After he finished his career in the Army, Rick Gossett decided to pursue a lifelong dream.
“I always wanted to be a police officer,” he said. “I thought I’d give it a try for a couple of years and get it out of my system.”
So Gossett, who got out of the Army as a chief warrant officer involved in missile maintenance across Europe for most of his career, joined the Hinesville Police Department in 1991. In those two years on the HPD, Gossett got involved in cases ranging from traffic to drugs to domestic violence to child abuse to murder.
Now the police chief in Bloomingdale, Gossett is challenging incumbent Jimmy McDuffie in the Republican primary to be Effingham County sheriff.
Gossett has been touting his experience in law enforcement, which includes nearly five years as Bloomingdale chief and seven years in the Effingham County sheriff’s department.
“I have every confidence in the world I can be a good sheriff and at the end of four years, he citizens will have a department they can be proud of,” he said.
Gossett spent four years as a criminal investigations supervisor at the ECSO before becoming a patrol commander. He later spent a year and a half as the assistant county administrator.
After he left the county, “I was looking for something to do,” he said. He became one of more than 1,500 applicants to the State Department for a multinational police force in Kosovo. One hundred twenty applicants were chosen to be sent to Virginia for 10 days of testing. There were 82 slots on the force, and the State Department selected 80 people.
Gossett spent a year in Kosovo, serving as the chief of operations for the 150-man force.
In his nearly six years running the Bloomingdale department, Gossett said he was able to increase the pay and benefits for his officers.
“We had to go without a new vehicles for a year or two,” he said. “Now, we’ve got new vehicles. Expertise is more important. We’ve got to have people who want to be there and are highly qualified.”
Gossett said he would look for ways to carve more money out of the sheriff’s department’s budget to increase pay and attract more and better deputies, and foregoing the SWAT teams and equipment would be temporary measures.
“You’ve got to take care of the patrol and investigative units. What did people do before they had good technology? They had good investigators,” he said.
“It’s also management, that everybody feels like they are getting a fair shake. It’s going back to the basics. It’s recruiting and retaining good, qualified law enforcement officers. Money is just a part of it.”
After he was approached to run for sheriff, Gossett and his wife Patricia spent “a couple of weeks of intense talking about it,” he said.
He also believes that law enforcement takes more than just deputies.
“The biggest asset we have is the citizens,” Gossett said. “We have to make it a concerted effort and get them some ownership in the department.”