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Callaway County sheriff candidate interview: Victor Pitman


Nia Hinson: Okay, so to start, I'm just gonna have you give me a little bit of background and just tell me a little bit more about yourself.

Victor Pitman: Okay, well, my name is Victor Pittman, p-i-t-m-a-n. I've been a law enforcement officer for over 40 years. Most of that has been as a police chief, law enforcement instructor, trainer. The last several years, I've been with the Missouri Sheriffs Association and our primary function there was conducting law enforcement training for the basic Academy all the way through new sheriffs training. So, when new sheriff's are elected, we would put on, we put on a training program, helping them learn all the responsibilities that they're going to have when they take office. So, we would conduct that training for them after each election year as well. And then all the training in between. So got lots of experience when it comes to administering law enforcement agency operations, and especially related to sheriff's officers.

Hinson: Then, we're a little under a month away from the election, what kind of things have you kind of been doing to prepare for it?

Pitman: Well, I feel like I've been preparing for this office for years and years. Again, my primary function when I was actively working, I worked for the Cole County Sheriff's Office was my last law enforcement position. And I was a division commander for them and I ran the jail division and whatever else the Sheriff wanted me to do. So, I left Cole county when Sheriff Greg White retired, and went to work full time with the Sheriffs Association. I worked for them for several years prior to that, as well as an instructor while I also did law enforcement duties. So, again, my entire training history I learned early on. In the mid '80s, started my career in law enforcement in August of 1983. And I learned very early on that if you really want to be effective as a peace officer, just like anything else, you have to duplicate yourself. You know, you have to be more effective, you have to work as a team, with other people. And you have to train yourself. One of the best ways to train yourself is to help prepare yourself to train other people. So, I became a law enforcement instructor and have been an instructor in numerous disciplines. You name it, I've probably been. The only thing I haven't done in law enforcement is undercover work. And it's because I don't have the face for it. I don't have the ability to hide my true thought process there. You know, my kids tell me everything's right there, you know, I would I would not survive as an undercover officer. Excuse me. So, my entire career has been researching statutory law, case law, law enforcement, best practices, problem solving, and then learning how to put that into action. You know, doing it actively working, and then being able to transfer that to other people to help them do their jobs better too. So, and then started working with the Sheriffs Association and sheriff's offices, even as a police chief. I worked with the Calloway County Sheriff's Office, helping them operate, meet their needs, their operational goals. I was police chief in the City of Holts Summit for for several years, I worked there 18 years. And the vast majority of my career has just been doing all the stuff that anybody would need to do to prepare themselves to be a sheriff.

Hinson: So this is nothing new?

Pitman: This is not new. No, no. The great thing about this profession is is there's always something new. The day you think you know it all, is the day you need to retire and go away because then you're gonna get people hurt. It's constantly having to learn new stuff, constantly maintaining awareness of changes in statutory law, opinions of the court, best practices. There's a lot of stuff that we used to do back in the '80s that we don't do any more. And because we learned better if that makes sense and always striving to improve to do things better.

Hinson: When you look at Callaway County, what kind of things do you think need to change, if anything and what what would be one of the first things you would implement if you were elected?

Pitman: I think the primary goal of the sheriff is to set the tone for the agency. Of course everybody that works there only exists because you as one in person. The elected sheriff cannot do everything that needs to be done. Especially today back in, you know, historically there's some great books out there that talk about the history of sheriff's offices and, and for many, many years and in some jurisdictions, it's a one man show. But that's not the reality today. Your Sheriff today is as an administrator, is a guidance, is a person who's there to set the tone for the agency. And I believe that one of the primary functions that I would have, of course, would be to do that. I believe that sheriff's offices should be responsive to the citizens, and that law enforcement by its nature, is a half adversarial, half service operation. We, for example, if you have a crime that occurred, no matter what it is, you have a victim, and you have somebody who perpetrated the crime. So, your job is to support the victim, help the victim recover. And your job is to, to investigate the crime. So you have somebody who perpetrated the crime. So, for the perpetrator of the crime and their family, it's adversarial. For the victim and their family, it's support. And you have to learn to balance that. And even though we may deal with folks that break the law, and even those folks that have a very anti law enforcement, anti government, anti social type personality, we still have to provide service to those folks, and do it in a professional manner, and be responsive. And, and do so in a manner that that allows the facts to be laid out on the table for everybody to see. And then remember that our function is to investigate, not to prosecute, and not to punish. And then we turn it over to the courts. And that's what prosecutors and judges and juries are for. They are the tear effects. They're the ones that make the decisions on, on who's guilty and not guilty. That's the way our system operates. We don't want the people that enforce the law to be the ones who are the judges. And we don't want the ones who make the law to be the ones who enforce it. You know, it's why we have a three tiered system. And to make sure that we operate the sheriff's office, within the boundaries of its responsibilities, and let the courts do their job, and let the legislators do their job.

Hinson: You talked about this extensive background that you have, obviously working in all these different departments. What about that do you think makes you fit for this job? And kind of what things do you stand for? If you were elected as sheriff?

Pitman: Well, you know, we have to remember that when we choose to put on a uniform, we are becoming a part of the government. When we're wearing the uniform and the badge, and we're exercising the law, we need to do that in an unbiased manner. So I might have a personal opinion about drugs, or about particular statutes or crimes or laws. But as long as that statute or whatever is constitutional, then my job is to enforce the law regardless of my personal opinion. Now I have very strong personal opinions. I lean very conservative, I'm very conservative when it comes to almost everything. I'm a firm believer in personal responsibility. And I am a firm believer in our system of government. How I vote personally, and how I do my job as a sheriff, or as a law enforcement officer.
Sometimes how do I wanna say this? Sometimes they cause personal conflicts, even within ourselves. Because we're all humans. We all have our own opinions and our own biases and our own judgments about things. As a police officer, our job is to investigate. Our job is to lay out the facts. Our job is to serve, primarily serve the community because quite frankly, it's impossible for any law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency to truly protect everybody. So ,service comes first and protection when it's possible. One of the biggest questions that comes up to me as a sheriff is "what is my opinion on the gun control Second Amendment Preservation Act?" You know, I'm a firm believer in the right to bear arms because as a 40 year veteran of law enforcement, I know that it's impossible for any law enforcement agency or government agency to protect everybody. And one of the primary reasons we have a right to bear arms, and that's not just firearms, that's, it could be a brick, if you got to protect yourself, it could be your hands, you have a right to protect yourself from those who are going to victimize you. And we have to protect people's rights to do that. Because even in the best scenario, a police officer might not be able to be there for you in, you know, three to five minutes. You know, at the fastest, and you have to be there to protect yourself, and then there's going to be one officer. But what if there's multiple bad guys, so even that one officer may not be able to protect you. So we have to hold up, we have to hold those. We have to support people's rights, basically. So there are times when we, your personal opinion may conflict with whatever the current statutory laws are, okay, or even court opinions. So, but we have to exercise, exercise that law within the boundary of the constitution, and the court decisions. Everything comes down to what is constitutionally correct or not. We do have a right as a branch of the government, because remember, we have a three tier system, and checks and balances are very important. And there are times when courts make bad decisions. Legislators make bad decisions. And as exercisers of the law, there may be times that a sheriff or a law enforcement officer or an anybody that's part of the executive branch of government would have to say, you may have passed that law, but I'm not going to enforce it. This has happened multiple times throughout our history, with throughout the history of the world. We have to ask ourselves, what would I have done if I was a law enforcement officer in World War Two? And, you know, the President of the United States put out an order saying because you're of Japanese descent, we're going to take you out of your home, take away your property, and we're going to move you to this concentration camp, basically in the middle of nowhere. Am I going to exercise that law when these people are citizens of this country? You know, am I going to do that or not? We know that that's happened throughout history in our country and in other countries. You know, World War two prime example if I was a law enforcement officer in France or Germany or Europe during World War Two and the party in power said that because you're of this religious faith or ethnic group or whatever, that we're going to remove you from society. I have to make the decision. Am I going to exercise that? Or am I going to fight against it? And there are times that that happens. It's rare, very rare. But you have to accept that responsibility as well. Otherwise, if the laws are within the boundaries of the Constitution, then we would exercise our rights, just as every other citizen and try to encourage our elected officials in the legislature, argue our cases in court in order to to get the best outcome. So that it's a it's a large responsibility. How you do that when you're wearing the uniform and how you handle that, as an individual citizen, are sometimes different, because I can have a strong opinion as a citizen. But as a member of the government, I have to hold myself to a higher standard. Does that make sense?

Hinson: Yeah.

Pitman: To a tougher standard. Yeah.

Hinson: When you look at your opponent, Darryl, you know, he's been the interim chief for a little bit over a year. Is there any worry from you that that has kind of an edge over you and?

Pitman: Well, it's definitely an edge. Darryl has given excellent service to the citizens of Callaway County for over 30 years. He, he's been the chief deputy there for what three sheriff's now? So, he's obviously demonstrated his ability to be successful because he's still there, as the chief deputy. The question is, is does he have the ability to guide the sheriff's office as the sheriff? And he may very well, I believe I'm better prepared. I believe I have a stronger history when it comes to being a sheriff to operate in an office to administer in an office as a sheriff because of my training and experience where his is very specific to the one agency. So definitely, he has his pluses. I believe that there is a need in Callaway County, for
stronger ethical leadership. I, I have been in the position as an executive in law enforcement, and as an investigator in law enforcement where I have had to take action against other law enforcement officers because they violated the law. I have determined that I've had to terminate officers. I've had to arrest officers. And we have to hold ourselves up to a higher standard because we're the ones exercising the law. And, unfortunately, that didn't happen last year. You know, and so I have to question when I review the legal documents that were filed with the situation that occurred last year with the previous sheriff. And I read that and I'm reading those documents, and I say to myself, well, there were multiple incidents prior to removing him from office, where even though he was the sheriff, he should have gone to jail. You know, why are we allowing somebody to carry a gun while intoxicated? Drive while intoxicated? The flip side of that coin is is the former Sheriff gave long, incredible service as well. Why he had an alcohol problem? I don't know. Was it stress at the job ,was their personal problems that I'm not aware of that led to that? I don't know all those facts. What I do know is that when we have somebody that works for us, and we identify something that's a problem, even at its earliest stages, then we need to be getting that person help. And then if that person is refusing to help, then unfortunately, because of the nature of the job, then we have to exercise the law. So why didn't that happen? If the sheriff, he's he's deserving of it. He gave good service to the citizens of Callaway County and the people that were closest to him and around him. We're there to protect him as well as protect the citizens. So, either he refused the help, or he wasn't given the help, which led to a situation where he had to be removed from office. So there were ethical situations there and action should have been taken a lot longer before it was. Now, that's not the reason I'm running. I am running because I believe that there's a need for leadership in the sheriff's office, obviously. And I believe that I'm the person with the background and history and training and education and knowledge and experience that can provide that leadership to the sheriff's office.
And I know that I can do so in an ethical manner.

Hinson: Come next month on the sixth, if you are elected, why should the people of Callaway County feel okay with knowing that you are their sheriff, or feel safe or secure?

Pitman: Well, I think that they should know that, they that if I'm elected, that they are going to have somebody in that office who is there for them. Not because I have a desire for any type of authority or power or action., that I feel like I need to exercise my ego or something like that. The sheriff's office is there to serve the public. You have four primary roles, okay, enforce the law, keep the peace, support the courts, operate the jail facility, and civil process service. Those are your four primary functions for the sheriff's office. And the job of the sheriff has to ensure that that's done in an efficient and an effective manner. That takes into serious consideration wise spending of the tax dollars that are provided by the citizens and being responsive to the community. And that every one of the big issues that comes up in law enforcement is how do we get the public to trust us? Which is kind of the foundation of your question, why should the public trust us? The public should trust us because they know when they are protected even in a negative manner, in an adversarial manner. If I am arrested, I should know that I am going to be treated humanely, that I'm going to be treated fairly and appropriately. Most of the people that are in jail are pre-sentenced. They are innocent until found guilty by the courts. Okay. And that the only reason they're in jail is because you need to ensure their appearance in court. That's the only reason somebody is held in jail prior to going into court and being found guilty is you have to guarantee their appearance in court. The court decides why they're in jail. You know, when it comes to bond, that's not the sheriff's role or responsibility. The court determines that if the person is of flight risk. Or Is there a reason that they believe they're not going to appear in court. That's why the judge has hearings. But while they're held in jail, they're innocent until proven guilty. And while they're in jail, they should be treated humanely and be treated with respect. Even if they don't treat me as an officer who's there to house them safely in the jail. Even if they don't treat me with respect. That doesn't matter. My job is to treat them humanely, to treat them with respect to ensure they have access to the court to ensure that their welfare is maintained. Regardless of my personal opinion about who they are. That can become difficult because some people don't make it easy. But you still have to do so in a manner that's appropriate. So, those everyday individual contact from those negative contacts, all the way to positive contacts, where you're doing. Public education programs, where you're doing community welfare programs, whatever it is that you're trying to do to benefit the community, all those positive contacts. To even walking into a convenience store and getting a cup of coffee, and making contact with somebody. If I am sitting down in a restaurant eating lunch, somebody knows that I am a peace officer. I need to expect that somebody may come up to me and ask me a question. Okay, I have a concern. And I need to be responsive to that person, even though it might interfere with my ability to have a peaceful lunch. Okay. When you choose to be a peace officer, you have to accept that responsibility and every individual contact that anybody that works for that office, who works for the sheriff needs to do that in a manner that promotes that trust. So, even if you're a bad guy, you know that if even if we have to use force to defend ourselves or defend somebody else. You know that when we exercise that authority in that responsibility, that it's going to be done so in a manner that's appropriate, that is within the boundaries of the law, and only done when absolutely necessary.

Hinson: I think those were all my questions. Do you want to add anything else?

Pitman: Just that I encourage you all to get out and vote. That this is their office. That, that if they choose to elect me that my job is to be responsive to answer their call for service and to do the best I can to provide them that service. So, I hope that they vote for me.

Hinson: Thank you for your time.

Pitman: Okay.

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