Peebles stands out

In crucial race for Richmond County sheriff, no candidate is better qualified

It’s hard to imagine improving on the Richmond County Sheriff Office’s performance under Ronnie Strength’s solid leadership.

But if anyone could do it, it would be Scott Peebles.

One of the great privileges of the editorial writing business is the opportunity to get to know the people we choose to lead us, to take their measure, and to pass along our observations. In this case, we can tell you that it’s truly inconceivable that we could have a better or more qualified candidate to replace Sheriff Strength than Capt. Scott Peebles.

We’re not alone in that assessment, either. Many Republicans report eagerly casting or planning to cast Democratic ballots in the July 31 primary (voting started July 9), expressly to vote for Peebles.

It couldn’t be more important, either. Law enforcement leadership is literally a life-or-death situation, as it can impact both civilians’ and officers’ lives forever. But it’s even more important than life or death. In this consolidated county, whose sheriff’s office is the largest full-service local law enforcement agency in the state, the sheriff goes an awful long way in setting the tone for the community. If the streets aren’t safe, or aren’t perceived that way, that affects everything, from economic development to tourism to commerce to the quality of life for us all.

We cannot tell you how important it is to get this particular election right.

And we can tell you, without the slightest hesitation, that Scott Peebles is many miles ahead of the competition.

He joined the department some 20 years ago at age 19, and has done everything that’s been asked of him and more, nearly everything a lawman can do. He’s served in the violent crimes and homicide division, and has been on road patrol, the DUI task force, crime suppression team, SWAT team, and even started the hostage negotiation team. He has participated in and overseen major criminal take-downs, including Operation Augusta Ink, Operation Fox Hunt, and Operation Smoke Screen, that yanked hundreds of crooks and guns off the streets. He currently manages the Criminal Investigative Division.

He has extensive and diverse training that includes being a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He’s also deeply involved in the community, through Leadership Augusta, the Board of Directors for United Way of the CSRA, the Greater Augusta Arts Council and SafeHomes of Augusta.

A main goal of his is to achieve national accreditation for the department, a rigorous process which would provide an extra layer of professionalism and accountability. The accrediting process audits and monitors everything from hiring and firing to managing evidence and case files.

Peebles also is a huge proponent of community policing, which he says would lead to strategic planning, aggressive policing, and citizen collaboration on each beat.

Truth is, we haven’t needed accreditation under Strength and wouldn’t under Peebles. But if elected, Peebles wouldn’t always be sheriff. For him, it’s about leaving a legacy of unquestioned professionalism for the next guy.

It speaks volumes that, when some folks saw race being injected into the election, several prominent African-American law enforcement officers stepped forward to endorse Peebles. Mayor Deke Copenhaver also has weighed in with his support, as have others.

None more enthusiastically than we do.

“We are very blessed to have a strong field of dedicated law enforcement professionals running for sheriff,” the mayor told
us. “All of these men have my great respect, but Scott Peebles has my vote as I simply feel in my heart that he is the man for the job.”

Neighborhood activists also will be glad to know Peebles agrees with them that one house can take down a neighborhood. He is an adherent to the now-famous “Broken Window” theory of law enforcement, which holds that small crimes and even eyesores can create the conditions that allow larger crimes to grow. Andy Griffith fans know it as the “Nip it in the Bud” philosophy of law enforcement.

We asked Capt. Peebles what he’s learned under the widely respected Sheriff Strength. “It’d be easier to tell you what I haven’t learned,” he smiled – adding that Strength has shown an uncanny ability to “see the pitfalls” in a plan of action and to think things through.

And Peebles has seen how responsive and respectful the retiring Strength has been toward everyone in the community.

Scott Peebles will carry on the best traditions of Ronnie Strength, but will be his own man.

And is he ever the man for the job.

We urge you to vote for Scott Peebles for Richmond County sheriff on the Democratic ballot July 31 – though you may want to do it earlier.

Just to be safe.

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