Former Sheriff’s Deputy Shawn Cooley is running for Adams County Sheriff in the upcoming primary election. Cooley began his 30- year law enforcement career as a police officer in Manchester. He then served as the village’s Chief of Police before accepting a Deputy’s position in 1992 under Sheriff Bob Johnson. He went on to serve under three more sheriffs including Ray Pendell, Kermit Howard, and present Sheriff Kimmy Rogers.
While serving as a Deputy, he held several different positions. He began his career in the communications center working as a Dispatcher before being transferred to Corrections, then promoted to road patrol, K-9 handler for 11 years, and was promoted to Sergeant and Detective capacities. Cooley also served as the Clandestine Lab Specialist for the Sheriff’s office, the State Highway Patrol, and the Adams County village police departments. “Under Kermit Howard I did all the crime scene work – finger printing, tire impressions, and so on. I have as much training as a crime scene tech, so we didn’t have to call BCI.”
He was awarded the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association Medal of Valor, and received an award from Sheriff Kermit Howard for his work in the investigation and arrest of serial killer Darrel Walters who was responsible for the killing of 30 women.
He holds numerous certifications from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office including: Undercover Drug Operations, Homicide Investigations, Finger Printing, Awareness in Human Trafficking, Bridging the Gap – Law Enforcement/Public, Crime Scene Investigation, Crimes Against Children, Criminal Gang Awareness, Crisis Conflict Management, Crisis Intervention, Document Authentication, Domestic Violence & Domestic Violence with Lethality Factors, Evidence Collections and Preservation, Financial Exploitation of Seniors, Fraud Against Seniors, Interviewing Crime Victims, Miranda Rights, Street Cons, Terrorism Awareness, and Use of Force, Liability and Standards.
“I think the Sheriff’s office is pointed in the wrong direction,” Cooley states, and adds that if he is elected he will add personnel, rebuild the department’s drug enforcement capabilities, update equipment, and address incarcerations issues.
“The Sheriff’s office has lost personnel, we’re down to 13 road deputies,” Cooley claims. “There is enough money to maintain personnel. Seven years ago we had three full time detectives, one was assigned as a narcotics officer, one assisted in narcotics cases, and I did general investigations – everything from thefts to homicides, plus I was assigned to work with the state and federal drug task force in Adams County.
“The money to maintain detectives and have what we had seven years ago to do our jobs hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s being spent in areas that we have no business being involved in. Such as armored trucks and the diesel fuel it takes to run it.”
Cooley claims that the lack of detectives on the force is leaving communities more vulnerable to crime because perpetrators are not being brought to justice.
“For the past year, the Sheriff’s office hasn’t had a detective, so if there is a burglary, or any other crime, a deputy will come and take a report, but there’s no one to investigate it because the deputies don’t have the time – they’re busy running from call to call, so crimes aren’t being investigated. That’s what I mean about the Sheriff’s office being pointed in the wrong direction.”
According to Cooley, the personnel shortage is also affecting the investigation and arrests of drug offenders.
“Currently, the Sheriff’s office has only one person assigned to work narcotics, even though drugs are everywhere they only have one person, and he has to take care of maintaining and keeping track of all of the evidence that’s brought in.”
He says he will focus on rebuilding the office’s drug enforcement capabilities.
“Drug houses and meth houses are worse than they’ve ever been in this county,” Cooley says. “Since October, I’ve talked to well over 1,000 households in the county, and it’s always the same complaint, there’s drug dealers in the neighborhood, everything they have is being stolen and no one’s doing anything about it, and to me, that’s what the job of a county Sheriff is supposed to be – your job is to go out and make sure every criminal case is investigated, regardless of what it is.”
If elected, Cooley explains that he intends to hire a detective to investigate crimes, and work the cases. “The Sheriff’s department should do everything possible to arrest these people and recover the stolen property,” he adds. “Right now a guy does 30 days in jail, but you’ve still lost all your possessions. The Sheriff’s job is to try and recover your property, and get it back to you. We were very diligent about recovering people’s property when I worked as a deputy. We need to put more emphasis on patrols in high risk areas, where heroin addicts are stealing to support their habits.”
As Sheriff, Cooley explains that he would be willing to help any drug addict who came forward and asked for help, “But I just don’t believe the Sheriff’s department has any business being involved in drug rehab. That’s not the job of the county Sheriff. There are way too many facilities out there that are staffed with people and have the right equipment to do that, the Sheriff’s department has no business being involved in drug rehab.”
On the other hand, Cooley states that he does support drug education measures in public schools.
“I agree that the sheriff’s department needs to be involved in educating our youth about the dangers of drugs, and there’s already a program in place for doing that, the DARE program,” he says. “There’s no sense spending money on something you already have that’s funded by the state.” Cooley points out that he served as a resource officer before he retired, “I worked with youth counselors and parents to help kids – to keep them out of the judicial system, and save them from being a statistic at the county jail.”
He explains that he supports summer programs that raise awareness about the dangers of drugs and improves relations between law enforcement and young people. “We have to let the kids know cops are the good guys, and we’re here to help.”
Cooley says he is also concerned about the amount and quality of the equipment deputies are using. According to Cooley, the department has only four radios and six tasers that are shared by 13 road deputies. In addition, they have only two body cameras, which I believe are vitally important, they have no tape recorder so they have to write out their statements, and they have to use their own cell phones because they don’t have digital cameras.”
“If you have the money to send three deputies to Texas to bring back an armored vehicle, that is absolutely useless, pay their salaries and hotel rooms, and spend $1,400 in diesel fuel to drive it from Texas to Adams County, why not spend the money on things your officers need to do their jobs?”
Cooley also expresses his opposition to incarcerating non-violent inmates at the proposed work release facility at the county’s airport. “The first thing I would do if I’m elected Sheriff is to shut down the airport project. This work release center is supposed to be for non-violent offenders. I looked at the jail registry over the weekend to see what kind of inmates they were holding. There were 70 inmates housed by Adams County and other jails, and out of those 70, I could only identify six that might be suitable for a minimum security facility.”
pend $140,000 of tax payer money to build this facility, and they’re going to hire a civilian staff, because they cannot hire law enforcement officers because it doesn’t meet the state’s minimum standards. So it has to be staffed by people off the street – if this is going to be such a safe facility, why are they building a safe room that the staff can lock themselves in until help arrives. It seems to me that this is an absolute waste of the taxpayer’s money.”
He also takes issue with providing inmates with a computer system and access to the Internet, “They’re going to put a computer system in there for these people to get jobs, but if they’re in a work release center they should already be employed. Why would they need access to the Internet if they’re already employed?” he asks. “I’ve never known more than just a few of these drug offenders who had a job. While I was a detective I handled several homicide cases, probably hundreds of B & E’s and thefts, I can’t remember more than a handful that weren’t committed by drug offenders.”
Cooley asserts that the facility would not only be unsafe, but that it would have a lasting detrimental effect on the airport.
“I think the money they’re spending on this is just going to destroy our airport. Nobody will want to fly into our airport with a hundred thousand dollar airplane, or with their wives and children, if these people are out there running around. We don’t need to coddle these drug offenders. Thirty years of experience has shown me that the most violent homicides I’ve ever worked, and almost all burglaries, B & E’s and thefts were all committed by drug offenders.”
Cooley’s alternative solution – resolve the jail’s overcrowded conditions by building a new jail.
“The money they’re spending on this airport project, along with the money they’re spending every month to house these inmates in other facilities would more than pay for a new jail. And that’s what we need. The money should be spent on building a facility here to house our inmates, and the extra bed space they may have in this facility can be leased out to other counties, so they can actually make money. We can use the jailers at our current jail to staff it, so we wouldn’t have to hire new officers, or staffing. To me it’s a big injustice to the taxpayers and to the people who use the airport. Having this work release facility in the middle of a field at the county airport, staffed by civilians – it’s nothing more than a bomb waiting to explode, and it’s the death of our airport.”
“If I’m elected I won’t be sitting in the office, I’ll be out on the road every day working with the deputies, to see that these cases are handled, to see that these drug houses are shut down, to see that these meth labs are shutdown, and that the law is enforced. I will work to make the Sheriff’s office a more proactive department, rather than a reactive department. I’ll make the Sheriff’s department something people in Adams County can be proud of.”
Shawn lives in West Union with his wife, Suzanne, who works as a paralegal in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. They have four children. Cooley retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2014.