Originally created 12/16/06

Sheriff Strength defends department, dreads job



Local police might have their critics, but they're doing well at an increasingly difficult job, Sheriff Ronnie Strength told lawmakers on Friday.

Speaking to a meeting of the Augusta legislative delegation, Sheriff Strength also said the stress of the job is taking a personal toll.

"I dread coming to work now," he said.

The sheriff defended his department in light of recent accusations of unnecessary force and the firing of one deputy and disciplining of others for inappropriate pictures and messages on a Myspace.com profile.

Sheriff Strength said he understood that many of the lawmakers had received calls from concerned voters in their districts, but he said they need to hear law enforcement's side of the story. He said his department fields about 270,000 calls a year and that less than half of 1 percent result in complaints.

"Perception is very dangerous and perception is not fact," Sheriff Strength said. "Perception gets us where we are today."

Citing 80 hour weeks and repeated accusations toward law enforcement, Sheriff Strength said he has questioned whether he wants to continue working at this pace.

"I've been in the business 30 years and can't wait to get out," he told the lawmakers.