Originally created 07/04/99

No Grovetown sanctuary

Grovetown Police Chief John Tomberlin had to be taught two lessons the other day: 1) A judge's arrest warrant will be served and 2) Clay Whittle is sheriff of all of Columbia County, including Grovetown.

Although Superior Court Judge Duncan Wheale had no comment, the sheriff and Chief Deputy Lou Ciamillo confirm that the judge was upset that an arrest order was not being carried out by Grovetown police on one of its residents.

Tomberlin's department balked at arresting a man charged with threatening and beating his wife (and who had violated a temporary protective order three times). Apparently some friendly cops wanted to give the accused a break. But that's not a police chief's role. That's a judge's call. A law enforcement officer must faithfully execute an arrest warrant.

Think of the consequences if word spread that, if you are a "friend" of the Grovetown police, you're immune from an Augusta circuit judge and the county sheriff.

We believe Whittle will read Tomberlin the riot act over this appalling incident because, to the sheriff's credit, he dispatched a deputy to arrest the accused immediately after the judge found his order was being defied.

The sheriff said that while there is "a memorandum of understanding" that Grovetown and Harlem make their own arrests in their jurisdictions, he will not hesitate to step in and have deputies arrest anyone in those areas if so ordered by a judge. This is especially true if this involves spousal or child abuse, when an immediate arrest could prevent violence or death.

A footnote: Whittle is also to be commended for establishing -- at the main sheriff's headquarters -- an office of Safe Homes, where spouses or children can seek temporary refuge when they are threatened.

Since the Safe Homes office and the sheriff's domestic violence unit was established three years ago, Ciamillo says county domestic violence cases have declined. Grovetown, we're glad to see, will not be allowed to buck this welcomed trend.


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