Race now set for Richland Co. Sheriff; candidates make their pitches

Published: Apr. 1, 2016 at 4:00 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2016 at 10:24 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The two men running for Richland County Sheriff are laying out their plans. Filing closed on Wednesday, and James Flowers is challenging incumbent Sheriff Leon Lott.

Sheriff Lott said he's prepared for another term as Richland County's top lawman.

"Well, this was a journey that I started 20 years ago, and the journey's not over with. You know, I still have great health, I still have the energy, and I have the desire to continue working for the citizens of Richland County, and the citizens still tell me they want me to be their Sheriff," he said.

Lott has served in law enforcement for the past 40 years, and he's been Sheriff since 1996. He said one of his biggest accomplishments is bringing transparency to the department.

"We laid the foundation 20 years ago on what we were going to do and that was to engage the citizens in everything that we do," the Sheriff said. "Every program we have, the citizens have to be part of it."

Lott said challenges still exist – mainly gangs and guns. Sheriff Lott also got national attention months ago after a disturbing incident between a student resource officer and student at Spring Valley High.

"We've reexamined the role of the school resource officer in our schools. Now, we've better defined what they should be doing, and discipline belongs to the teachers and the staff there," Lott said.

But this year, Lott has a challenger.

James Flowers is a former Gamecock linebacker who later worked in law enforcement for 18 years at South Carolina Probation, Parole and Pardon Services and SLED.

"I went to criminal investigations. I worked every kind of case you can think of from money to murder, and I worked on the FBI violent crime task force. I spent time at the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force," said Flowers.

When it comes to Spring Valley, Flowers said he would have handled things differently.

"If I were Sheriff, as soon as that situation happened, I would have contacted SLED within 60 seconds of that happening," he said.

Flowers said, as Sheriff, his mission would be to change the culture of RCSD.

He said he'd make sure all deputies – not just some – are practicing community policing every day.

"Every now and then, there's the perfect forensic crime where the perfect fingerprint is left or video or DNA sample, but for the most part, we need people, and we need people's assistance, so I want to provide more deputies on the road working with the community to prevent and solve crime," said Flowers.

Both said they'll be effective at getting a budget passed through council and working with surrounding departments.

Flowers said more needs to be done to prevent crime in growing Northeast Richland County. Sheriff Lott said, after recent arrests up there, things have been better.

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