Realizing His Goal

Sheriff John Simpson is putting his idea into practice.

A few simple and uneventful ride-alongs in the passenger seat of a Liberal, Missouri squad car were all it took for 15-year-old John Simpson, who now serves as Barton County sheriff, to know law enforcement would be his life’s career.


“The town was small — I knew the officers from growing up there — and decided to ride with them because it was something different. I really enjoyed it and after four or five times, I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. And his mind was made up without even getting in on the more “exciting” side of crime fighting. “Whenever they got a serious call, they’d pull over at the next intersection and drop me off. The town was less than a mile from one side to the other, so I’d just walk home.”


Holding fast to his decision, after graduating from high school in 1999, he took a fulltime job dispatching for the Barton County Sheriff’s Office. In 2002, he attended Missouri Southern State College’s Law Enforcement Academy and continued working in dispatch until a patrol position came open. He went to the road January 1, 2005. Shannon Higgins was sheriff at that time.


He loved his job and worked hard at it, which earned him a promotion to sergeant in 2007. In 2009, when Mitchell Shaw took office, he was promoted to his chief deputy. He stayed there until June 2012, when he took the position of chief of police at the Liberal PD.


“I enjoyed the job very much, but it’s hard to be the chief in the town where you grew up, so I decided to run for sheriff in 2020. Mitch and I have been friends for 20 years, so it wasn’t anything personal,” Sheriff Simpson said, adding that, like everyone else who ever ran for office, he just felt he had a better idea. “Serving as sheriff had been a goal of mine since starting at the sheriff’s office in 1999, and I just thought it was my time to try for it. I must have been right because I won.”


After taking office, he made several changes in both their look and in their operations.
Deputies are now required to wear uniforms to work, and the only facial hair allowed is a mustache.


He remodeled their office space, and updated their fleet, purchasing four patrol cars to replace the four that each had more than 250,000 miles. Once those vehicles arrive, they’ll be getting new computers installed. Sheriff Simpson is also in the process of updating their radio system to MOSWIN (Missouri Statewide Interoperability Network), a statewide public safety communications system that will allow them to communicate across jurisdictional and discipline lines.


To cut down on delays and problems clearing cases, he also implemented new guidelines that require deputies to have reports done in three days. Then they get submitted to a supervisor for review. Once needed changes are made and the reports are approved, they’ll be sent to the chief deputy for final approval before being submitted to the prosecutor.


In addition, Justin Ersham returned to Barton County to work as chief deputy and he brought his K-9 Barrett with him. The two have already been called out numerous times in their own county and others.


Sheriff Simpson said the biggest “surprise/headache” he faced after taking office was the jail.
“As a dispatcher, I helped in the jail, so I had a little experience — but not near enough, I quickly found out,” he said. “Staffing has been an ongoing problem. We’re down to two fulltime and two part-time employees in the jail. I need to hire at least two more fulltime and also have two openings for patrol deputies. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you only have five, it is. I’ve been working the road, as has my chief deputy, just to make sure it’s covered.”


The condition of his 27-bed jail is also a conundrum. Built in 1937, the antiquated facility has multiple problems that can’t easily be fixed.


“It’s old and worn out. It’s steel and concrete and the steel is rusting and the plumbing is leaking in the concrete. There have been no updates that I can remember in the last 22 years,” he said. “We’ve closed it to make repairs, but before we start, I want to bring the community in to take a look. I’d like to get their input on whether we should sink money into repairs or instead work on a plan to replace it. I believe that if we build it right and we build it large enough to house for other agencies, we can ease the burden on Barton County and on our taxpayers — but we have strong support from our community, so I want them involved in the process.”


And he knows his community. In addition to being a lifelong member of Barton County, he’s served the past eight years on the Liberal R-2 Board of Education, and he’s served on the Barton County Ambulance District Board of Directors. When he’s not working, he and his wife Shasta, who is his biggest supporter, are cheering on their two youngest at football, baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball games.


“I have to miss some of them, and that’s tough, but the kids understand. I took this job because I care about my community. I consider it an honor and a privilege to serve as sheriff and as long as I’m here, I plan to do everything I can to make this an even better and safer place to live.”

By Nancy Zoellner

READ MORE STORIES LIKE THIS

Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

U.S. Marshals Deputize Clay County Sheriff’s Deputies

United States Marshal Mark S. James forged a new partnership with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.


Over the summer, U.S. Marshal Mark James swore in five members of the Clay County Sheriff’s Fugitive Apprehension Unit as Special Deputy U.S. Marshals. This collaboration is part of the ongoing effort to address violent crime in the Kansas City metro area. As special deputy marshals, sheriff’s deputies will join with other area law enforcement officers who participate in the U.S. Marshals Midwest Violent Fugitive Task Force. “The Clay County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals have always worked together to bring violent criminals to justice, their special deputation today further solidifies an already on-going effort to combine our resources to protect the citizens of Clay County and beyond. I appreciate Sheriff Akin’s leadership in bringing this strategic partnership to fruition,” said U.S. Marshal Mark James.

The U.S. Marshals Midwest Violent Fugitive Task Force-Kansas City Division, operates in conjunction with members of the Kansas City, Independence and St. Joseph Missouri Police Departments, Jackson, Cass, Clay and Buchanan County Sheriff’s Offices, Missouri State Highway Patrol and other federal law enforcement partners. The task force objectives are to seek out and arrest fugitives charged with violent crimes, drug offenses, sex offenders and other serious felonies. It also provides direct support to law enforcement agencies in tracking down and recovering missing children. Nationally the United States Marshals Service fugitive programs are carried out with local law enforcement in 94 district offices, 67 local fugitive task forces, 8 regional task forces, as well as a growing network of offices in foreign countries.

Tips can be submitted anonymously to the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers via the TIPS hotline at 816-474-8477, on the internet at KCcrimestoppers.com or on the free mobile app available at P3Tips.com. Tips can also be submitted to the U.S. Marshals service directly by downloading the USMS Tips app to your Apple or Android device. It can also be accessed online at https://www.usmarshals.gov/tips/index.html. Follow the latest news and updates about the U.S. Marshals Service on Twitter: @USMarshalsHQ.

Additional information about the U.S. Marshals Service can be found at http://www.usmarshals.gov.

 

READ MORE STORIES LIKE THIS

Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Facing Challenges, Rising Up

Sheriff Will Akin left a nightmare to live a dream — in Missouri.

Clay County Sheriff Will Akin is an overcomer. His dad left when he was 3. He, his little brother, and mom were homeless by the time he was 8. He was working when he was 12, and at 16, he dropped out of high school, worked three jobs to take care of his mom and brother – and started hanging with the wrong crowd. After a guy in that crowd shot someone, he knew he had to get out, so he earned his GED and in October 1994, joined the Army. He became a helicopter pilot but at 26, he was diagnosed with adult-onset asthma, grounded, and told he had to leave the military.


“That was devastating but I had a family to support so I started looking for a job. I had never considered law enforcement because in the neighborhoods where I grew up, we never had positive interactions with cops. But law enforcement presented an opportunity and I figured I was already used to structure so I’d give it a shot,” he said.


He got on with the Phoenix Police Department in 2002, went through the academy in April 2003 and worked there five years before taking a job with the South Bend, Indiana PD. One year later, he went to Afghanistan, first teaching members of the Afghan National Police, then working with the Family Response Unit investigating crimes against women and children. That’s where he met and became friends with former Clay County Sheriff Paul Vescovo.


“After Paul finished his contract, he returned to the states, ran for sheriff in Clay County and asked me to come to work with him if he won. My response was ‘Missouri? Are you out of your mind?’”


But Sheriff Vescovo was persistent so in the summer of 2012, while home on leave, he and his wife Jennifer drove from Columbus, Ohio to Liberty, Missouri to check things out — and they liked what they saw.


“I had to go back to Afghanistan but near the end of my third contract, I talked with my wife and said ‘Let’s rethink this. Why not move to Liberty, Missouri and work for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office?’


We decided there was no good reason not to. I had moved 38 times in 45 years, living in 10 states and three countries and the move to Clay County was the best move — personally and professionally — I’ve ever made. This is home.”


When he took the job, he told Sheriff Vescovo he would stay as long as he was sheriff, then he was moving on. He had always tailored his career to becoming a police chief.


“Then one day, Paul came to me, said he was going to retire at the end of his term and asked me to rethink what I had said about moving on. By that time, I had been here six years and had grown to love the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Clay County. After discussing it with my wife, we decided this was the right course of action. I had a lot of support from the community, the campaign went really well, and the rest is history,” he laughed, adding that he recently learned that, at 45, he is the youngest sheriff to ever serve in Clay County.


Before being elected he was captain over the Emergency Preparedness Division and director of Emergency Management for Clay County and felt he had a good grasp of the operations of the sheriff’s office, “But on Day 1 I was overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know! Thankfully I’ve got a great team of commanders.”


His biggest challenge since taking office has been managing 230 personalities with 230 different opinions. And Sheriff Akin has given them plenty to think about!


He restructured the office and split the Field Operations Division into Patrol, which includes road deputies, a dedicated K-9, and traffic unit; and Investigations, which includes all task force deputies. He established a Professional Standards Division to pursue accreditation through CALEA and handle training, policies and procedures, background investigations, and internal affairs. In addition, the county absorbed park rangers who are now lake deputies.

He also made changes in the jail. Staff went to 12-hour shifts, which allows detention officers and deputies on the housing floor and in booking to get every other weekend off, and he worked with commissioners to implement a two-phase salary restructure to increase salaries — some as much as 17 percent. He’s working with Tri-County Mental Health to hire a social worker who will make sure school resource deputies, the civil unit and deputies know about the resources available to them, and with non-profit groups who will help inmates overcome barriers, obtain jobs and change their lifestyle after release from jail. To top it off, they’re “rebranding” their look with new uniforms.


When Sheriff Akin isn’t working, he enjoys CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mountain biking.

“I’m very active, but I’m also actively involved in doing everything I can to make our community better. It wasn’t until I got into law enforcement that I realized my experiences growing up would help me relate and connect with the spectrum of people in the community,” he said. “It’s what drives me today. I earned my associates degree while I was in the military, my bachelor’s degree while I was in Afghanistan, went straight into the master’s program and just graduated last year with my doctorate. Now I teach at a university here. I feel like I have made it. I share stories and tell people, ‘If I can do it, I know you can do it too.’”

By Nancy Zoellner

READ MORE STORIES LIKE THIS

Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Living a Life Not Imagined

Sheriff Craig Allison strives to make a difference in his community.

Montgomery County Sheriff Craig Allison never envisioned working in law enforcement. It just wasn’t a childhood dream. “In fact, cops were not really my friends when I was young because I had a way of finding trouble,” he laughed. “And I sure never saw myself as sheriff!”

After finishing an active-duty stint in the U.S. Army, the young Allison returned home to work on the farm and took a job at an indoor hog confinement facility. After six miserable months of wearing ear plugs to block the constant squealing, he quit. A friend who had also recently left the military urged him to try law enforcement.

“I really wanted to return to military life. I was told I could re-enlist but I would have to drop a rank and I just couldn’t do that, so I decided maybe law enforcement was for me after all,” he said.

Don Bryson, who was chief of police for the city of Wellsville at the time and who is now his father-in-law — he wasn’t back then — said if he wanted to attend the academy, they’d help with tuition so in early 1995 he started working as a police officer. A few months later, he started at the Law Enforcement Training Institute as a fulltime student in the first 300-hour class ever held.

After graduating, he continued working at the Wellsville PD until July 1, 1995, when he dropped down to part-time and went to work fulltime for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. He’s been there ever since.

“What’s neat is that my friend Jim Graham, who originally got me interested in law enforcement, quit Montgomery County to take a job as sergeant with Wellsville just as I was starting at Montgomery County, and I got his DSN,” he said.

At that time, the sheriff, John Whyte, lived in the courthouse so there was no jail staff. When deputies made an arrest, they were responsible for booking and locking the prisoner up in jail. They also took turns working as bailiff — and handling any other duties that needed to be done. He enjoyed the work, he worked hard, and it paid off. In 1997, he was promoted to corporal over the patrol division and in 1998 he made sergeant. He worked patrol until 2008, when he was promoted to captain and was asked to take the position of jail administrator.

“I needed a challenge and I got one — but that’s when my career really took off. I got involved with ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and although holding their detainees meant a lot of inspections, that’s what held us to a higher standard and got us to where we are today,” Sheriff Allison said.

ICE has strict detention standards that include weekly, monthly and annual inspections, “and those annual inspections were hideous! Four inspectors would stay four days going over everything with a fine-tooth comb — and then they’d watch you perform,” he said. “It was rough, but I’m pleased to say we were told that we were the first jail in the Chicago District, which covers six states, to have a zero-deficiency inspection.”

In late 2016 he was asked to be the chief deputy under the upcoming sheriff, Matt Schoo, who took office in 2017. He gladly accepted, greatly enjoyed his job, and planned to stay on as chief deputy another five years. However, those plans changed in early 2020, when Sheriff Shoo announced he was retiring.

“I had been there 25 years, working hard to bring us to where we were, and I couldn’t stand to see the department crumble if someone who didn’t have the same values got elected, so after talking to my wife Lisa, my parents and God, I decided to run. I really felt it was something I had been called to do,” Sheriff Allison said. He won the primary and with no opponent in the general — and with Sheriff Shoo’s blessing — he hit the ground running.

He started developing an app for the sheriff’s office, and he created a community resource officer position. They took advantage of CARES Act funding to get new mobile patrol computers in their vehicles and brought in computer aided dispatching. “That happened at the same time our dispatch moved into the new joint communication center, so we were all dealing with a huge learning curve!”

Sheriff Allison said they have also stepped up their involvement in the community. “In the past, we were more about enforcement, but I wanted the people to get to know us, so we all started attending as many functions as possible. We now keep a list of upcoming events posted on the wall in the office.”

He also regularly attends Middletown Christian Church, serving as an elder, “And it means a lot to me. I don’t know how I could get through this job without relying on God.“

The most rewarding aspect of the job is knowing he is serving his community. The most challenging part is balancing his time between family, the office, and the people. “I also worry about letting people down so I’m always going to give it my all. After starting in law enforcement, serving my community as sheriff was my goal, but I’ve since adopted another goal: I want to serve four terms and then retire. By the end of that time, I hope I will have made a difference. I was born and raised here, and this community means a lot to me,” he said.

By Nancy Zoellner

READ MORE STORIES LIKE THIS

Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Missouri Supreme Court: Collecting Court Fees To Fund Sheriffs’ Retirement Is Unconstitutional

By N​ick Sibilla, Senior Contributor​ for Forbes ​

A court fee created to raise revenue for the state’s sheriff retirement fund was unanimously struck down as an unconstitutional “sale” of justice by the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this month. Ever since its enactment in 1983, Missouri had imposed a $3 surcharge on every circuit court criminal case, which financed the Missouri Sheriffs’ Retirement System. Three decades later, many municipal courts, which handle traffic violations, began to assess the fee as well. 

Among those ensnared by the surcharge were Daven Fowler and Jerry Keller, who were pulled over for speeding in May 2017 in Kansas City. The two men pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay court costs of $223.50. Both men decided to challenge the $3 surcharge as unconstitutional, but their case was initially dismissed by the circuit court in Jackson County.

On appeal, the two had better luck. Siding with the drivers, the Missouri Supreme Court mainly relied on a 1986 ruling that invalidated a $4 court surcharge levied to provide “additional compensation to county officials (including county sheriffs) if those officials attended a certain training program.” In Harrison v. Monroe Countythe Missouri Supreme Court declared that because “civil court costs are collected to enhance the compensation of officials of the executive department of county government,” those fees impose “unreasonable impediments to access to justice” in violation of the state constitution.

Inspired by Magna Carta, the Missouri Constitution guarantees “that the courts of justice shall be open to every person, and certain remedy afforded for every injury to person, property or character, and that right and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.” At least 14 other states have similar provisions in their own constitutions.

“Applying Harrison’s bright-line rule,” the court in Fowler v. Missouri Sheriffs’ Retirement System declared that the $3 surcharge is not “reasonably related to the expense of the administration of justice” and similarly unconstitutional. Like the statute struck down in 1986, the $3 surcharge “requires the collection of a court cost used to enhance the compensation of executive department officials—retired county sheriffs.”

“The Missouri Supreme Court reached the right decision here,” Brian Madden, an attorney for Fowler and Keller, told the Kansas City Star. “As for next steps, we have a pending class certification motion seeking recovery of the $3 surcharge for Missouri citizens who paid the unconstitutional surcharge in Missouri municipal courts.”

Given that courts have been collecting the surcharge for years, if the class action is certified, the lawsuit could potentially lead to millions of dollars refunded to hundreds of thousands of Missourians. 

According to the system’s annual report, over the past five years, court fees, euphemistically described as “non-employer contributions,” brought in more than $2.1 million a year on average, while the fiduciary net position was nearly $51.5 million at the end of 2020, Little wonder then that the system views court fees as providing “necessary revenue to finance retirement benefits.”

“The full effect of the court’s ruling is unclear,” Jeff Padgett, the executive director of the Missouri Sheriffs’ Retirement System said in a statement. “While we all are disappointed by this ruling, the board members and I are committed to making sure that current and retired Missouri sheriffs receive the benefits they have earned.”

Legislature Approves Second Amendment Preservation Act, SB53

Click on link to watch the video of the press conference: ​https://www.facebook.com/1413145323/videos/10219550483498699/

The Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and the ​Sheriffs of Missouri are proud of the hard work and dedication of everyone who made the passage of the Second Amendment Preservation Act and SB53 (Police Reform) possible. 

We also thank all who made it possible for Missouri ​S​heriffs to receive an increase in salary comparable to other valued officers of the ​c​ourt and protectors of the community. The Sheriffs of Missouri stand as a defender of 2nd Amendment rights for all law abiding citizens. 

​​As Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller said, Missouri Sheriffs will not participate in the wholesale confiscation of guns from law abiding citizens. There are those who need their guns taken; they’re called “criminals.”

U.S. Marshals Arrest Fugitive in Laclede County

Lonnie G. Richardson, age 50, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service-Midwest Violent Fugitive Task Force in Laclede County, Missouri on Monday, February 8. Richardson was charged in Wright County, Missouri with two counts of Tampering with a Judicial Officer, and 2nd Degree Terrorist Threat—both felonies under Missouri law. 

Richardson was charged after a February 4th incident in which he threatened to kill a Wright County judge, the ​sheriff and their families—prompting a multi-agency law enforcement effort to protect them. 

U.S. Marshals Service investigators tracked Richardson to a rural area near Lebanon. There, U.S. Marshals along with deputies from the Laclede County Sheriff’s Office found Richardson hiding in a small camping trailer. After a brief standoff, Richardson was arrested and taken to the Laclede County Jail pending his return to Wright County. 

The U.S. Marshals Service-Midwest Violent Fugitive Task Force in Springfield led the multiagency search for Richardson. “Richardson threatened to kill public officials and their families,” said U.S. Marshal Mark James of the Western District of Missouri, “His reckless behavior threatened to tear the fabric of our criminal justice system. If you act in this lawless way, the U.S. Marshals will find you and bring you to justice.” 

The U.S. Marshals Midwest Violent Fugitive Task Force—Springfield Division, partners with members of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, the Christian County Sheriff’s Office, the Springfield Police Department, and the Joplin Police Department. 

The mission of the U.S. Marshals Service fugitive programs is to seek out and arrest fugitives charged with violent crimes, drug offenses, sex offenders, and other serious felonies. To accomplish this mission, the U.S. Marshals Service partners with local law enforcement agencies in 94 district offices, 85 local fugitive task forces, 8 regional task forces, as well as many foreign countries. 

Submit tips on fugitives directly and anonymously to the U.S. Marshals Service by downloading the USMS Tips app to your Apple or Android device, or online at: https://www.usmarshals.gov/tips/index.html

For more information about the U.S. Marshals Service, visit: www.usmarshals.gov

National Sheriffs’ Association Offering Free PPE to Sheriffs’ Offices

​The National Sheriffs’ Association is offering all sheriff’s offices PPE masks at no cost through a partnership with Ford Motor Company.

Last year, through similar partnerships with the REFORM Alliance, Motorola, SwabTek and Under Armour, the NSA delivered more than 2.5 million masks to 48 states.

Below is a description of the masks. There is no limit to the amount of masks​​ that offices can order.

Mask description:
Inner layer of 30GSM Spunbond polypropylene
Middle Layer 25GSM melt blown polypropylene semi-permeable
Outer layer of 30GSM Spunbond polypropylene
Side Seam 40GSM Spunbond polypropylene
Nose Piece, Plastic with steel insert
Ear loops are an Elastic Fabric (No Latex)

Please go www.ppe.ford.com to order.

If you have, any questions please contact Pat Royal at patrickroyal@sheriffs.org.

Former Miller County Sheriff Dies of COVID-19

Former Miller County Sheriff Bill Abbott has died following a battle with COVID 19. According to a member of the family, the former Sheriff was placed on a ventilator on December 17th.

Though he made progress, he developed a second infection on the 28th. He passed away on Monday, January 4.

Sheriff Abbott spent more than 16 serving the residents of Miller County. He was first appointed to the office in April 1999 and retired in December 2016.

During his time as sheriff, he was instrumental in forming the Mid-Missouri Drug Task Force and establishing policies and procedures for deputy conduct.

Before his election as sheriff, he served in the Missouri National Guard for 22 years. There he held a variety of positions, including a motor vehicle operator, materials handler, and armory sergeant for the 135th Maintenance Unit.

In 2019, Governor Mike Parson appointed Sheriff Abbott to to the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund Board of Trustees.

This is what current Sheriff Louie Gregoire had to say about the former Sheriff Abbott:

“It is with a heavy heart, that we regret to inform everyone of the passing of retired Miller County Sheriff Bill Abbott. Bill was a wonderful man who loved his community and family. My staff and I will miss him, and our prayers are with his family.”

KRMS 
Photo provided by the Abbott family