New sheriff brings changes to Grayson

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Richard Vaughan may still be learning the new computer system at the Grayson County Sheriff’s Department, but other changes have been smooth since the 37-year-old officially took office as sheriff on Jan. 1.

Vaughan hit the streets almost immediately after his term began.

At 12:40 a.m. on Jan. 1, Vaughan said he and newly appointed Chief Deputy Mike Hash stopped a driver in Fries, charged the driver with DUI and found marijuana in the vehicle.

“We got off to a good start,” Vaughan said.

Jan. 1 also brought several changes to the department.

The deputies are now broken into two different patrol teams, A and B. The teams work 12-hour days — from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., or vice versa. They work four days, then have four days off.

“This allows us to have better coverage at night, with more units on the road,” Vaughan said.

The new teams created two new leadership roles of patrol sergeant.

Vaughan promoted Don Houk from school resource officer and Gary Hash from patrol deputy to patrol sergeants. Mike Hash was promoted from investigator to chief deputy.

A new sergeant investigator was also hired — Doug Carner, who worked previously with Vaughan at the Wythe County Sheriff’s Department and brings more than 20 years of law enforcement experience to Grayson.

Vaughan also created a civil division for the department, and promoted Darren Barrett to sergeant of the division.

Vaughan said several internal changes have taken place, as well.

Deputies are filing paperwork differently, are required to keep statistics from their shifts and — for the first time — are required to keep a time sheet. Vaughan said that helps keep track of what everyone is doing during their shifts.

All deputies also received an e-mail address. Vaughan said when he started, only one email address was in place for the department.

He requested 25 addresses and requires everyone to check e-mail daily for updates or information.

The entire investigation team must go through a Death Investigation class, taught by Bill Everett of the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Roanoke.

All Grayson patrol and investigators are also required to attend leadership training on Jan. 29.

As for personnel changes, Vaughan said only two people left after he took office. Former sheriff Jerry Wilson and deputy J.B. Johnson both retired.

(In the November 2007 election, Vaughan defeated Wilson, who was seeking his fourth term as sheriff.)

Minor changes include all deputies receiving new unit and badge numbers and the dispatch is now referred to as “Grayson” instead of “501” on police radios and scanners.

Vaughan said numerous calls have already come in saying how much more “professional” officers sound on the scanner.

Deputies also now check the county’s businesses after midnight. Vaughan said they are required to drive around businesses and document the time they were there.

“This helps us if we get a breaking and entering [call],” he said. “If the owner comes in and notices the building broken in to, and an officer went by at 2 a.m., we have a smaller timeframe to look at.”

Vaughan also plans to do some housekeeping around the office.

The building hasn’t been renovated since the 1980s and he plans new sheetrock and a fresh coat of paint. “It needs a face lift,” he said. “Needs it badly.”

Another taskforce Vaughan plans to assemble is a Cold Case Team.

The team would consist of part-time deputies, who would go back and examine unsolved or open “cold cases” in Grayson, such as the unsolved murder of Brandon Billings and the still unresolved search for Logan Bowman, a missing child.

Vaughan is also in the process of setting up a transition team to look at how things have been done in the past at the sheriff’s department and how he wants things to be done in the future.

“I don’t want it to be like shell-shock,” Vaughan said of making changes. “You got to ease into some.”

With more than 13 years of law enforcement experience, Vaughan brings fresh ideas to the department and has been surprised at how smoothly the transition has gone.

“The transition has gone surprisingly well,” he said. “All deputies signed new policy manuals.”

As for his new role, Vaughan said, “leadership is 90 percent checking and 10 percent telling.”