Sheriff’s Lt. John Ivey holds the distinction as the sheriff’s candidate with the most experience as a police officer, having served more than 32 years in uniform.
Ivey considers experience the greatest asset he will bring to the office of sheriff, if elected.
A native of Augusta, Ivey lived in the old Sunset Homes community, what is now Cherry Tree Crossing, until he was 7 years old, when his family moved to the Terrace Manor neighborhood.
“That was one of the first places where a black could own a home,” Ivey said.
After graduating from Lucy C. Laney High School in 1964, Ivey enrolled in Morris Brown College in Atlanta. His college career was interrupted when he joined the Marine Corps for a 13-month stint in Vietnam.
After finishing college, Ivey returned to Augusta, working at C.T. Walker Elementary School for a while before joining the Augusta Police Department in 1979.
“I decided that I wanted to go somewhere so that when I told somebody to sit down, they started looking for a seat,” he said.
Ivey said he progressed quickly from walking a beat downtown to patrolling the Hill area and then to becoming a detective in charge of investigating violent crimes and homicides.
He was named officer of the year in 1987 and was promoted to lieutenant in 1994.
He graduated from the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., in 1994 and is also a certified polygraph examiner. He has been the sheriff’s polygraph examiner since consolidation in 1996.
Ivey has been married to his wife, Colis Hankerson Ivey, for 38 years. They have three sons, one daughter and six grandchildren.
SERVING THE COMMUNITY
Ivey says he has lived in Richmond County for the past 40 years and has deep connections with the community. He wants residents to understand that the sheriff’s office should be viewed as a service organization, working with the public to enforce the law and keep people safe.
A key part of that is seeking community input in the form of a citizens’ advisory committee to work with the sheriff’s office, he said.
“I really believe the public should have some kind of input as to how the sheriff’s department operates,” Ivey said. “I’m talking about getting some input from the public so we at the sheriff’s department can direct our efforts to their needs.
“People must realize that the sheriff’s department is a service company. The sheriff works at the pleasure of the public – the public coming in and giving their advice or their opinions about how things should be run; they have that right.”
Ivey said changes he wants to make within the department will not cost additional funds or eliminate jobs. He wants to focus on changing the mind-set of officers who work every day with the public. He said officers need to temper their authority with compassion.
Ivey said that too often, some residents flee as soon as sheriff’s deputies arrive in a neighborhood.
“I don’t want that,” he said. “I want the officers to learn their beats. Now they know their beats, but they just know where the streets are. I want them to learn their beats by knowing the individuals who live there.
“When you ride into an area you should be able to formulate an opinion that everything is all right then. If you can’t formulate that opinion, then you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing.”
Ivey said he wants to change the way officers interact with the public, but that doesn’t mean the sheriff’s office will have to spend more money to put additional officers on the streets.
“My way of doing things won’t cost you a dollar,” he said. “It is just to ensure that the officer is doing his job. It’s getting to know the individuals in the community, and the individuals getting to know (the officer). They form a partnership, so to speak.”
Ivey said having deputies form closer ties with the communities they serve can have a multiplying effect on their job performance. Meeting regularly with community leaders will help them form and maintain those connections, he said.
“We are going to start meeting with each and every neighborhood association that is in an area, or any group that represents a certain portion or segment of the city,” he said. “We are going to have our people there to field questions and find out what their needs are.”
In creating a more effective sheriff’s department, it’s important that the force be more diverse, Ivey said. Current recruiting and promotion practices need to be reformed to bring more black officers to the force and to more administrative roles, he said.
“I’m a person who wants everything to be fair. In order to ensure that it is fair, everything must be equal,” he said. “The personnel that come in the doors are 75 percent another race other than mine. They say they can’t find qualified blacks. I say that’s not true.
“When you have an area that is predominantly black and here comes a force that is predominantly white, or all white in certain circumstances, and they are dealing with that force, friction can erupt.
“It would be wrong if we have all blacks policing all-white areas; it would be wrong if we had all blacks policing a Korean area. I’m not saying being all black, but there must be something we can do about it.”
Ivey thinks the sheriff’s office can do a better job in recruiting minority officers by working with schools, colleges and the military to find qualified candidates. He also thinks the sheriff’s office should establish a more neutral promotions board by bringing in officers from other agencies to evaluate candidates.
“I would make sure that the reviewing officers are mixed. Right now, the reviewing officers are all white,” Ivey said. “I’m not saying that they are doing something wrong, but that don’t look good.
“Things have changed, but a lot of it still hasn’t changed.”
Ivey said it also is important for sheriff’s officers to have a more permanent connection to the community. He wants to encourage deputies to live inside Richmond County so they will have a deeper investment in changing its quality of life. He said the perception of crime hurts Richmond County and influences businesses and residents to move to other areas. He wants to change that perception.
“That’s what I really don’t like about the situation here,” Ivey said. “A lot of parents have kids that grow up, go to college and become, as we put it, ‘somebody.’ But in order to be that somebody they have to leave here. That’s what we’ve got to stop because eventually if this continues to happen then all the good is going to be gone, and we are going to have chaos.”
Ivey said his experience is what sets him apart from the other candidates and makes him the person who can implement the changes necessary at the sheriff’s office.
“All these candidates that are running are qualified to be sheriff. They are not ready to be sheriff,” he said. “I know how to treat individuals. I care about people. That’s what you need in a person who is going to be sheriff.”