Sheriff Butch Reece has served as the sheriff of Jones County since 1980, and he is asking voters to allow him to continue in that role for another four years.
Reece started working as a Jones County deputy in 1972. He explained in a recent interview that he was assigned to work the midnight shift. Until he was hired, he said the sheriff’s department closed its doors at midnight.
“If something would happen, they would call and wake someone up,” Reece said.
He recalled that, at that time, the sheriff’s department consisted of four full-time employees and a few who worked part time.
The number of employees with the department is just the start of changes the sheriff has witnessed over his 48 years in law enforcement.
The Jones County jail was located at the courthouse and had a total of 12 beds, including one cell for females. Jones County’s current Law Enforcement Center was built in 1998 and has room for 120 inmates. A new addition under construction will add 38 more cells for females.
Reece said crimes have changed over the years with the increase of technology.
“In the past, people were robbed with a gun or a knife. Now they are robbed by phone and on their computers,” he said.
The sheriff said it is hard to get success on those cases because many of the criminals are out of the country.
“You would think people would know these scams are too good to be true, but some of them are losing thousands of dollars,” he said.
Reece said the technology scams need to be addressed on the federal level. He said, when the crimes are reported, they are sent to the Secret Service and other federal task forces.
“We can occasionally stop the transactions if they are reported soon enough, but there are so many different scams,” he said.
The sheriff said Jones County is ahead of the game when it comes to gangs.
“We work hard with the district attorney’s office to keep them out of Jones County,” he said.
Reece said investigators are seeing more heroin. He said they always try to go to the source when making an arrest, and recently those behind the drug deals are state and federal prisoners.
To date, there have been zero positive COVID-19 cases for inmates in the jail. He said all new inmates are isolated for 10 days before being put into the general population. He said cells are sprayed daily, and doorknobs are cleaned often.
“All jail personnel wear masks and gloves,” Reece said.
Inmates are no longer transported to court and the sheriff said he believes that Zoom court is the future.
“There is really no reason to have to handle prisoners,” he said.
The sheriff said it has always been his goal to make sure inmates and especially their families are treated well.
“Those family members did not violate the law,” he noted.
He said most inmate visitations are now being done online, and the visits are handled similarly to inmate phone calls.
“The jail doesn’t make any money from either. We try to keep it affordable for families,” he said.
Reece said for the most part the climate experienced by officers from members of the community had held steady throughout the racial issues taking place elsewhere.
“There was maybe a little strain when it started, but it has swung back this way,” he said. The sheriff said he stresses the use of common sense.
“It’s simple. Obey the law, and do what you are asked,” he said.
He said a sign in one of the training rooms is a reminder to officers before they head out on patrol. The sign states, “Did you bring your common sense to work today?”
Reece said the department has seen an increase in the number of run-aways and calls from parents wanting an officer to talk to their children. He said officers are always willing to help, but they never want to be used to scare a child into compliance.
He said school resource officers Boisey Hunt and David Little are back in the schools.
The sheriff is more than eligible for retirement, but he said he wants to stay in office for the simple reason that he loves the job.
“I started working when I was 12, in the peach packing shed. I enjoyed working then and I still look forward to coming to work every day,” Reece said.
For more information, go to the Butch Reece for Jones County Sheriff Facebook page.