February 18, 2015 Edition

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New sheriff brings change

Chief Deputy Tony Waldrupe (left) and Sheriff Jeff Yates (right) gave an update on the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department at a Kiwanis Club meeting. They were the guests of Kari Shanks (center).
John Bland

As might be expected with a new sheriff, change has been prevalent in the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Jeff Yates took office Jan. 1, and his new chief deputy is Tony Waldrupe.

Both Yates and Waldrupe talked about those changes and the status of the department as guest speakers at Thursday's meeting of the Walnut Ridge Kiwanis Club.

One of the changes in the department is a new uniform for officers consisting of dark green shirts with khakis. Another change is that sheriff's deputies will soon be driving pickup trucks instead of four-door sedans.

On a more personal note, the job has also been a change for Sheriff Yates. After spending over 26 years with the Arkansas Highway Police, he was used to being on the highway. As sheriff, he spends more time in the office.

However, Yates said the transition for him and the department has been smooth. "The support since I came into office has been fantastic," he said.

Yates and Waldrupe gave other statistics regarding the Sheriff's Department. Lawrence is the busiest county in the First Judicial District with 35-40 court cases being opened since January. During January, 37 pleas were entered in the county with 13 sex crimes that are open cases.

"The (county) jail is a big issue now," Yates said. (The current jail has failed multiple inspections and has been deemed of inadequate size to fully serve the county.)

As of Thursday, the county jail was housing 42 inmates, with 10-12 of them being women. Women and men must be housed separately, as well as sex offenders and other violent criminals. The majority of inmates are being housed for the state, which pays the county for this service.

Two trustees and one 309 do the cooking for the other inmates. A dietician must approve all meals. Non-working inmates are served a 2,300 calorie daily diet, while working inmates are given 2,700 calories daily. Government entities, such as municipalities, can use 309 inmates for various jobs, such as picking up litter along highways.

"We do a lot of traveling on circuit court days," said Yates. On these days, it is the responsibility of the sheriff's department to get prisoners, who may be housed in various prisons around the state, to and from circuit court in Lawrence County.

Quorum court and Kiwanis member Ernest "Junior" Briner noted that the sheriff's office never closes.

In addition to Yates and Waldrupe, other department personnel are as follows: detectives, Sgt. Jamie White and Andrew Turner; deputies, Jeff Midgett, Justin Dixon, Duston Walker, Chris Ditto, Jeremy Riggs, James Price, Steve Dowdie; court baliff, Harold Willett; part-time deputies, Nickey Stockton, Ray Swindle and Jim Hartness; Hillcrest School resource officer, Richard Randolph; jail administrator, Debbie Burleson; administrative assistant, Tammy Jones; and circuit court fines administrator, Sandy Peterson.

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