The many parts of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department

Tue, 04/15/2008 - 3:15pm
By: Carolyn Cary

Fayette County Sheriff's Department

There are five major divisions within the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department: Administration, Criminal Investigation, Field Operations, Technical Services, and Traffic Enforcement, which includes training.

It has grown considerably since it was created in February 1821 at the time of the creation of Fayette County. This is an original county, meaning creating from Creek Indian lands and the 49th county created in Georgia.

The first sheriff was John Welch and the present sheriff, Randall Johnson serves as the 22nd man to serve. He is also the longest-serving sheriff, with 32 years of service.

There are descendants of a number of sheriff’s here, some of those names are Wood, Glass, Heflin, McBride, Landrum, Marshbourne, Edmonson, Hewell, Mitchell, Sams, Kerlin, Adams, Ballard, Stinchcomb and Jones, just mentioning a few of them.

The sheriff’s department and jail were built about the turn of the 20th century and stood across from the old courthouse at the center of the square in Fayetteville. The Holiday Inn Express is currently on that site. The old courthouse is the oldest courthouse building in Georgia, built in 1825.

As the county began to grow in population in the 1970s, the needs of the sheriff’s department

So let’s examine the departments necessary to operate the sheriff’s department 24/7 and start with the Administration Services Division. It is overseen by Lt. Colonel Linda Jones, director.

She is responsible for this department keeping accurate records on all incident reports and accident reports. The staff enters all incident reports, arrest booking reports, traffic citations and accident report into the in-house computer. It also maintains all of these records and is responsible for their dissemination to the public as required by the Georgia Open Records Act. The division interacts routinely with the county’s citizens, the courts, and prosecutors, as well as local business. They assist the businesses by checking criminal records and other assistance as requested.

The division also maintains statistical data, such as crime statistics and traffic accident stats.

It reports monthly to the state the Uniform Crime Reporting statistics as well as running criminal histories for citizens when they are needed for employment, travel, adoptions, etc.

It prepares all warrants, citations and related paperwork to be sent to the court having jurisdiction over the case. This ensures that the bonds are correct and incident reports, arrest booking and supplemental reports are with the warrants and citations when they are forwarded to the courts.

The Criminal Investigations Division is headed by Captain Mike Hattaway, director.

He oversees general investigations, the multi-agency drug suppression task force, aviation, SWAT teams, the school resource officers, crime scene investigators, the fugitive task force, ICE, immigration and customs enforcement and internal affairs.

There are over 30 well-trained investigators employing their experience and expertise over a vast array of investigation responsibilities.

Detectives are assigned to general investigations follow up leads on robberies, burglaries, and sometime homicides. This division uses the cutting edge technology and sound investigative practices by having equipment and technology that is financed through the drug forfeiture money.

Due to a growing drug problem in Fayette County, Sheriff Johnson established a Multi-Agency Drug Suppression Task Force in 1989. This group are a highly specialized and motivated officers who perform some of the most dangerous work in the department. Captain Mike Pruitt oversees this area.

Again they have the latest technology to use in their covert surveillance and drug investigations. The sophisticated electronic devises serve to gather evidence against the drug traffickers in Fayette County. As mentioned previously, the money received through drug enforcement has made the sheriff’s department one of the best equipped in the country.

As you become aware when on the highways and byways in Fayette County, traffic congestion has become a factor here. The newest tool ins responding quickly to emergencies is Hawk One. This helicopter was purchased and is operated entirely with drug seizure funds. Drug money cannot, however, be used for salaries of the pilots.

This unit performs daily patrols and is on constant standby for manhunts, car chases, drug interdiction and as a quick responding eye in the sky during emergency calls.

The unit is overseen by Captain Greg Craft, who is himself a licensed helicopter pilot.

The aviation unit also assists with Project Lifesaver, a program that allows a rapid response partnership with law enforcement aiding victims and families suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders such as Down’s Syndrome and Autism. Wrist bands can be purchased at a modest price that emits a tracking signal. When someone is lost or the caregiver cannot find them, Hawk One can find them in less than 30 minutes.

The SWAT team is a group of highly trained tactical deputies operating under the umbrella of the Criminal Investigation Division and trains weekly in the use of special weapons and tactics to defuse potentially volatile situation.

The School Resource Officers are overseen by Lt. Tommy Pope. They are located in each middles school and high school. They are chosen in cooperation with the county board of education.

One officer in the sheriff’s department is assigned to the United States Marshall’s Southeastern Regional Fugitive Task Force. This deputy is empowered by the authority of the U. S. Marshal’s office to travel anywhere in the United States to track down and apprehend wanted fugitives from Fayette County.

The sheriff’s department also has an attached member of the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, otherwise known as ICE.

This allows for a new investigative approach with new resources to provide unparalleled investigations and security services.

Internal Affairs is the process used to hear from citizens about possible procedural errors as regards any employee in the sheriff’s department. The sheriff depends on input from people in the community to maintain the high standards of service and professionalism this department represents in the community.

The Fields Operations Division is headed by Major Tommy Nations, director. He oversees uniformed patrols, the warrant-fugitive section, civil service section, court services section, D.A.R.E. unit, and the watch office.

The uniformed patrols is to provide for the protection of life, property, the prevention of crime, the detention and arrest of suspects, preserve the public peace, and traffic regulation.

It is made up of four shifts with each shift being manned by a lieutenant, a sergeant, a corporal, and a compliment of deputies. Each shift works 12 hours a day and rotates every four months to a different schedule.

Captain David Moorman oversee the warrant-fugitive section which is responsible for the processing of all “Court Ordered Warrants of Arrest” as well as “commitment papers.” It works with local, state and federal law enforcement in an effort to locate, arrest and detain fugitives wanted for the commission of crimes in Fayette County and other jurisdictions.

Lt. Scott Milam oversees the Civil Services Section and is responsible for the processing all Civil documents and Civil Court orders within the county.

Capt. Larry Whitlock oversees the Court Services Section. It provides for the safety, security, order and dignity in the courtroom at the Justice Center. It is responsible for providing safety and security for judges, court personnel, jurors, witnesses, spectators, defendants and others having business in the courts. It is also responsible for the screening of all individuals entering the courthouse.

The D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) unit is overseen by Lt. Deborah Hannah. It is a collaborative effort of officers, educators, students, parents, and the community to offer an educational program in the classroom aimed at preventing or reducing drug abuse and violence among children and youth. The core program is to help students recognize and resist the many direct and subtle pressures that influence them to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, inhalants, or other drugs or to engage in violence.

The Watch Office is the nerve center of Field Operations and an important link back to the sheriff’s office for the deputies on patrol. It is manned at all times ad allows the 911 operator to concentrate on dispatch functions. It is the on-site office for incidents directly reported in person.

The Technical Services Division is overseen by Major Robert Glaze, director. This department is responsible for the jail. It was designed and built to hold 384 prisoners in the housing units with an additional 20 cells available in the medical section. It holds incarcerated persons who have been arrested and are waiting trial, persons sentenced locally to serve one year or less and persons who have violated their parole and/or probation who have been sentenced to time to serve in the State Prison System and waiting transfer to the Department of Corrections.

Particular functions of personnel assigned to the jail are intake/booking and release of persons who have been arrested. This includes completing forms, data entry, photographing, and fingerprinting each person. Additional duties include counting inmates, serving meals, transporting inmates to and from court, doctors, dentists, prisons, etc. They must also conduct perimeter building and cell searches. Over 300 such transports were conducted in 2007.

Also in 2007, total admissions were 5,165, the average daily population was 246, and the average length of stay was 17 days.

Traffic Enforcement and Training Division is overseen by Lt. Col. Wayne Hannah, director.

This unit is responsible for all traffic accidents in the unincorporated areas, enforcement of traffic laws, investigations of vehicular homicide and other fatal crash investigations. Their expertise is also provided to all county municipalities when requested.

Traffic complaints are an increasing phenomenon. These complaints might come from the county commissioners, the board of education or the public in general. Whether the complaint is an emergency or non-emergency, each one is handled by this department.

Traffic congestion is also a concern, and escorts average two a day. Without this service, motorcades would significantly and adversely affect already congested traffic.

Safety education is also important with one of these being correct installation of child safety seats. A deputy attends a four-day training class and they are glad to visit you either in their parking lot or at your home to show you the proper way to install these seats. Unfortunately, Fayette County deputies find that 4 out of 5 installations are done incorrectly by parents. Their efforts to help you understand the correct usage is expected to improve compliance rates and save lives.

This unit conducts traffic studies for our municipalities as well as the unincorporated areas. Sensors are placed that can tell how many vehicles pass by, how many wheels, the rate of speed, and give an accurate picture of any problems. If the sensors find a speeding problem in a particular area, deputies know to watch that area more closely.

The unit also provides training for all employees in the sheriff’s department. Training and documentation of that training is instrumental in reducing legal exposure.

Sheriff Randall Johnson was sworn into office in January 1977. At that time there was approximately 17 employees in the department, and now there are 229 employees. While math will show this is a 1347 percent increase, a study of the above will show that in 1977 there only was an average of 20 inmates in the jail, there was only one high school and two middle schools, none of which had resource officers, there were no traffic or crime scene specialized groups, or a need for aviation, bloodhounds, drug dogs, or SWAT teams.

The increase in population has increased the level of service they expect which in turn increases staff. It is estimated that the Georgia Department of Transportation’s number of Vehicle Miles Traveled in Fayette County shows a 36.4 percent increase from 1996 to 2007. It also projects an additional 54.2 percent increase from 2007 to 2030.

The next time you see an employee of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, thank them for their training, dedication, expertise in their individual field, and for their care for each one of us.

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