on alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants.
The Meigs County Sheriff’s Office is also working to train teachers, staff and their own personnel to “prepare for the worst but hope for the best.” Wood noted that it is better to prepare for a situation and never need the training then to not be prepared. Wood stated that none of the goals set forth could have been accomplished without the group of employees who want to make things happen, tackle the drug problem, and make positive changes in the community.
The Sheriff also noted the tremendous teamwork between agencies to accomplish a common goal and provide better services to the community.
In addition to establishing the School Resource Officer program, the Meigs County Sheriff Office took several additional steps in the battle against drugs in the area. Some of those included the establishment of a K-9 program, a Deputy Sheriff located at the Meigs County Department of Job and Family Services, and the formation of a two-county task force with Gallia County.
In mid-July, Sheriff Wood announced the formation of a K-9 unit within the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office. The excitement of the announcement was short lived with the tragic passing of Deputy K-9 Zack later that month. One thing that stuck out in the mind of the Sheriff from his first year was the support following the passing of Deputy K-9 Zack. “The community came forward and got behind us 120 percent to replace him,” said Wood. “Now Bax is on the road and working.
The Meigs County Sheriff’s Office received several donations for local organizations and individuals to help with the acquisition and training of a new K-9. One such donation came through a series of fundraisers conducted by Farmers Bank which raised more than $6,000 to help the program.
The formation of an Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission (OOCIC) task force was announced on Dec. 10 during a press conference at the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office. The task force is a combined effort by Gallia and Meigs counties, along with the Middleport and Gallipolis Police Departments.
Other things that the Sheriff took note of were the launch of a web page for the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office (meigssheriff.org), the use of social media, the senior citizen training program, training for officers, continued drug enforcement, the house check program and the acquisition of equipment. The web site serves as a way to provide information to the public about snow level emergencies and other happenings with the department. There is also a tip line available through the web site which can be used anonymously.
Among the training for the officers included having the entire force complete Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training.
The house check program has conducted nearly 500 checks since being launched June 1. The program was the idea of Deputy Donald Mohler. Mohler, along with Deputies Griffin and Adam Smith, will be promoted to Sergeant on Jan. 6, 2014.
Equipment acquired has included nearly $250,000 in radio equipment provided through a grant, 11 vehicles at little or no cost to the agency, three Humvees from Federal surplus, and a boat from Gallia County.
Major cases this past year have included the bank robbery at Farmers Bank in Tuppers Plains, standoff situations, the homicide at Meigs Motel in early May and 30 methamphetamine labs. The team work displayed by many agencies was something Sheriff Wood credited to the fast and safe resolution of bank robbery case. Chad Rennicker was captured within 56 hours of the original crime in Jackson County, W.Va.
The Sheriff also noted the structure and chain of command which has been established within the department. One of the first items completed by the sheriff after taking office was to name a chief deputy and major within the department. Charlie Mansfield was named Chief Deputy and Scott Trussell was promoted to Major.
Wood added that the deputies and employees of the department are being held to the highest standard and professionalism to the highest degree is expected.