FOX19 INVESTIGATES: Kentucky sheriffs not certified - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

FOX19 INVESTIGATES: Kentucky sheriffs not certified

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(FOX19) -

In Kentucky there are only two basic requirements for sheriffs and both are laid out in the state's constitution. The first is an age requirement and the second involves residency restrictions.

A FOX19 Investigation found out it is a very different world for the modern day Andy Griffiths who often spend more time dealing with finances than felons.

"We still tote the guns and get to ride in nice vehicles but we have a lot of responsibility," argued Pendleton County Sheriff "Craig" Peoples.

Peoples had a very different idea of what it meant to be a sheriff when he first started with the department in 1994.

"In my case I came in part time," he explained. "I didn't know what went on in a sheriff's office."

These days Peoples spends more time keeping the books than booking the criminals because in Kentucky sheriffs are also tax collectors.

"We're responsible in most cases for several millions of dollars of taxes, but there's nothing requiring us to show that we have that capability," he told FOX19.

The job description dates back much farther than Andy Griffith Show, an NKU law professor says the concept was brought over from across the pond.

"Anyone who remembers watching Robin Hood as a child remembers that the sheriff of Nottingham was hated because he was the local tax collector," Phillip Sparkes explained.

Sparkes is the director of NKU's Local Government Law Center. He says sheriffs are also involved in elections and have a number of duties as officers of the court.

"The civil functions are the larger portion of what their office entails," Sparkes said. "So having someone who is a good administrator might be a better qualification for those offices than someone who has a law enforcement background.

Kentucky's Sheriffs' Association Executive Director Jerry Wagner says the added functions are often a shocking reality to newly elected sheriffs.

"There will be 35 of those 40 that will come to me and say that you know, ‘I had no idea there was this much involvement and this much to this job. If I had it I'm not sure I would have ran for it'," he said. 

"A lot of good police men run for sheriff in Kentucky and they fall down because they don't understand the bookkeeping and business practice," Sheriff Charles Korzenborn argued.

Korzenborn's background before he became the Kenton County Sheriff was in business, not law enforcement.

"Voters have the choice. They can make the decision," Wagner said. "'Do I like the person with all the training or do I like the person with this background behind them?' That falls back to the constitution that gives our people a choice."

It is a choice because in Kentucky because Wagner says there is no certification required to be sheriff, not even a training requirement on how to shoot a gun.

"Sheriffs, when they're elected, they're going to go get that training," he said. "Although the law might not require you to know how to shoot that gun, I guarantee you're going to know how to shoot that gun once you become elected sheriff."

"I'm of the age now that I could not possibly pass the requirements to be a police officer. I could to the academics but I couldn't do the physical," Korzenborn told FOX19.

He argues, however, that doesn't make him any less capable.

"I am qualified for the office and I've been elected four times in a row," he said.

Like many sheriffs in Kentucky Korzenborn has sought out training on his own, even though he does not have to. In fact every year nearly all of Kentucky's 120 sheriffs take part in a 40 hour training session put on by the Kentucky Sheriffs' Association.

"Training is big and we'll not back up from that," Wagner emphasized. "We want all of our people trained to the highest level we can have them."

In fact he says sheriffs were the ones who lead the charge to require training for deputies under Kentucky Revised Statutes. Those changes were signed into law in 1998.

"When I took over the office I made sure my people were trained. Some of them had never fired their weapon," Korzenborn said.

As an elected official, however, Korzenborn maintains sheriffs should not be forced to do the same training.

"Our constitution was set up to be run by civilians and when you put too many requirements on the leadership then you can narrow it down to where you can pick who the leader is going to be," he argued.

"Personally I think it should be a little bit more," Peoples shared. "If we expect our employees to do certain things then we should have proven we can do them as well."

"I can promise you this; that Kentucky sheriffs are just as knowledgeable, just as professional as any of the others," Wagner said. "[And] just as qualified."

While the Pendleton County Sheriff says he would like to see more training required he does not expect it to happen. The Kentucky Sheriffs' Association is not perusing any changes. In fact, Sparkes says changes would require modifying the state's constitution.

Sparkes says in the 1930s there was a case decided by the Kentucky Court of Appeals that concluded that the constitution was both a floor and ceiling and that the legislature had no power to alter those qualifications through legislation. He says historically amendments haven not succeeded at the ballot box.

Since deputies' duties fall under Kentucky Revised Statutes, as more deputies go through their mandated training more certified sheriffs could be seen in future elections.

Sheriffs in Kentucky are elected every four years. Wagner says the next election will be in 2014.

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