Only on 12: Sheriff candidates react to report detailing 'underutilization' of African-Americans in office

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- One week before the runoff election for Richmond County sheriff, a new report is out detailing underutilization of African-Americans in the office. The men who want to be the next top cop are tackling the topic head on.

Believe it or not, the city of Augusta just made a motion to adopt an Equal Employment Opportunity plan.

"For so long, the people have not felt connected," said Lt. Richard Roundtree. "They haven't been a part of the Sheriff's Office. They haven't felt like they had a seat to the table."

A new EEO report shows underutilization of males in general -- more specifically African-American males and females -- in the Sheriff's Office.

"It is absolutely something that has got to be addressed. National accreditation is going to help with that," said Cpt. Scott Peebles. "National accreditation demands that you have an agency that is reflective of the community it serves."

African-American "officials and patrol officers" are reportedly underutilized. The office is making a pledge to retain and recruit a more diverse staff or risk losing federal funds.

"If you have a community that is roughly 60 percent African-American and they're underrepresented," Peebles said, "how are you going to expect them to have confidence in you?"

"This race is not about race at all," Roundtree said. "But what the study shows you is we're not reflective of this community."

Peebles agrees. He says the ultimate focus is on fighting crime.

"My number one priority is protecting our families in Richmond County," he said. "And if you want to be a gang-banger and carry a gun and commit violent crimes, then I am going to do everything I can to send you to prison."

Roundtree is calling for more technology.

"The thing about a camera system is it doesn't call in sick," Roundtree said. "It works day and night ... rain or shine."

Peebles is pledging more massive covert operations like Operation Smoke Screen.

"If nothing else," he said, "We are going to send a signal out there that you never know who you are dealing with."

The Administrative Services Committee voted against the new plan this week. It goes to the full commission without recommendation next Tuesday. That is the same day as the runoff.

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