Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

First Friday forum is snoozefest, but sheriff debate is livelier

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It was a tough decision. Should I go to the forum at the library Wednesday to hear officials talk about First Friday after the shooting downtown that wounded six people? Or the 12th District Republican debate?

I chose the forum because I thought it might be livelier.

There was an air of excitement before it began, but it started evaporating after District 1 Augusta Com­mis­sioner Matt Aitken, who called the meeting, said a few words, the mayor spoke and moderator Rick Toole went over the ground rules with the panelists.

People started drifting out about the time Toole started talking about goals and objectives. I turned to the man sitting behind me and said, “Whadda you think?” and he said, “It’s like watching paint dry.”

Well, it was, until Sheriff Ronnie Strength, the most respected and loved man in Richmond County in my opinion, started firing away at the media for blowing the shootings out of proportion and making people think downtown is dangerous.

“The media has caused this perception of downtown,” he said.

The crowd must have agreed because he received two standing ovations.

Before the July 6 shootings, there had been only nine criminal calls downtown on First Fridays all year, he said.

“Things happen, and you can’t control them. If you can, by God, come down and help us,” Strength said.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES: On Thursday, the Augusta branch of the NAACP held a forum for sheriff candidates at New Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church. Each candidate introduced himself and said what he’d do to make First Friday safe, after which candidate Lt. Robbie Silas left to attend a fundraiser.

In his introduction, Democratic candidate Lt. Richard Roundtree said, “We are less than 13 days away from changing the face of Augusta,” which I interpreted to mean the election of black Democratic challengers over white incumbents in the July 31 primary. Hattie Holmes-Sullivan is challenging incumbent Democrat Elaine Johnson, and Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is challenging Augusta Judicial Cir­cuit Chief Judge Carlisle Overstreet.

Saunders, who won the first round in a challenge to his eligibility by Augusta lawyer Jack Long because of delinquent taxes, faces another challenge. Long’s attorney, former Gov. Roy Barnes, filed a motion Friday in the office of state administrative hearings, asking the judge to rule on the 2011 tax issue Saunders didn’t have in his Chapter 13 payment plan and whether Saunders had to pay his back taxes in full under his plan.

The judge previously didn’t rule on those points. The secretary of state also has to address the issues.

UNLOADING ON A LOADED QUESTION: While written questions from the audience at the NAACP forum were being sorted, moderator Mallory Millender, a retired Paine College professor, asked this question:

“Historically, there has been tension between the black community and law enforcement. Clint Bryant, in a piece in The Chronicle a couple of days ago, said that if the victims of First Friday had been white, there would be a stop to that. I’ve long heard there’s been a difference in the application of law enforcement east of the 15th Street versus west of 15th Street. We’ve all seen what is happening to Rodney King, Alfaigo Davis in Augusta, Cherry Tree Crossing. In every instance, a black person has been brutalized, and in almost every instance the brutalizer has been white, and they’ve been exonerated. My question is, will this change if you’re sheriff, and what will you do to make it change?”

Republican Michael Godowns said he’d promote black officers to higher ranks and make the department “blended.”

An “us against them mentality” has developed in the department, said Lt. John Ivey, a Democrat.

“And we must change that,” he said. “And I believe the only way you’re going to change that is to change from the top. You’ve got to have somebody with your interest at heart.”

Democratic candidate Capt. Scott Peebles said officers have to understand their job is to serve the community and not oversee it, which would take constant bombardment with that message.

“I think we have to show we want to be blended,” he said. “We have 23 percent African-American representation in the sheriff’s department and 60 percent in the community. Right now, we are not representative of the community we serve.”

Roundtree said black leaders are fighting that fight now. “And I’m ready to take up this fight,” he said.

“You’ve got to ask yourself why 60 percent of the population is African-American, and the department makes up 23 percent,” he said. “Why didn’t you do something 15 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago?”

Republican Freddie San­ders bristled, saying he was proud of the sheriff’s office and didn’t accept Millen­der’s premise that anybody would have been treated any different on Broad Street if they’d been white.

“I represented one of the deputies in Cherry Tree Crossing,” he said. “And shame on every one of these men who would get up here and not take up for the department they work for and say what they think you want to hear so they can get your vote.”

Not one man on the podium said one good word about the sheriff’s office under Strength, he said.

“And everybody wanted him to be re-elected. And the job he did. I will not condone anybody being mistreated because of their color,” Sanders said. “If they do, I will fire them on the spot in front of you. But how shameful it is for somebody to suggest the sheriff’s department in this town would turn their back on a crime because the victims are black. I don’t accept it. I’m insulted by it. And I am shocked that anybody on this podium would not take up for it. So if that makes you don’t vote for me, don’t vote for me.”

In rebuttal, Ivey said, “I‘m just up there telling the truth about what’s happening. It’s hard because I’m a member of this same department. We’re reactive instead of proactive. We’ve got to change the mentality of those guys.”

HAVE YOU STOPPED BEATING YOUR WIFE? Another question was, “How would you go about changing how your officers act in the ‘hood,’ i.e. the black neighborhood? As far as being nasty to the so-called ‘hood,’ your policemen are very, very nasty.”

Godowns said the department needs major changes from the top to the bottom.

Ivey said officers need sensitivity training and a change in mindset.

Peebles said officers should be servants and that mentality has to “bleed down” to every officer.

So if that’s going to be the goal now, why hadn’t it already filtered down, Roundtree asked – before answering himself.

“The mentality comes from the top. Those officers go out, and they represent the attitude of the people at the top – their leaders,” he said.

Sanders took great exception to the question and the term “the hood.”

“They’re neighborhoods and communities,” he said. “And I am not going to accept that question and acknowledge that they’re nasty to people in ‘the ‘hood.’ But if they are, they will not be on my department.”

Comments (35) Add comment
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Karen Slater-McDaniel
3099
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 07/21/12 - 07:36 pm
12
5
Servants & Babysitters

I'm sorry but these men & women at RCSO are Law ENFORCEMENT Officers! They are NOT servants or babysitters of the public. Yes they should know the community & people that are on their beat, yes they should be professional & courteous BUT they are not & should not be in the business of wiping people's butts nor holding their hands. Being proactive does not mean bowing down to anyone.

I think Freddie got this one spot on! How dare these men smile in the face of the current sheriff & tell him "great job"& then stab him in the back during this election.

Riverman1
81397
Points
Riverman1 07/22/12 - 07:37 am
11
4
You have to love Freddie

You have to love Freddie. He goes into the NAACP event and tells the truth. The way the others stood by and let them slam Sheriff Strength was disheartening. You would have thought they were going to blame Mrs. Strength for crime in the "ghetto," too. It was pretty cool that Freddie wouldn't allow them to use that word with him.

eb97
835
Points
eb97 07/21/12 - 08:30 pm
7
3
Well based on his attitude at

Well based on his attitude at this meeting, Mr. Sanders has my vote and the votes of my family. The sheriff must have integrity and he was the only one that demonstrated he had plenty to go around.

lsmith
105
Points
lsmith 07/21/12 - 08:33 pm
0
0
Thank you Freddie for being
Unpublished

Thank you Freddie for being straight up. And yeah, Shame on all these current deputies that sold out their sheriff for political expediency.

TO CLINT BRYANT: What group of people are causing all the trouble on broad street and most other areas of town?? Yeah....you can say it.

Why the racial disparity in the department? I guess you might want to consult the statistics on the number of men of color who actually qualify for the job. A lot of them dropped out of school in pursuit of careers in pharmaceutical sales. Many have taken up residence in state detention facilities. And lastly, perhaps law enforcement just isn't their cup of tea. No sense making a case for some kind of blanket prejudice on the part of Ronnie Strength, because that's simply not the case. The answer is that more upstanding men within the black community need to step forward and commit themselves to becoming a lawman and completing the qualifying criteria.....it really isn't that hard.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 07/21/12 - 08:48 pm
7
3
Freddie's got more going for

Freddie's got more going for him and the county than the sum total of all of them. He exudes confidence, wisdom, respect, authority and courage. It should be Freddie all the way. What a loss for Augusta if this doesn't happen.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/21/12 - 09:10 pm
7
2
Yawn

Welcome to Augusta where the Civil War is still being fought.

Just My Opinion
5429
Points
Just My Opinion 07/21/12 - 09:49 pm
8
6
Freddie Sanders is a real man

Freddie Sanders is a real man who isn't going to take crud from any race-baiters like Millender and Clint Bryant! Scott Peebles is not ready to be the sheriff. Clint Bryant needs to stick with his JOB as being the athletic director of ASU and stop being a obvious racist wanna-be politician....Clint, nobody cares about your personal views just because you think you are in a high-profile position in your community. As far as Millender...his being a retired Paine College professor tells me alot about the problems that that fine school has had to endure over the years. I shudder at the thought of how many bright college minds that racist has tainted over all those years of "teaching".

americafirst
965
Points
americafirst 07/21/12 - 10:00 pm
8
2
Do it, Freddie. He means what

Do it, Freddie. He means what he says. He won't tolerate any misconduct but if the officer is in the right, he will never throw him or her under the bus to please any segment of the population.

Little Lamb
44887
Points
Little Lamb 07/21/12 - 10:43 pm
6
2
Sanders

I already voted for Sanders in the primary, and I will vote for him again in November.

janderson1945
1829
Points
janderson1945 07/21/12 - 10:56 pm
5
5
Forum

Although I did not make this forum, we have attended a couple of others. Captain Peebles message has not wavered in the fact that he agrees with Sheriff Strength on many items but wishes to take the Sheriff's Office to the next level. Professional agencies and standards all across the country call for accreditation and community policing. Accreditation ensures agencies are using the best proven law enforcement practices that work time and time again to include how all citizens and employees are treated. Community policing is one of the toughest on crime policies out there. Peebles has made it clear he wishes to be pro-active instead of re-active and improve professionalism - you simply can't argue with those two proven techniques that work and you can look to Columbia County locally or many areas nationally to see just how well it does work. We were not for Peebles at first since our family is Republican but there is no better choice than Scott Peebles for Sheriff and he has our vote.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/21/12 - 11:15 pm
9
0
Chasing ghosts

The talk of race and the sheriff's office reminds of the Richmond County school system.

The school system has been led by a black superintendent for nearly 20 years, half of the school board members are black and the majority of students are black. Despite this, we are still operating under a desegregation order.

There is nothing people like more than bringing up the ghost of racism. There is enough racism in this community as it is. There is no need to make up more to score political points.

daviddunagan
331
Points
daviddunagan 07/21/12 - 11:15 pm
11
1
Mallory Millender Is The Problem

You are a race baiter. Are you really aware of what goes on in Cherry Tree and Apple Valley. Augusta will never move ahead with men like you spreading falsehoods. DD

Little Lamb
44887
Points
Little Lamb 07/21/12 - 11:24 pm
3
2
Crossover Voting

janderson1945 posted:

We were not for Peebles at first since our family is Republican but there is no better choice than Scott Peebles for Sheriff and he has our vote.

Well, good for you. But did you regret not having any input into the Republican primary race for U. S. Representative?

AutumnLeaves
6805
Points
AutumnLeaves 07/21/12 - 11:26 pm
5
1
More and more impressed

I am getting more and more impressed with Freddie Sanders. Glad I haven't voted yet. I need to take a closer look at all the candidates. Freddie has just surged into the lead in my opinion based on the quotes above.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 07/21/12 - 11:43 pm
9
1
race baiters
Unpublished

Mallory Millender opens his question, “Historically, there has been tension between the black community and law enforcement." I wish I were running for sheriff I would have stopped her right there and said, "IF black people would obey the law there wouldn't be any tension."

Little Lamb
44887
Points
Little Lamb 07/22/12 - 12:50 am
4
2
Republican Primary

I recommend you ask for a Republican ballot when you go to vote, Autumn Leaves. That's what I did.

GaStang22
910
Points
GaStang22 07/22/12 - 12:54 am
0
0
Where are their supporting documents?
Unpublished

I'd like to know how many qualified black officers were denied being hired, but a white one with equal qualifications was hired?

Another note, none of these race baiters actually try to change anything in the black community, yet they are the first ones to jump to a criminals defense and cry racism. All they are doing is enabling and justifying these criminals actions in the eyes of the general community of young black law breakers. These criminals have no respect for cops period, white or black and will play that race card any chance given because they have a whole lot more across the nation of other race baiting clown to rally around them. They don't want to prevent the problem, but they are quick to jump for publicity one it starts!

Truthbetold74
108
Points
Truthbetold74 07/22/12 - 02:35 am
0
0
Primary Voting
Unpublished

Is it true that if you vote on the Republican primary and then there is a runoff on the democratic side that you will not be able to vote in it?
Odds are there is going to be a runoff between Roundtree and either Silas or Peebles.
If that is true and you want to be involved in the runoff wouldn't it then be better vote on the democratic side now? Especially since most don't beleive a Republican can win it all in November.

seenitB4
84187
Points
seenitB4 07/22/12 - 04:31 am
4
2
WEll well...

Finally...yall see the light...haha
I have known Freddie for 40+ years...I told yall from the git-go what kind of man he is...would I lie toya.....
He is the best man for the job--he would put qualified men in place--he loves Richmond county---black,yellow,green,white---doesn't matter....
give him a chance & you won't be sorry......
I feel very fortunate to call him a friend.:)

rebellious
20512
Points
rebellious 07/22/12 - 06:18 am
6
1
Crack....Mallory is male.

Crack....Mallory is male. This race baiting is at the core of Augusta's inability to prosper and rise to her potential as a city people choose to live in. The idea that employment ethnic ratios, which are driven by talent, education, character, and skill should match population ethnic ratios, which are driven by procreation rates and the ethnicity of the parents, is the most absurd, and most repeated by blacks, idea I have ever heard. Yet the timid majority, who must avoid being labeled racist at all cost, continue to answer as if the argument has validity. The concept that “all men are created equally” refers to the administration of “unalienable rights” defined as Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness attributed to this free society in which we live. All men (referring to mankind) are not created equal in regards to capacity to learn, skills, talents, and potential. Add in the effect of culture and environment, and there is the undeniable range of achievement in mankind we see reflected in the workplace.
People of any ethnicity who expect vocational ethnic ratios, based on the above mentioned capacities, to reflect the pure rate of birth of each group as a nation, are either ignorant or deceptive. Either Mr Millender is ignorant of the range of human skills, talents and proficiencies, and therefore needs enlightenment, or he is totally cognizant of this fact of life and chooses to fuel the flame of envy and hatred between races. As I don’t know his mind, only he can answer. I suspect the latter rather than the former.
It would be refreshing if we had a black leader the likes of Bill Cosby. One with the fortitude to stand up and tell Augustans that policing will be directed into geographical areas where crime occurs. Any other assumption is as ridiculous as would be asking why fire trucks always drive to homes on fire. This notion that stings should focus in other areas of Augusta rather than only in highly black populated areas also draws from the same misguided thought process mentioned above. Law Enforcement takes place where there is a disregard for the law. If black communities want Deputies to stay out, stop being the primary locations for crime. Simple, you control your destiny.
Hats off to Freddie Sanders for saying what needed to be said. I cannot support him in this race for other reasons, but he is my second choice behind Lt. Robbie Silas.

seenitB4
84187
Points
seenitB4 07/22/12 - 06:41 am
4
2
WOW

Rebellious that was a fantastic post....one of the BEST EVER!!

rebellious
20512
Points
rebellious 07/22/12 - 06:44 am
3
1
The Ginkho kicked in, plus

The Ginkho kicked in, plus day 3 at St. Simons to clear the head. Thanks, Seenit

Riverman1
81397
Points
Riverman1 07/22/12 - 06:50 am
7
1
Come November

Come November there is going to be a conservative push like we've never seen in this country. Conservatives and middle-of-the-roaders are uniting in a philosophical battle against socialism that is going to be as monumental as tearing down the Berlin Wall. Middle America is going to march on the cities and their racial politics, unions and Democratic Party, bent nosed thugs.

Elect our best Republican candidates in the primary for Sheriff and Congress, then onto November when we run every Obama loving public official all the way to San Francisco. If we elect Freddie Sanders in the primary and the best Republican candidate for Congress, we can hopefully take back two offices to the Republican Party that have been in Democratic hands way too long right here in our own CSRA.

ReleehwEoj
62
Points
ReleehwEoj 07/22/12 - 08:59 am
6
0
Re: ethnic ratios

rebellious quoteth: "The idea that employment ethnic ratios, which are driven by talent, education, character, and skill should match population ethnic ratios, which are driven by procreation rates and the ethnicity of the parents, is the most absurd, and most repeated by blacks, idea I have ever heard."

Well said and only partially true. The NBA is chock-full of individuals employed because of their talent and skill. I don't notice to many protests that the ethnic ratios among players are out of whack with those of the general population. I do remember cries that the ethnic ratios amongst coaches were all wrong ;-)

Riverman1
81397
Points
Riverman1 07/22/12 - 09:46 am
5
2
Wright McLeod

By the way, Wright McLeod kicked butt at the televised debate.

rebellious
20512
Points
rebellious 07/22/12 - 09:51 am
4
0
Releeh.....This reinforces

Releeh.....This reinforces the entire premise with a reverse gamut. And shows a bias, where when the scales are tilted to favor one ethnicity, no protests exist.

TCB22
609
Points
TCB22 07/22/12 - 10:39 am
4
2
It's about adult leadership...

The ARC SO needs adult leadership. You can see who stands out from the crowd by reading Sylvia's article. Freddie Sanders. Please vote for Freddie even if you have friendships with these others. It's imperative for the future of Augusta. I feel like some of them would do well next time around, but they need to grow up a little before they wear that badge as the most powerful person in Augusta.

Conservative Man
5353
Points
Conservative Man 07/22/12 - 10:46 am
3
0
If Sylvia wanted excitement

If Sylvia wanted excitement she should have attended the Commission meeting Tues. I'm assuming she wasn't there because she spoke nary a word about it..These forums pale in comparison to what happened there. At least what I saw online anyway......Oh well....

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 07/22/12 - 10:57 am
2
1
" But how shameful it is for

" But how shameful it is for somebody to suggest the sheriff’s department in this town would turn their back on a crime because the victims are black."
The sheriff's office in Richmond County DOES turn their backs on crime dependant on the location of the crime and in my opinion, the race of the victim. I truly do believe this to be the case. I've had it happen to me. They could care less about 'serving the community.' I can't say ALL officers are like that but the majority of them ARE, and they KNOW it. Eventually the truth about it will come to light.

eb97
835
Points
eb97 07/22/12 - 11:10 am
3
1
Well they turned their backs

Well they turned their backs when my elderly husband was attacked in his garage by a 22 y/0 white male at night for no reason. They didn't even charge the guy for the assault he committed on my husband. They just told him he could pick up a written report on the incident on Monday. This guy should have been booked that night.

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