Clark County to elect new sheriff amid ongoing jail scandal, federal lawsuits
Clark County voters will choose a new sheriff in next month’s general election, as the department’s current leader faces two federal civil lawsuits.
Republican Scottie Maples is running against Democrat Ed Byers to replace Republican Sheriff Jamey Noel, who has reached his term limit.
Noel is being sued by 28 women who say they were raped, assaulted or harassed while incarcerated at the jail. The lawsuits claim incarcerated men accessed the women’s area of the jail last October with a key they bought from a corrections officer. Noel also has recently denied allegations that he’s a member of the Oath Keepers, a far-right group that participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Maples is Noel’s chief deputy and was prominently featured alongside him in the television show “60 Days In.” He said the ongoing lawsuits stemming from the jail breach have not changed his campaign approach.
“I'm loyal to the sheriff, and I'm loyal to the sheriff's office,” Maples said. “I'm not going to try to push off Sheriff Noel based on some lies made up by some attorneys and some inmates. That's not who I am. I'm not going to take a friend of mine and my boss, and try to quote-unquote ‘disown’ him based on stuff that I know is not true. If there was any validity to this, maybe I would, but there's no validity to it.”
Maples, a Republican and lifelong Clark County resident, started as a corrections officer at the jail in 2004. He’s since worked his way through the department’s ranks and also serves on the Jeffersonville City Council.
He said that experience makes him the best candidate for the job.
“I've went through my career knowing that I wanted to be sheriff one day, and so I've purposely taken different roles within the sheriff's office to make myself a better candidate,” Maples said. “The citizens know that I've worked just about every job at the Clark County Sheriff's Office, so I'm available to step in anytime anyone needs help, because I've worked these roles from the bottom to the chief deputy.”
Democrat Ed Byers is challenging Maples. Byers, who was raised in Charlestown, has more than 30 years of experience in federal law enforcement, including time as a National Park Ranger, air marshal and U.S. Customs special agent.
Byers said he wants to apply what he learned from those roles to create change locally.
“My vast experience of working with other police agencies at the state and local level, in addition to those international police agencies that I've worked with from other countries as an air marshal, have given me a broader perspective in policing issues of the world today,” Byers said. “Some of the programs I've seen would work well here in Clark County and some won't. But we deserve a chance to try to make Clark County better, and that’s why I’m running.”
The fallout from the jail breach and the circumstances that led to it are indicative of poor leadership within the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Byers said.
To improve security at the jail, Byers said he would ensure it’s adequately staffed. He’d also push for a better surveillance system and require employees, including himself, to be patted down before entering.
“It breaks my heart to see these types of things going on to people that are incarcerated,” Byers said. “When people are under the care and custody of any type of a jail or a state prison, they are indeed under the care and custody of that individual. And it's failed here, obviously. I believe that if we can put more corrections officers in the jail by reassignment… that we can have a better correctional response within the jail with more actual human-to-human surveillance.”
Byers’ other goals include having more deputies in the unincorporated parts of Clark County to reduce response times. He also wants as many deputies as possible trained as EMTs.
Though Byers said relationships between residents and law enforcement in Clark County are “fairly strong already,” he said more needs to be done to improve interactions with marginalized communities. He said he’d push to implement programs that address mental health and addiction.
“Either through court order or through voluntary participation, people enter this program and we can put into the computer that they have certain mental illnesses, and the best way to have a non-lethal resolution to their encounter would be available to the officer before he or she arrives at the scene,” Byers said.
Maples said he’d continue initiatives started during Noel’s tenure, including defined patrol zones, residential checks to deter burglaries and Narcan availability.
He’d also build on other efforts, including a scam-prevention program.
“There's people that are just continuing to take advantage of people in our county,” Maples said. “The suspects aren't from our county, and they're hard to investigate because they're overseas. And so that education effort is very valuable to our elderly community and just to everybody.”