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11/4/2011 - Candidates for Sheriff debate at Nandua Pt 1 - Click here to print this information

By Candy Farlow

The second of two candidate forums held by Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore Wednesday night featured the three candidates for Accomack County Sheriff. Incumbent Todd Godwin was the first to address the gathering, highlighting his 26 years of law enforcement experience, 21 years of which have been served in the office he now administers. Godwin was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Larry Giddens who retired in August and is now seeking to win his first election to the post.

Challenging Godwin is Walter Marks who retired from the Virginia State Police and now serves as the Chief of Police for the Town of Onley. The third candidate in the race to be decided Tuesday is David Rogers, a former deputy with the Sheriffs Office.

Following the introductions, each candidate was asked to explain how they would reduce crime in the county. Marks, noting that there is a prevention program for elementary students, said that similar initiatives are needed for middle and high school students. He also called for more Neighborhood Watches, utilizing utility and delivery persons as extra eyes for the department and increased visibility.

Rogers called for more manpower and education. He said more manpower could be obtained by establishing a sheriffs auxiliary and an education program could help people learn how not to become a victim.
Godwin noted that crime on the Eastern Shore was down last year over the previous reporting period. He noted that the placing of computers in the department vehicles has allowed deputies to spend more time on the road and less in the office. He said he will also be asking the county to fund the hiring of a county ordinance enforcement officer.
When asked about improvements for the jail, Rogers said the department is dealing with an outdated, overpopulated facility. He said 24 hour nursing is needed and training for officers to better identify inmates with mental illness. He also called for the construction of a sally port for security in transferring prisoners from vehicles to the jail.

Marks said as sheriff he would immediately conduct a security survey in order to make the facility as safe as possible for the inmates, but more importantly for the people who work there.

Godwin said the jail, built in 1968, is structurally sound and secure as are the policies by which it is administered. He noted that a grant received last year provided for the placement of video cameras in all single cells and cell blocks. Godwin said he would continue the jails GED and ministry program as well as work release trash details, programs the other candidates said they also support.

The men also addressed the regional jail which has five beds dedicated to housing Accomack County prisoners. Marks called for more use of the regional facility by Accomack while Godwin maintained it is in the countys best interest to house as many of its own prisoners as possible. Rogers stated he is not familiar with the regional jail agreement between Accomack and Northampton but that he would research it.

All three candidates also spoke in support of cooperation among all law enforcement agencies on the Shore with Marks calling for regular meetings to disseminate information among officers. Rogers agreed and called for a hot sheet to be regularly distributed to share information on cases. Godwin noted that he has already held on roundtable with other agencies, that his office is sharing be on the lookout notices and are informing police chiefs when incidents happen within their towns.

With regard to drug trafficking, Rogers called for more officers on the highway dedicated to patrolling for drugs, and again stated his desire for a sheriffs auxiliary which he said could help free up deputies for such detail. Marks praised the work of the Eastern Shore Drug Task Force and called for more support for that inter-agency team. He also said high visibility and more training in drug interdiction area needed. Godwin, noting that the number of deputies which are funded is determined by the state compensation board noted that he has shifted an administrative position to provide for a second deputy the on the task force.

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