OXFORD • In January, current Oxford Police Chief Joey East will be sworn in as Lafayette County’s next sheriff.
Having a sheriff named East in nothing new for residents. East’s father, Buddy East, held the office for 46 years until his death in September 2018.
The 49-year-old East is looking forward to the new role and the new challenges it offers. He is a veteran law enforcement officer with 28 years experience and grew up hearing about the sheriff’s office. He was just 2 when his father was first elected.
“I can handle the law enforcement and administration side of the job,” East said. “It’s the other stuff I’m not sure about.”
That includes running a 200-bed jail that also houses federal prisoners, providing security for the courts and serving civil papers.
“The most important thing for me is to go in and listen to the people who have been doing the job and to learn from them,” East said. “Opponents say what they would do if they were sheriff, but until you sit in that chair, you don’t know what you can do.
“I’ve got to get a couple of people in key places. Who they are, I don’t know right now.”
He hopes to have his command staff in place by early December. He will not make current SO employees re-apply for their jobs and he won’t poach the Oxford Police Department looking for administrators.
“I worked hard to build (OPD),” East said. “It is in a good place and I don’t want to mess with that. The department is doing well with (Interim Police Chief Jeff McCutchen).”
After the election, he met with Interim Sheriff John Hill to get more detailed information about the department and to begin the transition process. One of the first things he discovered is the department needs more room. And the nearly 30-year-old jail will soon be in need of attention.
“The SO is completely out of space,” East said. “The board of supervisors own a building next door. I want to see about expanding. I want to do an analysis of the current facilities to look at not only the current needs, but five to 10 years down the road.”
While he has no concrete plans for the sheriff’s office, he wants to look at creating a reserve program and improving the department’s digital and social media footprint.
He also plans to continue the close, amicable working relationship between the sheriff, the police chief and the other law enforcement agencies in Oxford and Lafayette County.
“Not everyone has that good working relationship,” East said. “The four years I worked for Attorney general Mike Moore took me all over the state and there are counties where the sheriff and the police chief don’t get along.
“When I got back, it made me appreciate the cooperation we have here. There is no turf war here. The police department works closely with the university and the sheriff’s office.”
When his father was elected sheriff in 1972, there were only four deputies patrolling the county. When East takes over, there will be 46. When you add in the corrections officers, court staff and administrative staff, the total number of employees under his charge will be around 100. That’s about the same number of employees he oversaw at OPD.
While he is excited about starting the new job and continuing the family tradition as sheriff, there is one thing he will miss about the past year. East did most of his campaigning in the morning and early afternoon. That allowed him the luxury of spending the afternoon with his daughters, 8 and 10, after school.