Merit system gift to present, future deputies

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – When David Greenwell met with his new staff of deputies three years ago, he had some goals.

One of those goals was to provide something that would help him recruit and retain quality law enforcement deputies.

But another goal was to provide a system in which officers do not fear for their jobs every four years.

For Greenwell, as a member of the county jail staff or the sheriff’s department since 1989, he knew that sinking feeling every four years when there was a chance that administrations might change during the elections.

When administrations change, so does the staff.

Greenwell, thanks to the support of Bullitt Fiscal Court, got to fulfill one of his goals as sheriff.

Bullitt Fiscal Court granted the creation of a merit system for the sheriff’s department. Similar to programs set up in municipalities, the merit system should allow deputies to breathe a little easier.

“This is great for everyone,” said Greenwell. “It is a gift that I could give deputies now and for years from now.”

With the campaigning already started for next year’s elections, Greenwell said there was a sense of relief as soon as the merit system was approved.

Under the program, deputies could still be fired or disciplined by Greenwell. However, a five-member board would be set up to consider appeals of those decisions.

The top-ranking leadership staff is not protected by the merit system.

“The sheriff still has a way to get rid of a deputy but both sides are protected,” said Greenwell, who is in his first term as sheriff. 

For the officers, Greenwell said it is an ideal situation.

Not only are they protected from political turnover but they are also protected in case complaints are filed as an independent board could be asked to look at the situation.

Greenwell said the merit system would provide another incentive to work for the sheriff’s department. Although he knows matching the pay level and the insurance coverage provided by other agencies would be difficult, Greenwell said the merit system at least provides some security.

There is one part of the merit system policy that concerned Greenwell.

Any deputy wishing to run for the sheriff’s office would have to resign one year prior to the race.

For Greenwell, this hits close to home as he was fired when it was learned that he would be running against his boss for sheriff.

“I would like for people to be allowed to run for the office,” said Greenwell. “I don’t like it but I had to accept it.”

The best thing for deputies and their families is that the merit system would allow them to continue to work for the Bullitt County sheriff’s office until retirement – if they continue to do their job.

The next step would be to create the actual board. Fiscal court appoints two members and the sheriff also has two representatives. The deputies then select the final person.

“It protects everyone,” said Greenwell. “I like that and I think the deputies feel a lot better.”

The Bullitt County sheriff’s office is the largest police agency with 37 full-time deputies, four part-time deputies and 13 court security officers. All of those positions would be covered by the new merit system.