Familiar Faces On The Ballot In Sheriff’s Race

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
The Missouri Primary Election will be held on August 4, 2020. Voters eligible to participate in the Primary should have registered by July 8. Those who wish to vote by Absentee Ballot must apply by July 22. 
One race of interest is that of Sheriff of Benton County. According to www.runforoffice.org, a County Sheriff is the head county law enforcement officer and oversees the county’s law enforcement department, including the deputies and administrative support for the Sheriff’s Department.  County Sheriffs typically enforce the law in unincorporated areas within a county, but they also will sometimes provide law enforcement services to municipalities that do not have their own police department. County Sheriffs are also in charge of county jails, and are sometimes called upon to serve subpoenas, protection orders, and eviction notices.
Incumbent Eric Knox, Republican, and opponent Glenn Spencer, Republican, are 2020 candidates for the Office of Benton County Sheriff. 
Sheriff Knox was elected to his first four-year term in 2016. He said that citizens who follow him already know the changes he has made, and his campaign promises are now facts. 
“I have done everything I said in my campaign plus more,” said Sheriff Knox. “We have set up neighborhood watches, and have a Reserve Program where qualified people are available to stand in for a deputy that is on vacation. We currently have five Reservists who have been trained deputies and moved on to higher paying law enforcement jobs, but still want to serve the Benton County Sheriff’s Office. We have a Ride-Along Program where citizens can see what we do one at a time, and we have a web site where citizens can get news and see who is in jail, see their bond and learn why they are in jail. We have provided a lot of transparency through our Facebook page, and the public is welcome to come into the office for information, unless it pertains to a current case. You don’t have to have a Sunshine request to come in.”
Sheriff Knox said that there is now a shooting range for deputies to use that was donated, so no taxpayer money was necessary. The office purchased a drone using about $25,000 in donated funds from individuals and local organizations in the community. The County put in another $5,000. It may help save lives this fall during deer season if hunters go missing, and will be used for other search and rescue cases, and to track criminals on the run. 
“The Friends of the Benton County Sheriff was formed when I was elected, and it helps the Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Knox. “Its current project is to provide a school resource K-9 for the community. We also have volunteer non-profit grant writers who bring in grants for law enforcement equipment. I try to find ways to bring in funds for the Sheriff’s Office that do not cost the taxpayers. Donations helped to provide bullet-proof vests for the staff replacing those that were outdated. We now have new weapons, including rifles and shotguns, that were made possible through funds derived from sales of guns taken off criminals, after those weapons were issued a destruction notice.”
Sheriff Knox said that since taking office he has changed deputy uniforms to something more comfortable, and changed the graphics on vehicles. He also restructured the office, putting a supervisor on each shift so someone is always accountable. He started the taser program since Benton County did not have one, and his office rewrote the Office Policies and Procedures that were so outdated, some were from the late 1980s. He said that his office works with a drug task force, and although the Office has taken down some meth labs, there are not nearly as many as there once were because drugs are now predominantly procured through the Mexican Cartel. 
“I still have plans related to the new jail that may bring in around a million dollars to the county,” said Sheriff Knox. “Currently, we are sending a lot of money to Pettis County to house some of our prisoners, but I want to flip that program and will have more information about that at a later date.”
The Sheriff said that his office does community policing, where deputies stop by diners and events and have the mind set to be part of the community. The deputies participate in parades and fundraisers where they can talk to people. He said that we have good staff members who do a professional job and leave people with a good taste in their mouth. He said that the community should be able to trust its deputies.
Glenn Spencer has a law enforcement background dating back to 1982 when he was a police officer in Cole Camp. He joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1989 as a Road Deputy, and became Chief Deputy in 1991. He became Benton County Sheriff in 1994 and served until 2001. After his time as Sheriff, he worked as a Security Contractor at Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster for six years, and has over 25 years of Law Enforcement ad Government Security experience. He also has over 40 years experience as a Volunteer Fire Fighter, and 18 years as an EMT. According to his Facebook page, Spencer was able to accomplish the following while Benton County Sheriff:  Reduced the crime rate in Benton County every year in office; Was lead investigator in six homicide cases committed in Benton County resulting in the arrest and convictions of all of the perpetrators; Eradicated hundreds of Meth labs in the county; Brought the DARE Drug Program back into Benton County Schools; and in 1997 led the largest manhunt in Missouri for triple murderer Alias Ben Johns involving over 300 federal, state, county and local officers.
“I’ve been asked numerous times ‘Why are you running for Sheriff?’ The answer is simple. I’m running for the people of Benton County. Many people in Benton County feel that the Sheriff’s Department has turned its back on them when they need the Sheriff’s Department the most. With your vote and support I will turn this around.”
Spencer said that the current Sheriff’s Office has not closed some cases including the unsolved homicide of a 21-year old man from Lincoln, and the missing person’s case of Echo Lloyd, of Edwards. He also said that calls to the Sheriff’s Department are usually handled by phone instead of showing up at the site of a crime to do an investigation.
“Officer safety should be a priority,” said Spencer. “The Department cannot help people with inadequate or out-of-date equipment. Bullet-proof vests should be a budget item, and body cameras are another necessary safety item.”
Both candidates will take part in a “Meet the Candidates Night” at 6 PM, on July 22, at Forbes Park community building, located at 26506 Gardiner Road (off of Hwy M in Edwards). Candidates running for Southside Commissioner will also be on hand. There will be a question and answer session for each position. Refreshments will be served.