MARYVILLE, TENN. – Blount County Sheriff James Lee Berrong issued a statement concerning the office’s use of force and social justice. See the entire statement below.
“I’d like to begin by saying that in my years as serving as Sheriff of Blount County, I could not be more proud of our deputies and their professionalism. Over the past couple of weeks, I have received a few inquiries regarding our use of force policy and social justice. For those of you who have lived and worked in Blount County for any length of time, you know that the Blount County Sheriff’s Office is a proactive law enforcement agency in regard to community policing, and our policies and general orders align with that. Our deputies firmly believe in our mission statement which highlights “working with the community and building trust, reducing crime, creating a safe environment, and enhancing the quality of life” for Blount County citizens and our visitors. For us, these are not just words on paper. It is what we believe, and it is what we insist that our deputies abide by in their work and personal lives.
Though spelling out our use of force policy would be lengthy for the purposes of this letter, I will say that all of the initiatives being encouraged by a particular nationwide campaign are already in policy at the Blount County Sheriff’s Office. One of the highlights of that campaign asks for law enforcement agencies to require de-escalation. All of our patrol deputies receive certification for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which is part of the Fair and Just Policing model that our deputies receive training in each year. CIT is a first-responder model of police-based crisis intervention training to help persons with mental disorders and/or addictions to access medical treatment rather than place them in the criminal justice system due to illness-related behaviors. It also promotes officer safety and the safety of the individuals in crisis.
The BCSO is also internationally accredited through CALEA, (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies). We received our first accreditation in 2003, and every three years we go through the re-accreditation process. In 2015 and 2018, CALEA awarded the Sheriff’s Office the Gold Standard of Excellence, which is reserved for agencies which have gone through multiple re-accreditations and have not had any compliance issues in the most recent assessment. CALEA assessors spend more time working with and reviewing law enforcement officers in the field, and less time reviewing files. What does this mean for the citizens of Blount County? It means citizens are receiving the best possible law enforcement services that your tax dollars can buy. It means our deputies are receiving the best, most up-to-date, and professional training that will provide you, our citizens, with the best law enforcement services possible.
The sanctity of life is foundational to what we do, and as Sheriff, I hold accountable every person who works for me in our community. If you are interested in reviewing our Use of Force policy, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to send you our policy. The BCSO also aggressively recruits prospective candidates for employment. We are an Equal Opportunity Employer. There is no better way to make positive changes in this profession than to join us and be part of serving your community. If you are interested in applying for a career with our agency, we encourage you to apply at bcso.com, click on the Employment tab.
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to serving the people of the county constitutionally, fairly, and equitably.”