By Coshandra Dillard
Smith County Sheriff candidate Gary Pinkerton said if elected, he wants to build trust, improve transparency, and bridge the gap between youth and law enforcement. Last year, he announced his candidacy against Sheriff Larry Smith and has been hitting the pavement to get voters on board since.
“I ran to affect change in the community,” Pinkerton said. “We have so much going on in our community and a divide.”
Pinkerton’s law enforcement career began in 1985 as a jailer. He worked his way up to Lt. Captain and then as chief deputy at the Smith County Sheriff’s Office for more than six years. He left the department in 2012 when longtime Sheriff J.B. Smith retired.
He later took a job as Captain with Upshur County Sheriff’s Office before returning to Smith County as a bond coordinator.
Pinkerton notes that one focus of Smith County peace officers is to be visible in the community to educate about safety concerns. It’s especially important for black communities.
Citing headlines about fatal police-involved shootings, he said he’d like to see more cultural competency among all peace officers.
“We need to train officers about different cultures,” he said.
He is also supportive of community policing to help build a rapport with those who are reluctant to trust law enforcement.
“In order to serve the community you have to know them,” he said.
In addition, Pinkerton wants to the expand crisis intervention team (CIT) training for county peace officers to better serve individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis. There are currently four CIT officers at the Smith County Sheriff’s Office who’ve received a 16-hour training course and eight-hour refresher courses. Pinkerton plans to require all officers to be trained.
“It’s an added tool,” he said.