Originally created 02/04/01

New sheriff upgrades agency



EDGEFIELD, S.C. - Adell Dobey rarely eats lunch these days.

Edgefield County's new sheriff is too busy revamping a stagnant department, where policies and procedures haven't been examined in years.

Since the Trenton resident took office a month ago, he's appointed new people to key positions, hired the department's first public information officer and laid the groundwork for long-term goals.

"I really see us moving this department into the 21st century," Sheriff Dobey said. "Everyone is very enthusiastic."

Sheriff Dobey said he began envisioning himself as sheriff long before he unpacked his photos and certificates, replacing retiring Sheriff Billy Parker's office mementos with his own.

But despite all the campaigning and planning, the new uniform and the glossy sheriff's school photo sitting on his desk, being called by his new title still jolts him.

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Sheriff Dobey, who is the first black sheriff to serve rural Edgefield County. "I'm not used to being called sheriff."

The former lieutenant was a deputy for 17 years, 15 of them in Edgefield. For the past three years, he has trained Edgefield County law enforcement officers.

Over the years, he's made mental notes of practices he'd like to change in the sheriff's office and immediately put his plan into action once he took office.

He quickly replaced two of Sheriff Parker's supporters who quit after the November election, Chief Investigator Marvin Easler, who was Sheriff Dobey's opponent, and Capt. Beverly Shields.

The new sheriff promoted Deputy Joel Summer to chief deputy and captain, and he brought a longtime law enforcement officer out of retirement to be his chief investigator.

Capt. Roger Lowe moved to Edgefield from Indiana, where he had served 22 years on a police force before retiring. He joined the sheriff's office in 1999 as a reserve officer.

Capt. Lowe also serves as the department's public information officer - a position Sheriff Dobey created to bridge the gap between the department and the public.

"Communicating with the public is critical," Sheriff Dobey said. "We want the media and citizens to be informed about what goes on in the community."

After his key players were in place, the sheriff started working on policies and procedures that haven't been changed in more than a decade, he said.

"We're in the process of writing job descriptions, something that we've never had," Sheriff Dobey said. "I've also already implemented a code of conduct for deputies, and I'm working on one for nonsworn personnel."

He said he's also looking into the possibility of appointing an internal affairs officer to implement guidelines and procedures within the department, including a fair system of promotions.

For the first time in the department's history, gun-carrying law enforcement personnel will be randomly tested for drugs and all new employees will be tested when hired, the sheriff said.

"From the time he was elected until now, there have been some very positive changes around here," Capt. Summer said. "Adell's leadership skills are outstanding."

Although Sheriff Dobey has several ideas for improving the department, he won't be able to implement many until July, when his budget goes into effect.

"I definitely want more deputies," he said. "That's my first priority."

He also plans to restructure salaries because deputies take home as much as supervisors and sergeants. Hiring a transport officer and a forensic specialist are also on the list, as is obtaining state accreditation.

"I'm real excited," Sheriff Dobey said. "I'm putting in long hours, about 12 or 13 a day, but we're moving forward and things are falling into place."

He said his staff has been very supportive throughout the transition, including his secretary, who still tries to slow him down long enough to eat lunch.

"I think the employees are happier and more relaxed," he said. "They have guidance now. Before they didn't feel like they had much supervision."

The sheriff said the word on the street is the same.

"I've heard people who visit the sheriff's office say that the atmosphere is different. It's better," Sheriff Dobey said. "They see a sense of professionalism being put into place."

Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895.