Richmond County school safety chief touts restructure

Throughout his law enforcement career, Alfonzo Williams has maintained the practice of fitting round pegs into round holes. That is, he does what makes the most sense.


It’s a school of thought he picked up from his old police chief with the Augusta Police Department. Now the director of the Richmond County School Safety and Security Department, Williams said he continues an effort to provide the best possible service for students, faculty and staff of Richmond County schools.

Last year, Williams announced that he would conduct a massive overhaul of the department to cut down on inefficiencies and increase accountability. With just weeks remaining until the start of a new school year, he said he’s done it.

“You have to look at what you have and see if it works for you,” said Williams, who took over the position in February 2013. “We came in and we knew that we need(ed) to make some changes and to streamline the department to make it a little more efficient and more accountable. We think we did just that.”

Among the changes were shelving the department’s four-zone structure in favor of two divisions overseen by two newly-created lieutenant positions. The department also created positions for a records manager and an emergency preparedness officer, which Williams said has proven to be the restructure’s most valuable asset.

“Our system was past due for a person who is dedicated to working with these other governmental agencies to ensure our security and our safety,” he said.

The emergency preparedness officer is tasked with making plans that cover an array of situations for the county’s 59 schools. He also works hand-in-hand with federal, state and local emergency management agencies to stay current on best practices – something Lt. Mantrell Wilson said proved invaluable during the February ice storm.

Cpl. Jeff Tilley, who currently holds the position, manned a shelter during the storm’s aftermath to free up Richmond County sheriff’s deputies to take more urgent calls.

“It puts him in touch with a lot of people and they have one person to come back to versus everybody having to know somebody,” Wilson said. “It makes it easier to work the plan that he’s put in place.”

The department also improved its record-keeping process, which Williams said makes it more accountable to its state and federal counterparts when it comes to uniform crime reports.

“When someone comes down and requests a report we want to be able to give it to them,” said Lt. Henry Jackson, who oversees the records division. “I don’t want to tell them, ‘I’m sorry. We’re still waiting for approval or waiting for the report to get finished.’”

The restructure has created more room for growth, Williams said, which has boosted morale. Many of the new positions offered pay increases and were filled by existing employees.

Richmond County Board of Education Vice Chair Helen Minchew said she’s taken notice.

“It’s a more structured organization,” she said. “We were pleased when Alfonzo came to us with the plan and we have been very supportive of it. I think it was something that needed to be done.”

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