Sheriff Was Destined to Serve

Sheriff Chris Class felt the calling to law enforcement at an early age.

 

Chris Class always thought it would be exciting to work in law enforcement but as he sat glued to the TV screen watching the events of the 1991 murder of Cooper County Sheriff Charles Smith, two deputies and the Moniteau County Sheriff’s wife unfold, he knew he was destined to fight for law and order in his community.

Sheriff Class, who just took office in January, said although he was only 12 at the time, it made such an impression on him that he began collecting photos, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia from the incident. He intends to use those items to create a display in the sheriff’s office that will pay tribute to those who lost their lives.


In the meantime, still focused on a career in law enforcement, while attending a ballgame during his senior year in high school, he met Steve McKinney, a deputy with the Cooper County Sheriff’s Office. “We started talking, and from then on, I was doing ride-alongs whenever possible. Once I got to know Sheriff Milne and Jerry Wolfe, who was a deputy at the time, it just further convinced me this was the path I wanted to take.”


After graduating high school in 1997 he enrolled at Lincoln University, seeking a degree in Criminal Justice. Two years later, he took a job in the newly completed Cooper County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center. He planned to attend the Law Enforcement Training Institute in January of 2000 but in November 1999 he was involved in a serious accident. “It was so bad that doctors told me I wouldn’t walk again so that set me back a little — but I proved them wrong. I recovered, and I started at the academy in August and graduated in December 2000.”


Once commissioned, he continued working fulltime in the detention center.


“It was a great experience. Working in a jail provides an opportunity to work on your people skills because you deal with all kinds of personalities while being tasked with taking care of all their needs and keeping them safe. You learn a whole different side of law enforcement that you would never see if you only worked the road,” Sheriff Class said, adding that at the same time, he also worked a part-time patrol position with the Otterville Police Department, where his friend Gene Parker was police chief.


Then in 2002, he moved out of the detention center and on to the road. In 2008, he was promoted to lieutenant and, for a time, assisted in the administration side of both the detention center and the road. “Then we hired a lieutenant for the jail, so I was strictly over the patrol division. I held that spot until I was elected sheriff.”


Sheriff Class said he ran for office to continue the community-oriented, professional approach to law enforcement taken by his predecessors. “Once Jerry (Wolfe, the former sheriff) said he was retiring, both he and Sheriff Milne encouraged me to run. For years, my family and friends had been saying I would make a good sheriff — that I had the right demeanor and disposition — so I finally decided it was my time and I didn’t have any opposition.”


Since taking office, he’s added a road spot and he’s updating policies and procedures. “Within the past two years, the sheriff’s office and dispatchers went to a new RMS (records management system) and CAD (computer-aided dispatching) system and that’s something we’re still all working through. And just prior to my election we implemented 10-hour shifts so we’re working that out as well. I’m still ‘getting my feet wet,’ but the next major upgrade — and it’s still in the thought process — is adding on to our 70-bed detention center,” he said, adding that social media has bolstered support from the community so he feels confident he’ll have the public’s backing. “We’re using social media to let people know what’s going on and the response has been great — incredibly positive. Several people have said they appreciate that we’re being so transparent.”


He said his wife Becky is also very supportive and appreciates that he is intent on maintaining a balance between work and home.


“We have two young children who have ballgames, and we go to church on Sundays. Although I have had to leave functions a little early a couple times, I don’t want to miss out on seeing my kids grow up. But I have an excellent staff that is very capable, so I shouldn’t have to,” he said. “My command staff and all but one of my road deputies are homegrown — they’re all from Cooper County — so I think they take a little more pride in their jobs. And my undersheriff, my captain and I have all been together since the beginning — and this will be my 22nd year. I want the community to know that everyone in my office will do everything we can to help our community grow and thrive, and we will do our best to protect everyone, whether it’s people just passing through or people who have lived here their whole lives. We are always here if anyone needs assistance or just needs to talk. This is one of the greatest places to live, in my opinion, and we want to keep it that way.”

By Nancy Zoellner

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