Special deputies corps among largest in Ohio

Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin administers the oath of office to his department’s large corps of special deputies. The swearing-in takes place at the start of the sheriff’s new term in office. This is the fourth time Sabin has conducted the ceremony.

(Posted Jan. 27, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

On Jan. 9, Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin administered the oath of office to one of the largest groups of special deputies in the state of Ohio.

The nearly 130 individuals who make up the Madison County Deputy Sheriffs Association hold the same peace officer training certification as do the county’s 31 full-time deputies. The difference is, they don’t get paid for the work they do.

This corps of volunteers includes current and former peace officers of all stripes, from retired sheriffs and police chiefs to SWAT officers, criminal investigators, and law enforcement educators. These special deputies provide manpower at events like Relay For Life, Farm Science Review, the Madison County Fair and drug take-back days. They also help with the day-to-day operations of the Sheriff’s Office, from accompanying deputies on patrol to providing input on specialized cases.

“To me, one of the most valuable resources we have is the wealth of information contained by these special deputies,” said Sabin.

Most sheriff’s offices in Ohio have special deputies, but few have the number Madison County enjoys. Sabin credits the high numbers in part to proximity to the dense population of Franklin County and to the presence of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London.

With the numbers comes a broad range of experience and expertise. Two years ago, a special deputy helped the Sheriff’s Office secure a $400,000 Homeland Security grant to upgrade its radio system. Recently, a special deputy with a background in homicide investigation reviewed the county’s cold case files. Special deputies also regularly provide Sheriff’s Office staff with instruction and training on topics ranging from advanced firearms to school and business safety and security.

Messenger photo by Jeff Pfeil
Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin (front left) and Deputy Chris Floyd (right) watch as Dwyer Hardware employees Traver Litchfield and Jeff Chave install a new washer and dryer at the Humane Society of Madison County on Jan. 13. The Madison County Deputy Sheriffs Association donated the equipment to the Humane Society to replace old units that no longer worked. The Humane Society uses the washer and dryer to clean blankets and other linens needed to care for the homeless dogs and cats in their care.

“Law enforcement gets into your blood. When it’s time to retire or move on, many like to maintain that status as a peace officer,” said Sabin about why so many volunteer their time as special deputies.

Jim Hockenbery fits this description. After getting his start as a West Jefferson police officer and spending a few years as a sheriff’s deputy, the Choctaw Lake resident spent the majority of his 37-year career as a special agent with BCI. He served as a crime scene investigator and coordinated BCI’s marijuana eradication program. Throughout most of his career and now in retirement, he has been an active member of the Madison County Deputy Sheriffs Association.

Most days, Hockenberry can be found at the Sheriff’s Office assisting the investiga-tions unit. He works surveillance on drug deals and recently made a trip to pick up evidence in Jackson County.

“I do things like that so it doesn’t tie up one of the other deputies or detectives,” he said.

As for why he volunteers, Hockenberry added, “It’s something I have to offer. I was involved in a lot of investigations from homicides to kidnappings. I have expertise in a lot of fields, and hopefully I can use that to help.”

The Deputy Sheriffs Association as an organization also has a charitable component. A 501(c)3 non-profit, the group holds fundraisers to benefit the community. The association recently purchased a washer and dryer for the Humane Society of Madison County. They also support youth organizations and purchase equipment and supplies for the Sheriff’s Office.

Their biggest fundraiser, however, is the Christmas food box project which supplies families in need with ingredients to make a holiday meal. This past December, the organiza-tion delivered 155 boxes.

“It’s a big deal. With so many small towns spread across a large land mass, it’s a remarkable effort,” said Joel Demory, association president. “This year, we had a couple of folks who were totally shocked when we delivered boxes to them. They had no idea they were nominated.”

Originally from Clark County and currently a Grove City resident, Demory has spent over 20 years working in the criminal justice system. He currently serves as an investigations supervisor for insurance fraud with the Ohio Department of Insurance.

He got involved with the Madison County Deputy Sheriffs Association through connections with investigators at the Attorney General’s Office and out of respect for Sabin. The two have known each other since Sabin’s lieutenant days in the early 2000s.

“The Madison County Sheriff’s Office has a good reputation,” Demory said.

As for why he and others choose to devote time as special deputies, he added, “We love being involved with law enforcement, giving back to the community, and the camaraderie of being involved with the Sheriff’s Office.”

The Madison County Deputy Sheriffs Association meets monthly. Officers are: Demory, president; Matt Hilbert, vice president; Laura Hamilton, treasurer; and Michael Creamer, secretary.

To support the Madison County Sheriffs Association’s charitable efforts, send donations to: “MCDSA,” P.O. Box 558, London, OH 43140.


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