The Rev. Larry Fryer is looking for a few specific things in his next sheriff.
He wants to know how candidates Freddie Sanders and Richmond County schools Lt. Richard Roundtree plan to combat low salaries for deputies, how they are going to guarantee that black and white employees are promoted fairly, and what community policing means to them.
At a Turpin Hill Neighborhood Association meeting Monday evening at the Carrie Mays Community Center on 11th Avenue, Sanders spoke to the group to address some of those questions.
“A lot of people are planning to vote on racial and political lines,” Fryer said. “We need to be looking at character. (Sanders) wanted to have a chance to come speak to the African-American community, so we invited him here.”
About 20 people filtered into the room as sheriff’s Maj. Richard Weaver introduced Sanders as his longtime friend and colleague. Weaver, a black major on the road patrol and a member of the sheriff’s office since 1971, said he ran into an issue with racially unbalanced salaries years ago, and Sanders was the one who fixed it.
“Under me, we are not going to have salaries based on race,” Sanders said. “There are people on the sheriff’s department who shouldn’t be there. You have that anywhere. But overall, we have good people.”
Sanders also said there was an idea floating around Augusta that he did not believe in community policing. He said that he does believe in policing the community but that having an officer in every Augusta neighborhood would be impossible.
Instead, Sanders said, he would like to see the community come together.
“We have to go back to the basics,” he said. “What is going to help is raising our kids right and putting criminals in jail.”
He used his 90-year-old mother as an example. Her home was burglarized recently. As soon as the deputies left her house, the burglars came back and tried to break in while she was home.
Sanders said it is not the sheriff’s job to educate or give second chances. The judges and the court system will determine if someone gets jail time; the sheriff’s job is to arrest the criminals.
“You have to ask yourself, who has the guts to do the job?” he said. “Do you want those people on the street?”
Youth are an exception, and they should be given the chance to rehabilitate, Sanders said. He said if people want their kids to stay in line, however, they need to go back to “family values.”
After the meeting adjourned, Fryer said Sanders had good character and qualifications to be the next sheriff but that he was going to wait to hear what Roundtree said before making his decision.
The group will hear Roundtree speak in the near future, Fryer said.