In the state of Georgia, sheriffs hold the utmost authority over county law enforcement. They are the final word in any county law enforcement matter, and the constitution for the state of Georgia mandates that every county have one. In many counties, sheriffs relinquish general law enforcement duties to the county police department, but this isn’t a requirement and is not always the case. The duties of a sheriff and his or her deputies include maintaining the tranquility of the county through dedicated law enforcement categories, and these categories are as follows: law enforcement officer, officer of the court, and detention officer.
As law enforcement officers, the county sheriff and his or her deputies are responsible for maintaining the safety and peace of their citizens’ everyday lives through enforcing laws meant for the protection of the county. Although many sheriffs relinquish this activity to county police departments, the sheriff holds the responsibility to ensure law enforcement is executed properly.
As officers of the court, the sheriff and his or her deputies are responsible for the safety and security of court proceedings. The sheriff or his or her appointed representative operates as the court’s bailiff and ensures the security of both court officials and jury members through all court proceedings. The bailiff is responsible for serving all court summons and ensures that proceedings operate safely and smoothly, from summons to the completion of all proceedings.
Finally, as detention officers, sheriffs and their appointed deputies are responsible for the safety of both county jail inmates and the jail as a whole, including jail staff. The state of Georgia has strict requirements of sheriff and deputies in relation to the care of inmates and the prevention of escape.
Within any given sheriff department, there is a hierarchy of ranks set forth to ensure efficiency and complete execution of all law enforcement matters. While a sheriff is the elected official who holds the responsibility of all county law enforcement matters, one single sheriff is incapable of executing all sheriff duties unless a county’s population is extremely small. Thus, a sheriff will appoint deputies and commanders who are responsible for given categories of law enforcement.
The hierarchy begins with the sheriff, who is in command of every deputy and commander, and he or she is responsible for every operation deputies complete. Below sheriffs usually sit a chief commander who administers responsibilities to deputies and commanders. While each county is unique in its executive staffing structure, commanders usually maintain specific departments that rest under the ultimate authority of the chief deputy and the sheriff him/herself. Within the state of Georgia, there are one hundred fifty-nine (159) counties, each with its own sheriff department responsible for its law enforcement agencies.
As populations in these counties rise, so does the need for increased deputy and police personnel. Many counties in Georgia have remained on top of this trend, however, lowering the number of arrests between the years 2009 and 2015 by rapidly increasing the number of deputies and police. In 2009, Georgia totaled over sixty-nine thousand (69,000) arrests, which decreased by sixteen (16) percent in 2015, totaling just over fifty-eight thousand (58,000) arrests.
This has been no small feat for Georgia’s county sheriff departments, and they in no way take it lightly. In order to become a sheriff’s deputy, candidates are required to have acquired a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, or to have extensive experience in law enforcement, and they must necessarily have a criminal record clean of any felony charges or convictions. Most sheriff’s deputies begin their law enforcement experience within a local police department where they receive grueling training that includes extensive education on local laws and law enforcement and intensive physical training. Sheriff’s deputies, once hired, are trained on the job for the specific departments in which they operate.
Becoming a sheriff, on the other hand, is an even more intense process with extremely high requirements, because as an elected law enforcement official, a person running for sheriff must impress his or her constituents. This process begins with law enforcement experience, and most sheriff candidates receive a degree of higher education (for example, a master’s degree in some law enforcement field). A good candidate for sheriff has consistently invested in the community through various volunteer and law enforcement efforts, and he or she has built the trust of the community through a history of integrity and bravery.
Sheriff candidates who have successfully gained the trust of their communities and have been elected to the office of county sheriff are given responsibility for all county law enforcement and incarceration matters, which includes responsibility for the jails and inmates their counties. They maintain the processes set forth by both the constitution of the state of Georgia and their county’s policies, which are similar in every county. Once an inmate has been arrested and either charged with or convicted of a crime, remaining in jailed custody, said inmate is immediately put under the care of the county sheriff who is responsible for the safety and well being of all inmates.
Inmates are allowed visitation with loved ones, but there are rules and procedures that must be followed, enforced by the sheriff and his or her deputies. First of all, every jail has its own visitation schedule, and abiding by this schedule is the only way to access an inmate in person. It’s also important to note that any visitor suspected of introducing, or intending to introduce, contraband into the facility will be banned from visitation immediately. To find an inmate’s location and to determine policy specific to his or her facility, the Georgia Department of Corrections allows any citizen to access this information by searching a database, using first and last name, case number, or inmate identification number.
Due to variations in policy and procedure from facility to facility, all staff and officers who work at a Georgia detention center are required to undergo training relating to their specific facility and it’s environment. Any staff member or officer at a detention center are well versed in the policy and procedure of their facility, rendering them capable to handle any problem or situation that could arise during visitation. This is for the safety of staff, visitors, and inmates.