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Harkins’ duties expand under new sheriff

Under newly-appointed sheriff J.J. Jones, Town liaison Capt. Ben Harkins’ two offices (one downtown and one in Farra-gut’s Town Hall) have been consolidated.

“I’m still liaison for the town of Farragut,” Harkins said.

“My duties have expanded in the past several months. One of the new duties I’ve had is being in charge of our support services division,” he added. Support services include records, tele-serve, warrant processing and NCIC terminals.

“This is something that changed last year and has continued on. All the confusion with the appointments and stuff has been confusing enough for the public, and we’re all trying to adjust our operation to a new boss … We’ve pretty much worked through that,” Harkins said.

Harkins also is liaison to Knox County Public Housing Authority and to Knox County Parks and Recreation.

“I’m busier than I used to be. Of course, I don’t travel as much between offices so I do save that time,” Harkins said.

“What I do now with the Town is that I still attend their meetings. All of the Mayor and Aldermen, and Dan Olson and Gary Palmer have my contact information and I work with them on any issue that comes up.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with the Town: seeing their continued growth and operation,” Harkins said.

“The main thing we’re working on right now is the red-light camera proposals,” he added. A committee of four, including Harkins, is studying the proposals to later recommend one to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

“I really like them … the numbers, as far as crashes being down, are unbelievable,” Harkins said of the Knoxville Police Department red light camera program.

“A lot of people have heartburn because private companies are getting huge chunks of the money that comes in, but the bottom line is that the people running the red lights are the ones financing the system.

“To me it’s a win-win when you’re cutting down crashes, cutting down on the severity of crashes and it’s not costing the taxpayers any money, except those who violate the law,” Harkins said.

“I think it’s helping to educate the public. People are actually having to pay attention when they drive,” he added.

Job changes are not the only excitement in Harkins’ life. He was in Atlanta during the tornado in mid-March.

Harkins and his family were staying on the 16th floor of the Marriott hotel in downtown Atlanta. They saw the tornado warning but did not take it


“Around here, we get warnings and watches all the time around here … instead of seeking shelter, I thought I would go to the window and watch,” Harkins said.

In flashes of lightning, Harkins caught glimpses of a wall of rain and then, the funnel cloud.

“You could actually see the funnel cloud and all the debris flying around in it. You know how you see on T-V? That was it!”

Harkins and his family made it into the hallway before the tornado struck.

“This huge pressure came on us, then you heard our hotel room rattling like crazy, you heard the roar of the train. Then you heard the windows starting to blow out.”

Harkins’ wallet was blown out the window. Later, police officers in Atlanta discovered his wallet in the street five blocks away. His credit cards had been torn out of the wallet, but his driver’s license was still in place.

“The Atlanta police department, fire department, rescue people did an absolutely tremendous job. Because nobody can prepare for what happened,” Harkins said.


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