Recent hires were needed, sheriff says

  • Follow Metro

At a time when most city departments are adhering to a mandatory or voluntary freeze on hiring and salary increases, Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength defends the 48 new hires his department has made this year as necessary replacements for resigned, terminated or retiring staff.

Back | Next
On Friday, July 29, 2011, courtroom security officers Henry Tucker (L) and Kevin Link (R) stand in the back of a main courtroom at the judicial center off James Brown Blvd. in Augusta, Georgia, demonstrating where they would stand if court were in session.   Sara Caldwell/Staff
Sara Caldwell/Staff
On Friday, July 29, 2011, courtroom security officers Henry Tucker (L) and Kevin Link (R) stand in the back of a main courtroom at the judicial center off James Brown Blvd. in Augusta, Georgia, demonstrating where they would stand if court were in session.

"Anybody hired with the sheriff's office is a replacement hire, not an additional employee," he said.

According to data provided by Augusta's human resources office, since early 2010 the department has lost 76 people, significantly more than the 48 it has added this year.

The losses include six investigators, eight records clerks, 19 jailers and 36 road patrol deputies. Twenty-one of them retired from careers with the sheriff's office.

To replace them, the office this year has hired 29 jailers, six records clerks and 13 road patrol deputies, according to the human resources data. Five other deputies were promoted to fill newly vacant positions, the sheriff said.

Turnover is extremely high at the jails, and recruiting people who can pass a background check and polygraph has become increasingly difficult, particularly as the city has implemented a second year of furlough pay reductions, sheriff's Col. Gary Powell said.

The recent hires don't include 20 new jailers budgeted to staff an expansion set to open later this year at Charles B. Webster Detention Center, Strength said.

If those jobs are staffed and all the sheriff's office vacancies are filled -- which Powell said was rare and unlikely -- only then would the department return to its ideal staffing level.

Strength said that based on his administration's experience, the ideal allotment to adequately police the county on a budget is 750 positions.

"We've been doing it for 35 years, and we know what we're doing," he said.

But 750 positions -- about the number of personnel the sheriff's office was allotted in 1998, 1999 and 2000 -- included 68 deputies whose salaries were paid for using generous federal Community-Oriented Policing Services grants of the late 1990s that have since dried up.

"The commission had to decide to fund them, and we lost them," Strength said.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who was in office when former Sheriff Charles B. Webster applied for the three-year COPS grants, recalled, "We told him up front that we wouldn't have the funds to keep paying them."

Since 1998's peak of 752 employees -- a number that excludes 911 communications personnel then under the sheriff's office and part-time school crossing guards -- the department's staff allotment dropped to 716 in 2001 and made gradual annual gains to 2011's budgeted allotment of 756 positions.

It has taken a decade for the sheriff's office to return to 2000 staffing levels, which relied on a nonrenewable funding source.

Most of the personnel growth has taken place in the form of bailiffs to staff 16 new court and hearing rooms in the new Augusta Judicial Center, and jailers needed for expansions at Webster Detention Center, not beat officers.

Though the Richmond County marshal handles door security at the downtown sheriff's office, the municipal building and the courthouse, the sheriff is responsible for security in the courtrooms.

Webster jailers and other staff have increased from 86 in 2000 to 118 allotted for 2011, while bailiffs who protect courtrooms grew from 31 in 2001 to 42 this year.

Over the same period, the number of investigators dropped by two and narcotics lost one. Uniformed deputies have dropped by 39 since 2000. The COPS grant ran out in 2001.

The sheriff's budget grew from $40.6 million in 2000, when $1.5 million in COPS grant funds made up 46 percent of the Augusta general fund/law enforcement budget, to $56.1 million in 2011, when it was close to 42 percent.

SHERIFF’S OFFICE JOBS

A look at the number of positions at the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office from 2000-11:

  2000’01’02’03’04’05’06’07’08’09’10’11
Administration522121212122222223242424
Records323232323234343436363636
Joint Law Enforcement Center140139139139138138136136136135135135
Charles B. Webster Detention Center8683838384979999989898118
Training788888888888
Uniform Division332307307307307308306306305300300300
Investigations696765656565656566676767
Narcotics232223232323232322222222
Domestic Violence3
Public Relations/Drug Abuse Resistance Education666666554444
Civil3132323232333333343442
Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic– 3330
Total750716716716716733734734734728728756

Source: Richmond County Sheriff’s Office

Comments (32) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
83986
Points
Riverman1 08/02/11 - 05:40 am
0
0
Brad is right. Webster was a

Brad is right. Webster was a State Revenue Agent hunting for moonshiners in the rural areas of Richmond, Burke and McDuffie counties, not a game warden. My apologies, but y'all get the idea. I also stand by my statement of all his "friends" and how he introduced Ronnie (Whitey's friend) Strength to them. The public is so naive.

seenitB4
87252
Points
seenitB4 08/02/11 - 10:12 am
0
0
The public doesn't have to

The public doesn't have to stay naive-----write & call your rep. & sheriff....when you pay taxes you have every right for a safe neighborhood....don't stop calling until you see some action....when you do nothing you get nothing.....CALL-WRITE every week.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 08/02/11 - 10:25 am
0
0
And sometimes when you do

And sometimes when you do call, you still get nothing.

seenitB4
87252
Points
seenitB4 08/02/11 - 10:45 am
0
0
I understand what you are

I understand what you are saying patty......it does seem some areas are on the not important list....

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 08/02/11 - 12:40 pm
0
0
some people say that some
Unpublished

some people say that some areas are on the not important list and it doesn't bother the people in charge because their friends are buying up land there cheap and with public money help gonna turn it around (for a new set of people, the ones there might have to go) and sell high.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 08/02/11 - 07:12 pm
0
0
I would say that arresting

I would say that arresting well over 100 people this week in the "not important areas" clearly shows the Sheriff and his Deputies care about all areas of the community and are doing what they can with the resourses they have. Phone calls and community pressure work as well...in every aspect of life. The Squeaky wheel....

Riverman1
83986
Points
Riverman1 08/02/11 - 02:25 pm
0
0
"Phone calls and community

"Phone calls and community pressure work as well...in every aspect of life. The Squeaky wheel...."

Very true. Thank you, Lori. Not so much Deke.

AutumnLeaves
7746
Points
AutumnLeaves 08/02/11 - 02:26 pm
0
0
Yep. 126 arrests last

Yep. 126 arrests last reported count, 50 of them on the weekend alone. Saw them setting up for the drug sting near my neighborhood. It was a very interesting weekend. And one of the quietest ones lately, too! Didn't hear any loud cars last weekend at all! What a nice sound; the sound of quiet!

Riverman1
83986
Points
Riverman1 08/02/11 - 02:50 pm
0
0
Editorial in Sunday's

Editorial in Sunday's Chronicle extolling Lori Davis and the battle to save Harrisburg and finally some action. Keep the pressure up.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 08/02/11 - 10:15 pm
0
0
I'm glad the phone calls work

I'm glad the phone calls work for some....at least they care about some areas.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs