By Talbert Toole
As the primary election approaches for the state of Mississippi on Tuesday, two Lafayette county residents are facing off for the Democratic nomination for Lafayette County Sheriff. The winner of the primary election will vie for the position against Jeffrey Clinton South, an Independent, in the general election in November.
Joey East, 49, is married to Kimberly Harwell East of the Anchor Community. Together they have four children; Megan, 25, Jack-Wyatt, 13, Maddie, 10 and Josie, 8. All of the East children are currently attending the Lafayette county schools or have already graduated.
East is a 1988 graduate of Oxford High School where he won the outstanding student award from the school of applied technology in auto mechanics and was subsequently the Rotary Student of the year. He attended North West Community College where he worked toward a criminal justice degree.
At 20 years old, Joey was hired as a dispatcher for the Oxford Police Department and has been in law enforcement for more than 28 years where he has worked his way through the ranks to currently hold the position of Chief of Police.
East has served in various fields of law enforcement such as a narcotics agent at times working undercover, DUI Officer, Investigator for the MS Attorney General’s Office for four years, Commander of a Multi-Jurisdictional Narcotics Task Force, Major over all criminal and internal investigations for the Oxford Police Department, Assistant Chief of Police to his current position as Chief of Police
He has had thousands of hours of training through his years in law enforcement and has been active through the years in taking classes to finish his degree at the University of Mississippi.
East has attended the State Law Enforcement training academy and was selected to attend and graduated in 2007 from the FBINational Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He has spent the last five years as the Chief of the Oxford Police Department where he aimed to cultivate a department with a focus on Community Policing.
East said he is running for Lafayette County Sheriff because he cares about this community and the people who live in it.
“I have spent my entire adult life working and protecting this community, I know this community and the families that live here,” East said. “Being sheriff has always been a dream of mine and I have spent the last 28 plus years studying, training and preparing myself for this position.”
East said it is hard to pinpoint one issue that Lafayette County is facing; however, he said as Lafayette County and the city grows in population soon to be over 55,000 residents living here, so will crime if law enforcement is not prepared.
The Lafayette County needs strong leadership that will prepare us for the future, not for today, East said.
For example, East said the county is currently covering over 670 square miles with only 40-42 Deputies. The city of Oxford is covering 26 square miles with 80 officers. The Sheriffs Department run the Lafayette County Detention Center, a jail that can house up to 200 inmates. The Sheriff is over 911 communications which handles all calls that come through 911, all fire, and rescue across city and county along with all deputies. The Sheriff is over security for all the Courts; Justice, Circuit, Chancery, Juvenile and soon to be added is County Court. Search and rescue is under the Sheriff’s department.
“We have to plan for the future we have to grow, educate, train and make sure we are doing everything we can to keep this community as safe as possible,” East said. “The biggest issue is leadership and preparing for our future.”
East said if elected Lafayette County Sheriff, he will put God first and will always be honest and fair to everyone.
Raymond Westley Sides, 60, a retired homicide investigator, is originally from Harmontown, Mississippi where he said he has many fond memories spending time with his father teaching him to swim, ski and fish at Sardis Lake. However, this was short-lived when his family moved the family to Memphis after he was hired with the Memphis Police Department.
He started his career with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department and his last tour of duty was with the homicide division working 18 years in that area.
After working 30 years, Sides said he decided to retire and bring his family back to his hometown of Harmontown.
“I decided to run for Sheriff and bring my experience and knowledge of the day-to-day operations within the Sheriff’s office in, and hope to bring the trust of the community and the people of Lafayette county,” Sides said.
Sides background expands beyond his role in the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. He was also in the Tennesee State Guard, 2nd. Lt. and received an Honorable Discharged. He was also awarded the Medal of Valor. Sides worked in the narcotics division, patrol division, and MGU, Multi-Agency Gang Unit as an assistant commander that was part of the Memphis Police Department and the ATF.
He was assigned to the patrol division as an assistant commander and was also assigned to the Fugitive Division apprehension team.
Sides attends the Harmontown Baptist Church with his wife Christina, his two daughters, Ashlyn and Isabella.
“I wish to become a vital part of this county for years to come,” he said.
As a 30-year veteran investigator and administrator, Sides said he is running for Lafayette County Sheriff because he feels that his knowledge and understanding of the day to day operations of the Sheriff’s office is a key factor for the success between law enforcement and the safety of the public.
He said the public has lost the trust of law enforcement due to the increasing amount of deaths either caused by untrained officers or situations getting out of hand due to very inexperienced officers and their ego takes over, which causes rash decisions causing injuries to the officer or one of the public.
“I wish to bring back community policing and place officers back in the community to reconnect to the public,” he said.
Sides said he wants to reconnect law enforcement with the community and not just police the residents and citizens of Lafayette county.
Like East, Sides said one of the major issues Lafayette county faces is inevitable growth. With this growth of additional citizens, so does the rate of crime, he said, law enforcement agencies can’t keep up with the demand.
Although the county spends thousands of dollars to help train the men in women in law enforcement, Sides said many of the officers won’t or can’t stay due to the low pay.
“My proposal is to make sure that the pay rate is equal to the surrounding counties or even equal to larger counties so our officers will be willing to stay with Lafayette County Sheriff’s office,” he said.
Sides his number one promise to the community, if elected, is to have an open-door policy and make sure that every crime reported will be worked to its fullest investigation.
He also said that every officer will be held to a professional higher standard on and off the job. No officer shall conduct himself or herself in any inappropriate manner while employed with the Sheriff’s Office, Sides added.
“I also promise to work diligently against the drug-related problems and arrest the individual responsible for the sale, delivery or transport of these narcotics in or out of the county.”