In college athletics, when a universities' athletics teams are found to have a series of rules violations, the NCAA often finds that there exists a "lack of institutional control" and assesses penalties to the offending university.
While we do not have any firsthand knowledge of the events which transpired this week leading to the dismissal of two Cannon County Sheriff's deputies, and can only report what facts we know, we do wonder if Sheriff Billy Nichols has sufficient control of the people who work under him.
To put in simply, Nichols and his department have an image problem. Even those who consider themselves supporters of the sheriff and his administration are concerned.
And all Cannon Countians have a right to be worried, because any activities or actions which reflect poorly on the sheriff's department, cast a shadow over all of the county, especially county government.
We, like most fair-minded persons, want to give Nichols and his deputies the benefit of the doubt. We don't want to speculate about alleged events or rush to judgment about any individual or institution.
However, it is vitally important to both the sheriff — and the people whom he serves — that the public have faith and trust in him and his department.
In order for Nichols to effectively perform his duties and responsibilities, the public must believe that he and his deputies are above reproach, that he has a firm grasp of what is going on in his department, and that any transgressions — real or alleged — which take place are dealt with firmly, fairly, and as swiftly as possible.
It is also important that Nichols make it crystal clear to the pubic that the same set of rules apply to both those he serves, and those who work for him.
Next year voters in Cannon County will decide whether the sheriff's department is under sufficient control, or is in need of new leadership. Should Nichols decide to run for re-election, he will have to convince those who might have doubts about his ability to command effectively that he is still up to the task.
Nichols says that he welcomes any outside investigation of his department, and that is a positive sign, should the facts lead state or federal authorities to believe one is necessary.
For the sake of the sheriff's department, and the people it serves, we hope that this week's events are a rarity, that the incident involves only two deputies, and that Nichols does everything in his power to address any concerns about his ability to lead, and his employees to follow.