Dawn was only a few minutes old Friday when 41 law enforcement officers — and their vehicles — formed two lines the length of the front parking lot at the Jail-Justice Center.
Thomas County Sheriff’s Office deputies, investigators, crime scene and narcotics/vice personnel stood in front of their vehicles at 921 Smith Ave. for inspection by Thomas County Sheriff Carton Powell.
Vehicles were backed in, with hoods and trunks open. Not only were the exteriors and interiors of the vehicles expected to be in tip-top condition, but so were engine areas and trunks.
Officers stood at attention as the sheriff stopped to talk to each one, sometimes asking officers about their families — and to thoroughly inspect all aspects of the individual’s vehicle.
Vehicles’ blue lights, which had eerily illuminated the parking lot before daylight and prior to the inspection, continued to flash brightly as the sheriff made his rounds after sunup.
“It appears everything’s in order,” Powell said after inspection of the first car — a 2012 model with 12,822 miles.
Cpl. Allen Filmore, a 21-year sheriff’s office employee, is assigned a 2012 Dodge Charger. The vehicle has logged 64,912 miles, Filmore told the sheriff.
Filmore considers the annual inspection “a good thing.” Year-round, the officer waxes his vehicle and keeps the engine area clean.
Cory Sellers, a patrol sergeant, pointed out tablets in vehicles that allow officers to write reports in the field. The equipment saves time and results in more efficiency, Sellers explained, adding that the tablets also reduce radio transmission time.
“The main thing is it is going to be utilized to keep officers out in the field,” the officer said.
Mobile data software in another vehicle monitors sex offenders, in addition to providing photographs of suspects if an individual’s identity is in doubt.
Sgt. Stephen Richardson, a deputy, said the inspections make him “a little nervous.”
He described maintenance of his vehicle as a hobby. Regardless of an inspection, Richardson ensures his vehicle is always maintained well and looks good.
“That’s your mobile office,” he said. Richards tells his officers their vehicles “reflect who they are.”
Chief Investigator Lt. Tim Watkins’ 2007 Crown Victoria has 170,785 miles, while investigator Louis Schofill’s 2007 car has 148,000 miles.
Deputy Alfredo Baños described mileage on his car as “as pampered miles.”
Powell asked each officer if they would like to see any changes within the agency. No one had any suggestions. From all appearances, everyone is satisfied with status quo.
At the end of the hour-long inspection, Powell thanked officers for the manner in which they maintain themselves and their equipment.
“I will put the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office up against any agency in the state,” Powell told the troops.
After the inspection, the sheriff said the exercise shows the direction Thomas County commissioners are taking in providing for equipment purchases.
Officers and county government maintenance personnel maintain vehicles well, the sheriff said, and commissioners help by approving purchases of new vehicles when maintenance is no longer financially feasible.
Not only are officers showing pride through maintenance of vehicles, Powell said.
“The men themselves are staying in good shape,” he added.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.