KINGSPORT — New officer recruitment and increasing gang activity were among the top concerns expressed to U.S. Rep. Phil Roe during a law enforcement roundtable discussion on Monday.
“A lot of (young people) don’t want to get in law enforcement anymore,” Hawkins County Chief Deputy Tony Allen told Roe, R-Tenn. “We cannot stay staffed. It’s hard for us to stay staffed on the corrections part of it, on the patrol side of it. That’s the biggest issue in our area here.”
Kingsport Police Chief David Quillin said that 30 years ago, 300 people would sign up and show up for an interview to be a police officer.
“We tested back in March … we had 121 people who signed up, 38 people who showed up and 20 passed,” Quillin said. “By the time you get done with all that, you might have four or five people who are decent candidates, but they are not looking for a 30-year career. At best, we maybe get five, six, seven years out of them … there’s so much negativity about police across the nation.”
Law enforcement members also expressed concern about the quantity of illegal drugs coming across the southern border.
“Until it is secure, we are going to have problems,” said Blaine Wade, chief of police in Bristol, Tennessee.
Roe responded: “You all are dealing with the aftermath of us not doing our job.”
The group informed Roe that one reason gang activity is up is because of the number of gang members housed as inmates at the federal prison in Lee County, Virginia.
“When (the gang members) move (to prison), their families move here,” Quillin pointed out.
Many heads were shaking “no” when Roe asked if marijuana should be legalized.
Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson also pointed out there aren’t enough federal resources in the Southeast to deal with rising drug activity.
“The feds don’t have enough manpower,” Lawson noted.
Roe will hold an immigration-focused town hall event at the Sullivan County Justice Center Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.