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“Jail Report” publisher’s rift with Sheriff Dobey hits the public airwaves

A Column by the Editor
web posted September 2, 2010

COLUMN – A public rift between the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office and the Jail Report publisher Greg Rickabaugh hit the airwaves on Wednesday afternoon when it was featured on the Austin Rhodes radio show (580 am WGAC). Mr. Rhodes was taking the side of Mr. Rickabaugh and questioning what Edgefield County Sheriff Adell Dobey “was hiding” by “not wanting the public to know” who was being jailed in Edgefield County. Nothing could be further from the truth, which prompted my call to the radio show.

Rhodes was courteous, as always, in lauding the popularity and important roll Edgefield Daily plays in the media circles in the CSRA when it comes to Edgefield County news and most importantly breaking news from our area.

It is with that recognized experience that I offer the opinions on the “rift” that is being made on the public airwaves about Sheriff Dobey and his Office.

Any media outlet is welcomed and accommodated by Sheriff Dobey and his staff and they do so on a daily basis. The point of contention raised by Mr. Rickabaugh is that he is not afforded special treatment by the Sheriff’s Office and the jailers in the Detention Center.

This brouhaha has been stewing for weeks. Rickabaugh wants the Sheriff’s Office to prepare a list of every person booked into custody as well as providing a booking photo for each inmate and the list to be emailed to him every week free of charge.

Meanwhile the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office’s policy states the information will be provided if the media outlet requesting the information (bookings or incident reports) appears in person and the “Sheriff’s Jail Book” (commonly called the Red Book) is then provided for the media outlet to record those booked into custody. Edgefield Daily has followed this procedure for six years as well as The Citizen News when they began printing the bookings when publisher Mike Rosier began listing the arrests in their publication in the recent past.

Mr. Rhodes said that it was just a matter of “point and click” on a computer to provide the information Mr. Rickabaugh was requesting. He said he was familiar with the advanced computer systems used by law enforcement and that other counties such as Richmond, Columbia, and Aiken County were able to provide the service to Rickabaugh.

Rhodes also said that Sheriff Dobey made the "mistake" by having one of his emplyees sending the information even after being instructed not to provide information to one media outlet that was not made available to other local media outlets as proof that it could be done.

It is true that an exception was made once for whatever mistaken reason, but since it did not follow the policy it was not repeated, and rightfully so. Since Edgefield Daily is a daily publication we would expect, under the same policy and rules, that the information be emailed to us on a daily basis. Under the same rules, the "Jail Report" would be useless in Edgefield County as we would report the arrests and photos on a daily basis for free making buying the "Jail Report" insignificant in Edgefield County.

The requests by Mr. Rickabaugh are all well and good for counties not facing the dire budgetary constraints of Edgefield County. In the last two years Edgefield County trimmed over 1/8th of its total operational budget (more than $1 million) and cannot provide the Sheriff with the needed deputies to patrol our county and run our jail. But they should find time to make sure Mr. Rickabaugh doesn’t have to waste his precious time to come to our county and follow the same rules the local media has to abide by to obtain the same information.

Ignoring that there are only three deputies patrolling our 507 square mile county at any given time, and four jailers are maintaining the jail on most hours, Sheriff Dobey should set one person aside to provide Mr. Rickabaugh a savings on his cost of doing business here without having to show up to get the information.

Working as close with law enforcement agencies in Edgefield County as I do, and specifically the Sheriff’s Office, I recognize the jailers (fewer than is required to handle jail populations at times) are maxed out in performing their duties and still graciously accommodate the local media requests we make.

Take into consideration the following. The small number of jailers on a daily basis have to feed the inmates (40 to 80 at any given time) three times a day (morning, noon, and night), make checks of the jail population every 30 minutes during a walk-through, booking in those arrested during the day (or night), transporting inmates to mental health appointments and evaluations as well as medical transports to Edgefield Hospital, dealing with unruly inmates, bond hearings twice a day (mornings and afternoons), making inmates available to meet with their attorneys, court appearances, or family visitations, and other required functions, they have a lot of free time to make Mr. Rickabaugh's requests a priority.

And all the while making sure that any member of the local media that arrives making requests for information is provided that information on a timely and courteous basis.

I do not begrudge Mr. Rickabaugh for wanting to be treated the same in Edgefield County as he is treated in other larger well funded county sheriff’s offices, but his beef is not with Sheriff Dobey who is working with bare bones staffing because the Edgefield County Council would rather pay for non-governmental entities (give-away money) and funding activities for a handful of children over protecting our county, which is being overrun in criminal activity.

I would ask Mr. Rhodes and Mr. Rickabaugh to take the time to come walk a day in our shoes before casting such disparaging accusations against our Sheriff on how well he accommodates the local media. A cursory read of reports by Edgefield Daily will show they are more than willing to provide information on the scene and afterwards.

Rhodes and Rickabaugh are pointing their fingers in the wrong direction. Sheriff Dobey is forced to operate his office and the jail on a tightening budget as crime rises, arrests increase, and a simple request to replace patrol cars exceeding the mileage requirements is refused by the 3 (Democrat) to 2 (Republican) majority of the County Council.

I would further point out that residents of Edgefield County do not need to pay $1 for a copy of the “Jail Report” each week to learn who was arrested in Edgefield County. We provide that information online for free and have provided the information archived covering the arrests for the past six years, as well as the reports on the arrests, available for readers at the “click of a mouse”, which refutes the claim Sheriff Dobey is “hiding” who is being arrested in our county.

If Mr. Rickabaugh wants to try to have the Sheriff’s policies rewritten, more power to him. We will be more than happy to have the information emailed to us on a daily basis.

However, it would be pointless to us as I would still be appearing at the Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies each day to provide Edgefield County with the in-depth news they desire, and all for free.

Apparently Rickabaugh wants the gravy without having to cook the roast first. Oh, and having it served to him on a silver platter to boot while forcing people to pay him for a service we provide free of charge.

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