Deputies use specials for extra cash

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Work never ends for Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Michelle Thomas.

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Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Michelle Thomas checks IDs at Country Club Dance Hall and Saloon. She says the added income helps.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Richmond County sheriff's Deputy Michelle Thomas checks IDs at Country Club Dance Hall and Saloon. She says the added income helps.

Since she began at the department five years ago, Deputy Thomas has worked special assignments nearly every weekend - whether for the Georgia Department of Transportation or a local bar.

She said that although the assignments add money to her bank account, they come with a price.

Deputy Thomas worries about spending enough time with her children, ages 10 and 14, and often tries to schedule the extra work around their school hours.

"I try not to rely on them (the special assignments), but there comes a time, being a single mom of two kids, that I have to work a special in order to make my ends meet," Deputy Thomas said.

It's an issue that many in the sheriff's office face.

At $15 an hour for a minimum of four hours, special assignments, or specials, can provide a significant boost to the typical deputy's salary.

They also free the department from the expense of furnishing deputies to provide public safety for the hundreds of bars, restaurants and road construction projects in Richmond County.

On the other hand, there are usually more specials than deputies, so someone needs to work even when he or she might not want to.

Lt. Laverte Tutt handles all of the special assignments for the department and occasionally takes care of some himself.

He said deputies shouldn't depend on the extra work to make ends meet but many do.

"It's a bad practice to depend on specials for long-term income," Lt. Tutt said.

In addition, he said, specials can be dangerous. On Feb. 18, two deputies working special assignments at Silver Bullet Lounge on Milledgeville Road had to wrestle a man to the ground after he began reaching for a pistol he had hidden in his pants, according to a sheriff's office incident report. And Lt. Tutt recalls that in January a deputy hurt his ankle working a special and had to miss some regular duty.

"That's a normal occurrence," he said. "It goes with the job."

To keep their workers fresh and alert, the department requires that anyone working a special assignment take an eight-hour break before returning to regular duty.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said the fact that many deputies have to moonlight to support their families does little to attract newcomers to the department. It's a problem that not only has affected recruitment, but also retention, he said.

Three deputies resigned during the last week in February for the better pay that private-sector jobs can provide, the sheriff said. Two of them went to Plant Vogtle.

"It's very difficult not only hiring but retaining," Sheriff Strength said. "These folks are going to better-paying jobs so they can spend more time with their families,"

Deputy Thomas said she has no plans to leave the sheriff's office anytime soon, despite the stress and added hours. As often as she works the specials, she said, there are deputies who work more.

"They work a lot more hours than I do, and I'm quite sure it hurts their family life," she said. "But they have to in order to survive."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

Regular, but specials

Augusta Mall typically has three deputies at any one time, two in the parking area and one inside the mall. This can increase on the weekend.

Wal-Mart on Deans Bridge Road has three shifts, which ensures that one deputy is on duty for all hours. This can increase to four shifts on the weekend.

Georgia Department of Transportation shifts vary depending on construction. Currently, two deputies are on Interstate 20 for eight hours a day.

Augusta National Golf Club has deputies provide security and oversee on-course parking during the Masters Tournament.

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FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 03/18/07 - 04:23 am
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The problem with them

The problem with them moonlighting is that they won't take the job if the bar is known for trouble. These are the bars that need the most protection. So you will have 4 officers at the County Club where there is no trouble. But a bar that is having trouble won't even get a drive by from an officer on regular patrol. You can't blame them, who would want to work a bar know for hoodlums. A system has got to be put in place that still will offer protection to the places that attract hoodlums. If it could happen allot more crime would be stopped just having an officer there. They wouldn't want to cause trouble in the first place. There has got to be a system in place where if someone requests and officer there will be one there to protect and serve. The volunteer system does not work!

Bignasty
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Bignasty 03/18/07 - 07:42 am
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If you look at the whole

If you look at the whole situation, I think the county should be ashamed that there deputies have to work all the time to pay bills. Theses men and women have to sacrifice their time with families to work because the county refuses to pay their police officers. I know many deputies that have left for other jobs because the RCSO does not pay well at all. Hopefull, this article will open up the eyes of the commissioners and they will look into paying these brave men and women so if they work specials it will be because they want to not have to.

mystery30815
18
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mystery30815 03/18/07 - 08:32 am
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Even $15 an hour as a special

Even $15 an hour as a special is not a lot of money. Particularly if you are in a rough bar. One big difference between the Country Club and other bars is that they have strict rules they enforce. The real issue is that RichmondCounty deputies get paid chump change for what they do. I'm surprised they can keep anyone on the force with how poorly they are paid. With their pay a family of four in Richmond county qualifies for WIC and a few other gov't programs. Now that's a shame!!

FOOTBALL IS BACK
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FOOTBALL IS BACK 03/18/07 - 08:55 am
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whatever it is the same old

whatever it is the same old crap, i was with rcso for 10 years and recently resigned, they are not going to do anything, until someone gets off the pot. and you guys know that they are gonna set on it as long as they can. it is horrible. i left the department and i doubled my salary within a year, but i have alot of friends on the dept. but the higher ups stink, and don't really care what happens to us. i think a younger sheriff and some new faces upstairs is what the dept needs, if not, see ya, the dept is going to continue to go downhill. sheriff strength, let me ask you a question, i was there when you stated to the whole sheriff's dept that while you were sheriff you were going to make it a point to go to each substation, and keep in contact with the officers, guess what haven't seen you yet. good job in letting your deputies know you care!!!!!!

OUTSIDE THE BOX
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OUTSIDE THE BOX 03/18/07 - 09:43 am
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Well let me first say that

Well let me first say that pay issues not only trouble the RCSO but many other department all over this country. Having said that, it does not excuse that fact that many men and women are putting their lives on the line for people that they do not know. It has always been crazy to me that society will to pay the mail man, a plumber, truck driver, or even a secretary more money than a law enforcement officer. You have the luxury of dialing three digits and a total stranger will show and is willing to put his or her life on the line just for you or put up with the verbal abuse. Most police officers do not choose this profession for the pay but because it is something that they have always had a desire to do (a love for the profession). So the next time you have a complaint about your local police remember YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

jayman
4
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jayman 03/18/07 - 09:48 am
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n/a

BakersfieldCityLimits
1
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BakersfieldCityLimits 03/18/07 - 11:46 am
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The Sheriff's department is

The Sheriff's department is currently in the process of becomming a exclusive training ground for other departments, and this will be to the detrament of the public. You have deputies being made investigators after 2 years, before they are really able to effectively patrol much less conduct an investigation. Deputies are forced to work specials to live, and this should be unacceptable. Recently an effort was made to provide a rettirement plan that would credit each deputy with 1.4% of his/her salary per year of service. This would work out to be 63% after a career of 45 years. The plan went down in flames as being to expensive. That is fine, if it is too much for the county to afford so be it. However, do not complain anymore about the Sheriff's Office. You get what you pay for.
No one can afford to tell the public the truth, the deputy that came to your house might not have done the best job, but he did the best job that he could. He might be a HS dropout with a GED so he's not going to be polished. He might even have a misd. arrest record. The county has determined what they are willing to pay, and we're all reaping the benefits. DON"T EXPECT A ROLEX FOR TIMEX MONEY.

wasrcso
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wasrcso 03/18/07 - 02:09 pm
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I used to work for RCSO as

I used to work for RCSO as well. 6 years. I left awhile back for an $8000 raise to start over with a smaller department. I now make over twice what I was making a few years ago! If the pay doesn't change, neither will the quality of work or the length of service. RCSO is a good place to learn, but you are crazy to stay there when you can make a helluva lot more $$$ elsewhere. I haven't worked a special duty job in a year and a half.

As It Is
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As It Is 03/18/07 - 02:38 pm
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It is great that deptuies

It is great that deptuies have the opportunity to work specials which help the community, the Sheriff's Office and allow the deputy to make extra money. However, for the deputy, that's exactly what it should be - extra money. It is a disgrace what the RCSO pays their deputies and their non-exsistent retirement plan ensures they will not stay for long. As for deputies not working at bars where there are ploblems, this could easily be solved by having very strict rules and not allowing over serving or disorderly conduct and having plenty of deputies to enforce the rules like the Country Club has done. They have very few problems and are always very crowded but their officers will quickly arrest anyone trying to enter under age or causing a problem and their management stays on top of everything making sure there are no problems. Deputies working in the community on specials helps to augment the normal deputies assigned to areas and greatly helps Richmond County. The RCSO has some very fine deputies, many whom have stayed for a long time even with their low pay. However, if they wish to retain these good deputies and attract new ones they need to increase their pay & incentives

BakersfieldCityLimits
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BakersfieldCityLimits 03/18/07 - 04:52 pm
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Specials, by in large are

Specials, by in large are what allow deputies to make ends meet. They are not " extra " When I first started I was told never to budget with specials in mind, but to treat the money as " extra " Now we are told to get as many as you can so that you can afford to pay for a house.

I did not enter this job to get rich, but I would like to think that we rate a pay that would not require me to work 35 hours a week extra in addition to my regular. job. Unlike every other department in Richmond County ( water works, Fire Department, etc. ) depuites DO NOT get paid overtime for working. We get comp. time. This is time that you can take off later, the grocery store will not exchange this for food.

jose
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jose 03/19/07 - 03:01 am
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I was a deputy up in to

I was a deputy up in to january of this year. If deputies are leaving on their terms, they are being fired for stupid stiff such as the myspace deal. They are still short in the jails and road patrol. Investigators work specials to but with an ever growing case load they dont have the time. IT IS TIME TO FORM A UNION!!!!! look up this website: iupa.org this is the website for the international union of police officers. atlanta and fulton county police and sheriff officers have an strong and active union to help fight for better pay and benefits. they also help and defend an officer when he or she gets in trouble and saves their job.Being fired for a webpage is excessive and a union would have save those guys and load of grief.

Waymore
103
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Waymore 03/19/07 - 07:28 am
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Jose, I hope that you were

Jose, I hope that you were able to complete reports that were more professional appearing than what you wrote here. As far as the Deputy's being fired for the Myspace incident, how many times were Deputy's told NOT to post anything indicating that they were members of the RCSO?? They all should have been fired. Their foolishness makes my job that much harder. If you don't understand why they should have been fired, I guess there is no use trying to explain it. And yes, there are problems on the department, but the bulk of them stem from the fact that the commissioners don't see fit to give employees better pay, benefits, and retirement. Until they do, RCSO will be training for other agencies.

jackfruitpaper833
41
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jackfruitpaper833 03/22/07 - 02:27 pm
0
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We use atleast up to 10

We use atleast up to 10 officers for Laney's Super Reunion Parade, they are worth the money, so if you are having a special event, buget for the officers.

Let them work in my opinion.

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