Uniformed Richmond County sheriff's deputies are in bars, nightclubs, shopping centers, malls and even at Augusta National Golf Club this week.
But they're not working the taxpayers' dime, officials say. They're on special duty.
Capt. Jim Griffin, who has overseen special duty assignments for several years, said deputies serve primarily for security purposes.
"It may simply be protection from robbery or prevent burglaries, which is a general law enforcement function," he said.
Deputies on special duty also work performing traffic control duties, especially near construction sites, he said.
The going rate these days is $15 per hour for a four-hour minimum, Capt. Griffin said.
Some businesses and groups, who have had special duty arrangements with the sheriff's office in the past, might pay deputies at different rates because of agreements that were made before rate increases over the years, he said.
Deputies are paid directly by the businesses and companies using their services, Capt. Griffin said.
Requests from businesses and groups are posted on bulletin boards at the sheriff's two precincts and at headquarters at 401 Walton Way.
Capt. Griffin said deputies must apply for the duty, which provide extra income for the officers, and have to be approved by their supervisors. He said they also must have completed state-mandated certifications that are standard for police officers.
Working special duty assignments is optional, and sheriff's office regulations require that deputies receive at least eight hours of downtime before working on specials. He said they must be off-duty, be on vacation or use compensatory time to work them.
"Those working it are doing it out of necessity," Capt. Griffin said. "You don't find many who say, 'Hey, I like working this second job.' "
Keeping deputies at a bar or directing traffic might sound like a waste of manpower. But Capt. Griffin said special duty deputies actually help others who are on the street.
If a scuffle, fight or other incident happens where they are, the deputies on special duty are expected to make an arrest, take the offender to the Richmond County jail and complete all the necessary booking and incident paperwork, he said.
That leaves the police working their normal beats free to handle other situations. Otherwise, "you could run out of cars in a hurry on a Friday or Saturday night," Capt. Griffin said.
Deputies can also be removed from special duty assignments, he said, if the company or group is not happy with their service, if there are concerns about the job they're doing or if anything improper is going on.
In February, a former sheriff's sergeant was charged with felony theft after officials found that he had been taking lottery tickets from a grocery store at which he was working special duty.
But the benefits to the public exist, too, Capt. Griffin said, just because a law enforcement presence is there.
"(Potential criminals) will take a second thought before they decide to do something," he said.
Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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