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Strength proud of his office

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Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he is pleased with public safety efforts in 2011 and has several initiatives planned for 2012.

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Richmond County Sheriff Ronald Strength said he has several initiatives planned for 2012, including ways to address manpower shortages in his department.  Emily Rose Bennett/Staff
Emily Rose Bennett/Staff
Richmond County Sheriff Ronald Strength said he has several initiatives planned for 2012, including ways to address manpower shortages in his department.


Augusta crime in most categories is down, including armed robberies, aggravated assault, rape, murder, burglaries and more. Armed robberies and aggravated assaults are at their lowest in four years, police said.

“It’s easy for people to say that you can finagle the stats, and you can,” Strength said. “We have never. We are showing exactly what they are. Our numbers are absolutely accurate, and crime is down this year.”

Strength credits programs such as the burglary task force for helping lower those numbers. He said by being aggressive in high-crime areas and working as a team, its officers have been successful in making arrests.

Operation Fox Hunt, a 19-month undercover operation that yielded at least 61 arrests in March, was also credited for helping bring down numbers. Strength said that operation is responsible for taking many career criminals off the street.

Some things the sheriff hopes to see in 2012 include the implementation of video cameras downtown. He said that it is more complicated than just putting up the cameras. There are obstacles, such as the site lines obstructed by city trees that would have to be addressed.

The deputy reserve program will hopefully get started in the first quarter of 2012. Because of budget restraints, the sheriff said he knew he would not be able to hire more deputies, so he found about 15 volunteers with law-enforcement experience who will help in high-crime areas.

The sheriff responded Friday to questions about the highs and lows of 2011, as well as his political future.

Q: The death of Deputy J.D. Paugh in October is still fresh in people’s minds. Is there anything you are doing to protect officers on the streets?

A: Any time a tragedy like Paugh happens, we make sure that everybody understands there is a chance that you could be faced with what J.D. was faced with, and not take situations for granted. We definitely talk to our folks about it. We stress safety, without a doubt.

Q: In November, shots were fired at an officer in Cherry Tree Crossing, and Lt. Robert West was run over while working a special duty assignment in Surrey Center, does this trend concern you?

A: It concerns us without a doubt. Our guys get up every morning in law enforcement and could be faced with these things. Law enforcement officers that died in the line of duty (nationwide) are up 13 percent this year. Those are alarming numbers. Two things do that: lack of respect for law enforcement is one, and the other is that we live in the most violent society that we ever have.

And it’s not just local; it’s all over the country. People are getting more violent towards officers.

Q: There were some discipline issues this year. Deputy Sylvester Rosier was arrested Dec. 15 on charges of DUI, hit and run, and fleeing and attempting to elude. Deputy Erik Norman admitted to altering DUI breath test results in November. Investigator Tess Alexander resigned after questions were raised on how she was using her fuel card in July. How do you handle that?

A: There are always bad apples. We have addressed every incident that we had where an officer did something wrong. We as law enforcement officers have to stay within the same lines as everybody else. We are not exempt. And when an officer goes bad, we have 100 percent of the time addressed that. We have terminated officers when necessary for policy violations. We have without a doubt arrested officers for criminal violations. We have sent officers to the penitentiary when necessary.

Q: This year, Cherry Tree Crossing was in the news for murders, shootings, stabbings and arrests. What can be done about that area?

A: If we had a solution that we thought absolutely would work, we would have done it. Any area like that – and I’m not throwing stones at only Cherry Tree Crossing – is about visibility. We have to have the officers there. Not everyone in Cherry Tree is a bad person. We have a lot of good people who live there too, and they want us there. We are not going to abandon the good citizens in Cherry Tree because it is a dangerous place, at times, to be. We are going to be there.

Q: What do you think was your biggest challenge in 2011?

A: The biggest challenge, always, is to keep the community as safe as possible. And doing that understaffed is a remarkable tribute to the men and women on the street.

Q: What are you most proud of in 2011?

A: The quality of officers that we have, and the job that they have done. A lot of people think the sheriff is doing a great job. The sheriff isn’t doing a great job, the men and women of this agency are doing a great job. That makes the sheriff look good.

Q: What is your focus for 2012?

A: The No. 1 thing is that we make sure that we do everything humanly possible to make sure our officers are safe. That is Utopia for us.

Q: Are you running for sheriff next year?

A: I will make a decision in the early part of next year, probably around February or March. Right now, I don’t know.

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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/01/12 - 03:53 am
0
0
The RCSO has done an amazing

The RCSO has done an amazing job at reducing the real problems within the area such as armed robberies, aggravated assault, rape, murder, burglaries and more. High concentrated patrols from the burglary task force have greatly reduced burglaries and robberies and made officers very highly visible in necessary areas. The amazing job with operation fox hunt netted great results and placed many felons behind bars for a very long time thanks to the Sheriff's Office diligence in pursuing multiple felony charges on most all of the individuals.

This department has taken many hits from the commission in the past few years.

A major reduction in force by eliminating over 40 sworn personnel and others in addition to the 40 for starters has greatly hurt the manpower of the agency.

Combine the reduction in force with the furlough days and you again have reduced the force. If you furlough each of the officers as the commission has done multiplied by the number of furlough days and the number of RCSO employees, you have again reduced the force by 17 full time deputies for the year - that is a pretty major reduction in force combined with the above reduction.

The deputies have also had to endure ridiculous pay cuts in the form of no raises combined with increased insurance deductions and furlough days. This certainly has hurt morale for the deputies and also makes it more difficult for the Sheriff to attract and retain great deputies. Who wants to go to work for a department that is already underpaid, has little to no benefits, a terrible retirement plan, no pay for training or college or past years’ experience and then take furlough days. This has made it difficult to fill the many vacant positions which even lower the number of available deputies even further - last report I remember reading in the Augusta Chronicle showed around 20 approved but unfilled positions.

Budget cuts have also greatly decreased training opportunities for deputies at a time when they need it the most. Laws change, technology is changing and deputies are under assault both locally and nationally and training needs to be fully funded for them at all times.

With over 2.5 million in additional cuts from the commission reducing everything from patrols to housing prisoners, etc. we as citizens should be very thankful for all that our deputies and the Sheriff are doing on a daily basis to keep crime down for us under very difficult circumstances.

The reserve program the Sheriff is starting is excellent and needed. However, these officers are to supplement our deputies, allow for 2 man cars in more violent areas, etc. not to fill vacancies that are needed within the department.

The commissioners need to hear from you that you think our public safety should be a priority and that the Sheriff's Office needs to be properly funded. Additionally, salaries and benefits for deputies should greatly exceed that of McDonald’s employees and we support paying them a fair and equitable salary - comparable to similar agencies in size and call volume within the state of Georgia and add decent retirement. Contact any commissioner as well as the mayor via email or phone - http://www.augustaga.gov/index.aspx?nid=652

The death of JD was terrible in so many ways. Additionally, the shooting at officers and patrol cars as well as the deputy being run over in Surrey Center shows clearly how so many fail to respect the rule of law or those in charge of enforcing the law. It is great to see the community come out in support once a deputy is killed but the 700 currently hard working deputies really need your support and assistance now. And, with all of the times various groups like to march, it would seem as if a march against the violence on our deputies such as shooting at them and running them over would generate far more support than those who march when repeat violent criminals finally meet their end.

The Sheriff's Office has clearly demonstrated they will remove, discipline and arrest any deputy that breaks policies or laws and it is good to see that is less than 2% of those employed.

I agree with the Sheriff that there are many good people that live in Cherry Tree and other housing projects. These individuals may be scared to openly cooperate with the police but if they want their communities cleaned up, they must either do it their selves, cooperate with the Sheriff's Office or at the very least call in or email tips anonymously so that law enforcement can help to rid the area of violent criminals.

The men and women in uniform in our area do a great job and are appreciated by many. http://www.facebook.com/Support.the.RCSO

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 01/01/12 - 06:51 am
0
0
"I hate statistics," he said.

"I hate statistics," he said. "Numbers are very volatile. They're like the stock market. No one can control crime. The numbers might be down this year, and everyone's patting you on the back, but they might go up again next year." - Ronnie "I am not a social worker" Strength, Augusta Chronicle, 1998

cityman
-6
Points
cityman 01/01/12 - 07:21 am
0
0
How may pounds of STOLEN
Unpublished

How may pounds of STOLEN copper went unreported to the Sheriffs department because IT DOES NOT DO ANY GOOD? Without community based policing this town is done for!!!

seenitB4
93819
Points
seenitB4 01/01/12 - 08:02 am
0
0
I know you are saying crime

I know you are saying crime is down...but I'm just not feeling it...

iLove
626
Points
iLove 01/01/12 - 09:00 am
0
0
Emotions and feelings are not
Unpublished

Emotions and feelings are not are tangible....thus they cannot be measured.

....and the crowd chants COUNTYMAN! COUNTYMAN! COUNTYMAN!

iLove
626
Points
iLove 01/01/12 - 09:03 am
0
0
Re: Cherry Tree aka Sunset I
Unpublished

Re: Cherry Tree aka Sunset

I thought ALL residents were bad....well....that's what many posters say.

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 01/01/12 - 10:28 am
0
0
I see the RCSO very slowly

I see the RCSO very slowly starting to adopt some of our ideas such as a Reserve Officer program and although, the program sputters, sending officers into neighborhoods in a community policing effort.

Strength's priority is also to keep the public safe. That should be a co number one priority. Even if he isn't a social worker he can act like a security guard now and then.

JRC2024
9998
Points
JRC2024 01/01/12 - 11:02 am
0
0
Thanks for your officers and

Thanks for your officers and your hard work. You deal with the worst society has to offer every day and I am not sure I could do that.

JRC2024
9998
Points
JRC2024 01/01/12 - 11:11 am
0
0
They do cause a lot of

They do cause a lot of problems ilove. Ride down there and look at it. The residents have torn it up. Typical for those that do not earn what they have.

cityman
-6
Points
cityman 01/01/12 - 11:32 am
0
0
True JRC2024....Most crime is
Unpublished

True JRC2024....Most crime is committed by the generational welfare population.

cityman
-6
Points
cityman 01/01/12 - 11:35 am
0
0
Booming cars, loitering,
Unpublished

Booming cars, loitering, littering and public drinking is a BIG Augusta problem!!!

cityman
-6
Points
cityman 01/01/12 - 11:37 am
0
0
The ship needs to be
Unpublished

The ship needs to be tightened up and the riff raff run out of town on a rail!!

southern2
7092
Points
southern2 01/01/12 - 12:14 pm
0
0
We couldn't ask for a better

We couldn't ask for a better sheriff. Thanks, Sheriff Strength, for your many years of protecting and serving the citizens of Richmond County. We are blessed to have you here.

Little Lamb
48010
Points
Little Lamb 01/01/12 - 01:23 pm
0
0
A campaign ad like this money

A campaign ad like this money cannot buy. Let me say that Ronnie Strength has been a very positive force for good in Richmond County. It is hard to imagine anyone could have done better. He has rooted bad behaving individuals out of the department, and he has stood by those who performed according to their training, even when it might have been expedient to toss them to the hyenas.

But, Sheriff Strength is getting on in years and his term expires this year. If he again chooses to run for Sheriff as a Democrat, he will have a difficult time winning the primary. Switching to the Republican party might be a better strategy. In either case, he needs some respected leaders in the black community to endorse him and campaign for him. It would take courage on their parts.

Retiring on top and being honored and celebrated by the community for an exemplary tenure as sheriff would feel better than being ignominiously defeated by a lesser man.

blues550
380
Points
blues550 01/01/12 - 01:36 pm
0
0
We are very fortunate to have
Unpublished

We are very fortunate to have three great departments here - Richmond County, Columbia County and Aiken County. Ronnie, Clay and Mike are fantastic Sheriff's with great deputies. Thanks for all you do and in protecting us.

Sweet son
11096
Points
Sweet son 01/01/12 - 02:18 pm
0
0
@Riverman1. So what is the

@Riverman1. So what is the point? You say "I see the RCSO very slowly starting to adopt some of our ideas." Does this mean that you are a Deputy in the Great State of Columbia County? You say that as if you believe that "your" agency is a "cut above" Richmond County and that you have no issues! I am sure Sheriff Whittle has some issues that he wishes did not exist. Clay Whittle is a good Sheriff and a good man but I do not appreciate Ronnie Strength being called a security guard.

drivenslow
0
Points
drivenslow 01/01/12 - 03:01 pm
0
0
crime is down tell all the
Unpublished

crime is down tell all the victims of crime that

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 01/01/12 - 03:10 pm
0
0
Sweetson, I tried to be a

Sweetson, I tried to be a Reserve Columbia County Police Officer once, but they wouldn't let me join because of my record. I could probably get on with Richmond County, though. I could work security for the strip joints as Sheriff Strength provides very good security for them. I wonder why that is? Think he has any connections?

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 01/01/12 - 03:27 pm
0
0
I just wish he would use 50%
Unpublished

I just wish he would use 50% of his employees for road patrol, and I don't mean sitting at the 4 way on crosscreak for hours on end. I would also like to see him get out of the private security business which uses public funded articles (unifirms vehicles and weapons) for private use. Maybe the folks running that operation could be better used for road patrol. Maybe if he hot seated vehicles, we would have more money for officers.

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 01/01/12 - 03:32 pm
0
0
I neglected to say we have
Unpublished

I neglected to say we have the finest police officers in Georgia and we should be paying them for their services. If we had a visible budget then maybe we would know where the money is being spent. Lord knows this county has more than enpough money comming in. Get rid of the funding for charitable organizations and start paying all city workers (not just management) more.

seenitB4
93819
Points
seenitB4 01/01/12 - 04:48 pm
0
0
RM....You work security for

RM....You work security for the strip clubs? "Just ain't fittin---just ain't fittin"

Sweet son
11096
Points
Sweet son 01/01/12 - 07:54 pm
0
0
@Riverman1, thanks for the

@Riverman1, thanks for the update. In the bygone days some of the local enforcement types, politicians and others were probably, notice I said probably, too close to the strip clubs but I really believe that Sheriff Strength is way beyond the days of Anderson, Dyches and others who found themselves on the locked side of the jailhouse bars. I do believe that the reserve officer program in Columbia County is good but I wonder if some of those guys are on an adrenalin trip. Bet I will be popped with that comment. Both Richmond and Columbia Departments are great because they have men and women who are on the force and often do a job that garners them few thanks. I once was told by a Chief of Police's Wife that law enforcement is "cruel." The longer I live the more I believe it! The general public is depending on these people for their safety as also we are depending on our military for our safety. We should all tell both groups when we see them that we appreciate all of what they do for us!!! I am also with seenitB4! Whatever your background I don't think that you should working security for a strip club! I am not sure what the fringes might be but I am sure they ain't worth it! Ha! Ha! There is my episitle for the day, Asitisinaug! Not even going to check it for goof ups!

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 01/01/12 - 07:59 pm
0
0
SweetSon, I'll be honest with

SweetSon, I'll be honest with you here. You are right. There is nothing that can supplant the experience of a fulltime officer on the job daily. He has learned to be level headed and how to react to the public.

itsanotherday
0
Points
itsanotherday 01/01/12 - 08:08 pm
0
0
"I neglected to say we have
Unpublished

"I neglected to say we have the finest police officers in Georgia and we should be paying them for their services."

They should be paid commensurate with education, experience, and demand for their services, whatever that is.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/01/12 - 09:22 pm
0
0
Most all departments (Police

Most all departments (Police & Sheriff's) allow for their officers to work specials within the public at businesses that need them such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, grocery stores, hotels, etc. It is practiced in all local counties around here. This is general practice throughout the United States and for very good reasons.

First, the expense to the taxpayers is minimal if anything and more than offset by the additional police presence working throughout the community. The deputies are paid by private businesses so with the exception of driving their car and use of their uniforms, there is no expense to the taxpayers. However, deputies on their way to and from specials provides for more officers patrolling within the local community and provides a greater police presence. Additionally, while working specials they provide for additional police presence within the public environment and handle all calls for service at the location or in the immediate vicinity thereby freeing up the beat car for other duties. When an arrest is necessary, they don't have to call for a patrol car because they have theirs and handle all arrests & transports, again freeing up the beat car for over an hour which is very beneficial to the department and the citizens.

Many documented cases exist where robbers, persons who have committed assaults, domestic cases and even murderers have been dealt with, apprehended and arrested by special duty deputies at no expense to the taxpayers. Additionally, the mere presence of these officers and patrol cars throughout the county at various locations helps to deter crime, especially robberies of businesses.

Aiken County, Columbia County and Richmond County all basically have the same policy for those who work special duty assignments - it does not affect the number of deputies working regular shifts as they are only permitted to work special duty assignments when they are off.

Specifically in Richmond County on any given weekend night, you may have as many deputies working special duty assignments as you will have assigned working road & traffic patrol. This means that the Sheriff's Office is basically able to double their force on busy nights with very negligible costs which is great for this community.

Lastly, if you think Richmond County Deputies could survive without specials at the current salary they have, think again. The only reason many are even able to stay at the job / department that they love is becuase of the specials. Articles on JD Paugh clearly demonstrate this over and over as he worked specials most of his days off and was stopping to help others after getting off from a special. His actions as a deputy who just got off of a special very likely saved the lives of our citizens.

Little Lamb, you do bring up some good points. It would be disastrous for this community if we were to have a Sheriff that had been previously fired from the Sheriff's Office and could have been removed from Law Enforcement permanently for his actions. He is in no way, shape or form Sheriff material for this county. Sheriff Strength has done a great job and has also prepared future leaders with both youth and experience to take the Sheriff's Office to the next level when the time comes.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 01/02/12 - 02:45 am
0
0
KUDOS to the RCSO deputies

KUDOS to the RCSO deputies who do their jobs.

And GOOD-BYE to those who don't.

The public should not tolerate deputies (or public school teachers, for that matter) who "sham" their way through their daily work periods.

seenitB4
93819
Points
seenitB4 01/02/12 - 04:48 am
0
0
Sweetson.....I 100%

Sweetson.....I 100% appreciate the Fire Dept. & Police Dept....I have known many of them.....I know how much of their personal life they give up just doing their jobs..

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 01/02/12 - 02:06 pm
0
0
I have a different take on

I have a different take on the story. Crime rates may be down because deputies are discouraging citizens to file reports. I've heard repeated statements to this affect from numerous people in the last year or so. Remember ANY time and EVERY time you call a deputy...insist on a Case #. That's the only way the crime gets put into the system.
Don't misunderstand, I'm not knocking the deputies, I believe that are being told by upper management to do this. Just my opinion.

AutumnLeaves
9652
Points
AutumnLeaves 01/03/12 - 10:34 pm
0
0
THANK you! Conservative Man.

THANK you! Conservative Man. Some of these officers would have a life nowadays if for the last 10 years more people knew that they needed a case number for there to be an actual report AND they went down and checked to make sure it was written as they reported it and contested it if it wasn't. I believe that citizen reporting of crime would have been more effective, there would have been more publicizing of criminal incidents in the media, and there would have been more outcry from the general public for something to be done about the increasing amount of crime sooner and we wouldn't be so overrun with crime now. It seems citizens cared enough to leave when criminals kept falling through the cracks to save their own hides, which is understandable, as often as there has been retaliation. There has been a lot of frustration all round for good residents and good officers both trying to do their jobs enough and yet not over-doing it at the same time. I don't think deputies are actively discouraging citizens to file reports, I just think most citizens don't know they need to ask for a case report #, even if it is a miscellaneous report #. Now IF there have been any cases of officers intentionally falsifying reports, I hope they have been or will be found out and weeded out ASAP. Go get any report of concern to you and proof-read it for errors from top line to bottom. Officers and witnesses themselves can make mistakes and that could cause any number of unanticipated problems down the line, call the officer, if you don't get satisfactory results, call a supervisor.

pkervin
0
Points
pkervin 01/04/12 - 12:21 pm
0
0
Yeah I'm working a long

Yeah I'm working a long distance special right now!

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