Is our safety at stake? Richmond County Sheriff's Office copes with 30 fewer employees

Tuesday, September 10, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock

In order to get pay raises for their employees, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office had to cut 30 positions. (Source: WRDW/WAGT)

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- The Richmond County Sheriff's Department has seen a drastic decline in the number of employees over the past few years.

Chief Patrick Clayton said the department had to defund 30 positions in order for the city to pay for salary increases. But according to the Clayton, the department has done some restructuring to ensure the number of deputies patrolling the streets stay the same.

"As far as the road officers, that number has remained stable. Where we wind up making reductions is usually in some of the support units," he said.

Those support units consist of all the specialized divisions within the sheriff's department, such as traffic, court security, criminal investigations, and community services.

Another result of the restructuring is a rise in the number of civilian employees. Uniformed officers who used to hold certain positions in the department, like Crime Scene Technician, Digital Technician, and some intelligence positions, have been replaced with civilians employees.

"We're always trying to to figure out how to squeeze as much as we can out to give the citizens the biggest bang for their buck," said Chief Clayton.

Even though Chief Clayton says the same number of deputies patrol the streets as before the cuts, the homicide rate in Richmond County continues to rise. Below are the number of homicides in Richmond County over the past few years:

2018: 32
2017: 30
2016: 21

While the increase in homicides and gun violence in Richmond County is undeniable, Clayton does not think it can be attributed to the decrease in sheriff's office personnel.

"Across the country, we've seen an increase in gun violence," he said.

According to the Pew Research Center, gun violence has increased in the United States by more than 30% in the past 5 years.

At the end of the day, Chief Clayton admits having fewer deputies is a challenge, but when it comes to compensating his staff fairly, he says it's a small price to pay.

At the end of the day, Chief Clayton admits having fewer deputies is a challenge, but when it comes to compensating his staff fairly, he says it's a small price to pay.

"That's a decision I think the sheriff would make every time," said Chief Clayton.

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