EDGEFIELD, S.C. - When Marvin Easler joined the sheriff's department more than 25 years ago, there were two patrol deputies per shift. When Adell Dobey became a deputy a decade later, the numbers had not changed.
Now both men are vying to fill retiring Sheriff Billy Parker's shoes, and hope they'll be the man to bring the Edgefield County Sheriff's Department into the 21st Century.
Locating funding for more deputies, including a forensic specialist, is on top of Democratic candidate Lt. Dobey's priority list if he is elected.
But first he must face Republican candidate Marvin Easler, 59, who was defeated by Sheriff Parker 20 years ago and has since been his chief investigator.
Both men have spent the past eight months vigorously campaigning throughout the county instead of working their usual law enforcement jobs. Lt. Dobey and Investigator Easler have been on leave without pay from the department since announcing their candidacy in January.
"One of the things I've enjoyed is meeting all of the citizens," said Lt. Dobey, 49. "After talking with them about their concerns, I know that I'm on the right track."
The Edgefield County native and Trenton resident has spent most of his life protecting people. He's a Marine Corps veteran, who graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy and went on to become certified in many areas of law enforcement.
Lt. Dobey is one of 12 certified crime prevention specialists in the state, he said. He's been a sheriff's deputy for 17 years - 15 spent in Edgefield - and has been a training officer for the department since 1997.
"I feel very confident the citizens of Edgefield County will make the right decision to elect me in November," Lt. Dobey said. "I look forward to working for them and bringing a high level of professionalism, honesty and integrity to the sheriff's department."
A proponent of pro-active law enforcement, Lt. Dobey promises to form a sheriff's advisory committee to listen to citizens' concerns, promote community policing, and implement a code of conduct for all department personnel.
"We need to restructure the whole sheriff's office because the pro-active concept is not even there now," he said. "I want to implement a code of conduct because I feel that law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard. I feel like our integrity and honesty should be beyond reproach."
Lt. Dobey also wants to build a substation in Merriwether, where many residents have complained about slow response time because of the distance between their community and the sheriff's department.
The lieutenant said he also will test his deputies and personnel for drugs if elected. The topic has been a hot issue in the sheriff's race because the department is not randomly tested.
"I think there shouldn't be any doubt that we, as gun-carrying law enforcement officers, are drug-free, and I'll be the first to be tested," he said.
His opponent also said he would implement a drug testing policy, which would include random testing.
"As far as deputies carrying firearms, I think we need drug testing," Investigator Easler said. "We'll test them when they are hired, and then at random."
Investigator Easler, a native of Spartanburg, is a 29-year veteran police officer, who has worked by Sheriff Parker's side for 20 years. He hails from a family of law enforcement professionals, which includes his brother, Butch, who is Johnston's police chief.
"I know I got the experience," he said. "I know I can run the sheriff's department and continue to improve it as the years go by."
He's been going door-to-door, talking with residents and business owners about how he can improve the department. He also spoke to Merriwether residents at a political forum earlier this month.
Investigator Easler said he promises to enhance the community crime watch program, add more uniformed deputies to patrol the county, and increase employees' salaries.
"I want to get with the fire chief in Merriwether and the fire committee to discuss putting a substation there," he said. "The deputies could meet people there with their complaints, instead of riding all the way to Edgefield."
Another priority on his list, he said, is to hire more trained personnel, including a forensic specialist.
"This crime scene fellow will be able to work the crime scene, collect fingerprints, evidence and blood for DNA," he said. "He can keep up with the evidence so the solicitor's office can prosecute the cases better."
If elected, Investigator Easler said he will look into federal grants and talk with the county council about funding for those projects.
"If I'm elected sheriff, I'm going to improve the sheriff's office and make some changes," he said. "We want to work for the citizens."
Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.
|Lt. Adell Dobey|
Training Officer with the Edgefield County Sheriff's Department
W.E. Parker High School graduate; Marine Corp. veteran; South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy graduate.
Wife, Jozell Jones Dobey; twin sons, Ryan and Rashad, 21
Investigator Marvin Easler
Chief Investigator for the Edgefield County Sheriff's Department
High school diploma
Ran for sheriff in 1980, but was defeated by Billy Parker.
Wife, Sue; three children and six grandchildren.