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Richmond County schools put focus on investigations

Schools helping lift burden off sheriff's office

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An ongoing search for a 27-year-old Hephzibah man wanted in the theft of copper last month from an elementary school is a prime example of stepped-up investigations this past year by Richmond County school officers.

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Vicky Dunn, a Richmond County school officer, patrols at Richmond Academy on Tuesday. The safety office has been helping the sheriff's office with cases involving schools.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Vicky Dunn, a Richmond County school officer, patrols at Richmond Academy on Tuesday. The safety office has been helping the sheriff's office with cases involving schools.

In that case, which involved copper taken from an air conditioning unit at Hephzibah-McBean Elementary, school officers acted on surveillance video, identifying Blaine Everett Baxley as a suspect and then securing a warrant and conducting a search of his house.

Although Baxley wasn't there, school officers found gloves, a Salty Dog Cafe T-shirt and pink plaid shorts similar to what the thief was seen wearing on surveillance tape.

"He's still on the lam," school safety Chief Patrick Clayton said Tuesday, but the department is following leads.

Before the chief started nearly a year ago, many school-related investigations were turned over to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, including most felony cases and many that occurred after hours, he said.

But the chief said his office has been trying to relieve the burden on the sheriff's office, adding that his officers are looking to follow up on cases more in an effort to know what's going on in the system and also because they have a vested interest in seeing cases through to arrest.

"We get outstanding support from (the sheriff's office)," Clayton said. "It's just we want to make sure the cases involving the school system, that they're followed up by our people because that's our mission ... and I believe they appreciate it because they are dealing with some very serious crime problems elsewhere."

Richmond County sheriff's Capt. Jim Griffin said he noticed how the school safety office has become more proactive.

"I think it has helped tremendously. ... I think it's been a plus for us," Griffin said.

The school safety office is like any other sworn law enforcement agency, with authority to file charges. School resource officers also are armed and have arrest powers.

Starting July 19, the school safety office will be able to do even more, with two new night patrol officers starting. The officers were approved recently by the school board in response to school break-ins at night.

The office was the lead agency in the arson investigation at a JROTC range building at Hephzibah High.

The school safety office received assistance from the sheriff's office and Hephzibah police, and several teens were arrested after a Hephzibah police officer and school safety officers who work at Hephzibah High recognized a teen on surveillance footage.

"They were able to all identify one of the students, and it caused a domino effect," Clayton said.

The school safety office also recently released surveillance video from a theft at the facilities and maintenance department. Bobby Dean Johnson, 44, of Augusta, was arrested June 20 in that case after authorities say he was viewed by facilities workers on a live school system video feed.

On Friday, the school safety office also was involved in a case in which a construction worker was accused of taking a teacher's camera and some cash at Hephzibah High.

"We want to get out that we're making all efforts, that the school system isn't an easy target," the chief said.

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Riverman1
84130
Points
Riverman1 06/30/10 - 05:35 am
0
0
The School Safety Office is

The School Safety Office is SUPPOSEDLY the reason the Glenn Hills' embezzler of $14,400 was allowed to go without criminal charges being brought against her.

maninthamirror
0
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maninthamirror 06/30/10 - 06:43 am
0
0
This is miss use of school

This is miss use of school resource officers. There job is and should be tomaintain order AT THE SCHOOL!

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 06/30/10 - 07:02 am
0
0
"We want to get out that

"We want to get out that we're making all efforts, that the school system isn't an easy target," the chief said...........................What? (14,000.) (wink..wink)

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 06/30/10 - 07:03 am
0
0
Public schools should have

Public schools should have public safety officers, meaning the Sheriff's department, not their own little inter-agency that can and does protect it's own as evidenced by the horrible decision to not arrest the Glenn Hills felon for taking $ 14,000! This little inter-agency is also helping skew numbers for RCBOE to say schools are safer. Internal controls are only as good as external checks and balances. RCBOE needs both!

justus4
101
Points
justus4 06/30/10 - 07:12 am
0
0
Great move! This will allow
Unpublished

Great move! This will allow for some possible common sense in policing and not allow the "throw them under the jail" mentality that seems to permeate in other agencies. Of course this will anger U know who because it doesn't give them the last say on these kids and so an effort will be under way to undermine ANY decision that's made. This story seems to be getting the ball rolling in that regard. Expect more...

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 06/30/10 - 07:20 am
0
0
that's why school offenses

that's why school offenses are down thru out the school district....a major offense such as drug dealing, aggravated assault, rape or robbery occurs instead of getting the police involved and having this case count regarding school safety the school district's own little police force handles it, the case gets plead down so instead of the offender getting expelled, he/she gets in-school suspension, a slap on the wrist and the offense is not counted and the public is duped into thinking that school safety has improved....nice try school board, nice try..the pubic is aware danger in the schools is as high if not higher than it has ever been and you(the school board) will refuse to take the necessary action for fear of the loss of millions in schools funds because the action needed is immediate and long suspensions or expulsions which would mean a drop in student enrollment

Little Lamb
46053
Points
Little Lamb 06/30/10 - 07:45 am
0
0
This story explains the other

This story explains the other story in today's paper — the one about crime rates in Richmond Co. schools going down. If you do internal investigations, crimes aren't reported, and the world appears rosy.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 06/30/10 - 08:37 am
0
0
LittleLamb. You are sooo

LittleLamb. You are sooo correct about the rates. I would bet nothing is reported to the FBI. I wonder what is next, a forensics lab?

Tots
25940
Points
Tots 06/30/10 - 08:47 am
0
0
Some very good post.They

Some very good post.They should be cutting out alot of those jobs.The job is a joke,waste of taxpayers money.Hire more real police,cut out the school officers.They already cost the county $14,000 because they were playing that buddy system.

peonynut
2
Points
peonynut 06/30/10 - 08:58 am
0
0
I am pretty sure that school

I am pretty sure that school officers get the same training as "regular police". I do not think one can just walk in off the street grab a uniform and go to work. However this opens a new can of worms. We are all aware of the good old boy network in Richmond County where money talks and criminals walk especially if related to someone someone else knows. With all of this new internal investigation it leaves the door open for misconduct in the investigations and possibly the exchange of goods to find in favor of a friend or a friend of a friend or uncle somebody's nephew or niece or whatever. Who will investigate the investigators?

montega12
0
Points
montega12 06/30/10 - 09:07 am
0
0
and i still wanna know why

and i still wanna know why someone who stole 14000 dollars is still walking around free and got to resign instead of being fired yeah this is a great idea

luckie
2
Points
luckie 06/30/10 - 09:07 am
0
0
What is Rountree's position

What is Rountree's position now that he has been removed from the RC Sheriff's Dept?

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 06/30/10 - 09:23 am
0
0
School safety officers do

School safety officers do seem to free up deputies to investigate other cases. Whether or not the numbers of offenses reported are accurate because the offenses were handled through the school system and not through the RCSO is irrelevant to me. Maybe the AC can do a story on incident reports and arrests so the public will have a better idea of what goes on in the schools. Someone has already stated that we all know the schools aren't safe, so why do safety statistics matter if everyone won't believe them anyway? My point is almost every sizeable independent government entity has some sort of security/police force. I would much rather that force have arresting powers instead of rent-a-cop detaining authority until a deputy arrives. The cases that have been solved are examples of the good work the department has done. I understand, and am just as upset as everyone else about the $14K stolen and repaid from Glenn Hills without criminal charges filed. However, you can't let one situation keep you from seeing all the good that has resulted in having a school police force. Besides, the handling of the Glenn Hills case was agreed to by the DA's office, and I don't see anyone criticizing their work in articles about other court cases.

NoCatchyName
30
Points
NoCatchyName 06/30/10 - 10:50 am
0
0
If it is police work, use

If it is police work, use police officers. The same number of officers, if added to the existing force, would free up just as many officers for other duties as they do when added to the school force.

All this system does is add layers of administration, expense, and obfuscation.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 06/30/10 - 11:46 am
0
0
NoCatchyName, so then

NoCatchyName, so then colleges and universities that have their own police forces should give up their officers in exchange for security guards to save money while local law enforcement like sheriff's departments should be allowed to increase their staff? If you had a daughter going to college somewhere with it's own police department you would feel differently. Actually, I think the school security officers and the sheriff's department should be allowed to increase staff and pay. All law enforcement officers should be paid well for the services they provide. I think it's better to have the school security officers because they should be more familiar with the schools than the deputies. Now, if this had to be turned over to the sheriff, I think he should have a special division specifically for the schools so more attention could be devoted to the schools. If the sheriff can't put as many or even more deputies in the schools than the school board, then it should be left as it is.

member
67
Points
member 06/30/10 - 11:47 am
0
0
They must have emergencies

They must have emergencies every night since the RBOE officer on my street flies out of our neigbhorhood every evening. Above the law..........

flipa
35
Points
flipa 06/30/10 - 12:45 pm
0
0
Double standard. One set of

Double standard. One set of laws for them a completely different set of laws for U.S. Lets say you or i witnessed a crime, touched the things involved in the crime, hid the things involved in the crime, and did not report it to the authorities. You could be charged with obstruction of justice, impeding a criminal investigation, tampering with evidence, public endangerment, etc. etc. etc. But slap a TAX USER patch on their shoulder and all the laws go out the window except if a TAX PAYER broke them, then its off to jail with you or i. Yep, that's right you or i would stand trial for what TAX USERS do on a DAILEY BASIS. Is that JUSTICE 4 All or Justice for who they say to arrest or not to arrest???
We’ve already seen how they play and it’s not on an even playing field. I’m not against private security forces I have some of my own. But we OBEY the LAW. We REPORT the CRIMES and then investigate them ourselves anyway because the police really are overrun and short on staff. If they will STOP BREAKING THE LAW and report all crime to the police like a tax payer has to do then I am all for them. If they release the videos and mug shots to the police & the press like we do then I am all for them. But they assured me that the PRESS would be getting the photo’s of the students who burned the ROTC building. We never got them. The public could have had one of the kids hiding out in their home, the kid get desperate, knock granny over the head, steal her car and granny would never know she was harboring a fugitive and might die because the School cops endangered the public by withholding information about a fleeing and evading felon. A TAX PAYER would be charged for that WOULDN’T WE???

Riverman1
84130
Points
Riverman1 06/30/10 - 01:07 pm
0
0
They sure don't protect the

They sure don't protect the schools from vandalism.

Riverman1
84130
Points
Riverman1 06/30/10 - 01:09 pm
0
0
I mean what more evidence do

I mean what more evidence do you want than what the superintendent said? He said he referred the Glenn Hills theft to the RCBOE officer, Richard Roundtree, and he didn't want to charge her.

Tots
25940
Points
Tots 06/30/10 - 01:12 pm
0
0
Flipa your post made to much

Flipa your post made to much since,cain't have that in Richmond county.Bring back school discipline to the schools.Do away with alot of those jobs.If a school needs security,hire a private security.The way the school security is ran,its a scam.Brought on by fear.

maninthamirror
0
Points
maninthamirror 06/30/10 - 02:07 pm
0
0
I don't believe school

I don't believe school resource officers should be conducting investigations off campus. That should be handled by the sheriff's office!

corgimom
32615
Points
corgimom 06/30/10 - 02:40 pm
0
0
I'm wondering who is in favor

I'm wondering who is in favor of the Richmond County Board of Education police obtaining and executing a search warrant for someone's house.

The taxpayers don't get to elect the chief of RCBOE police, as they do the sheriff. You are basically giving public police powers to RCBOE and the Superintendent of Schools- which is NOT how it's supposed to be.

If a BOE police officer came to my home with a search warrant, I'd tell them to go to hell- and then I'd call my attorney.

dominionfs
0
Points
dominionfs 06/30/10 - 02:58 pm
0
0
Corgi, you are either

Corgi, you are either complaining nobody is doing their jobs or complaining they are doing it wrong. Does anything ever go right in your world?
If the crime was committed on school grounds, why should the BOE not investigate.? They are certified LEO'S in the state.
Did the judge issuing the warrant have the same concerns you have and issued it to RCSO with BOE cops along to search for their missing stuff?
Was an RCSO deputy with them when the warrant was served?
Too many unanswered questions for me to get upset about it.
If the BOE shows up at your door with a warrant corgi, make sure you got all their copper out of your garage before you call your lawyer.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 06/30/10 - 03:10 pm
0
0
Corgimom, please see

Corgimom, please see maninthemirror's post to calm your nerves and your fears. Anytime the BOE police need to execute a warrant, they should involve the sheriff. I see that they did not in their search for the Hephzibah-McBean copper thief. Unless that guy lived on school property, then proper law enforcement should have been involved in executing the warrant. That's like having Aiken County deputies go to Hephzibah to arrest someone wanted in NA without going to the police chief in Hephzibah for assistance. That would be way outside of their jurisdiction. I could understand if school security officers chased a suspect off of school property and requested assistance from sheriff's deputies. I wouldn't expect them to give up the chase just because a suspect ran across the street from a school making them out of the school security officer's jurisdiction.

corgimom
32615
Points
corgimom 06/30/10 - 03:57 pm
0
0
I am very pro-police- but I

I am very pro-police- but I am also pro-privacy, and pro-Constitution.

When you start getting a BOE police force executing search warrants on private property, that's a serious Constitutional issue.

So what does that mean- that if you live in Augusta, your house is subject to search by MCG police, BOE police, and any other police force that exists in Augusta? When the citizenry has no say in who the chief of those forces are?

If you have a wrongful search, or, God forbid, a wrongful death during a private property search, who do you sue? Who investigates it? Who disciplines the officers? Who decides what cases will be investigated? Who prosecutes the cases? These people are paid by taxpayer money- but the taxpayers don't get to pick the chiefs? Do you see a problem with that? Because I sure do.

Police powers are an important part of our society. But they also have the power for great abuse. The mishandling and coverup of the $14,000 is a prime example of that- the police force is run by the same people, that run the schools that they are supposed to police. The RCBOE and the Superintendent sure do have a lot of power, don't they?

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 06/30/10 - 04:47 pm
0
0
Corgimom, I agree with most

Corgimom, I agree with most of what you said. The only thing wrong with what you're saying is that there was no Glenn Hills cover up. I must admit the story was slow to come to the public's attention, though. I know someone who works at the school, and was told by that person about the missing money before the school year ended. I don't like the way that particular situation was handled, either. Other than pointing out that the theft wasn't covered up, I agree totally with what you just said. Now, if there is eminent danger to the public such as a suspect with a gun firing on a deputy and a BOE cop is nearby, that BOE cop should render assistance to the deputy. I don't think BOE cops should execute warrants, but they should be with deputies when they execute the warrants. Since the BOE Top Cop positions are appointed by the board, I think they should receive just as much news coverage as the superintendent when there is a vacancy and the board is searching for a qualified candidate.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 06/30/10 - 08:12 pm
0
0
If a police officer shows up

If a police officer shows up at my door, the first thing I would do is invite them in and make them a cup of coffe if they wanted it. I don't lead a life where I have to worry about the things I have bought and that are in my shed or home. I welcome any police protection in the county. BTW I always liked Roundtree and thought he was railroaded out of the sheriffs office. If he runs for sheriff, I will vote for him. Obviously he didn't break the law because he is still a certified police officer.

corgimom
32615
Points
corgimom 06/30/10 - 09:48 pm
0
0
"I must admit the story was

"I must admit the story was slow to come to the public's attention, though. "

You mean how the Augusta Chronicle had to push and push and push and push for it to be revealed, because no one in the district wanted to tell the truth? If it weren't for the AC, it would still be covered up.

usafvet
3
Points
usafvet 06/30/10 - 10:59 pm
0
0
If justus4 supports

If justus4 supports something, it needs to be checked out. The RCBOE police remind me of the keystone kops. We do not need certified police officers working for them. All they need to do is patrol the schools 24 hours a day, in a compact car, no sirens or other emergency equipment, no guns or firearms, vehicle should be used by other individuals on the next shift, none at bi-lo or other places of business. If they encounter a situation they should call in a deputy. Finally the chief or other administrator of the group needs to publish the make up of its officers, numbers of autos in fleet, and other special equipment that costs taxpayers untold thousands.

speeding
0
Points
speeding 07/02/10 - 07:49 am
0
0
Makes it easier to cover up

Makes it easier to cover up for hooligans.

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