Sheriff's Office Update
Addressing Goals and Challenges for 2019
Since Sheriff Tim Norton was elected late last year, he and Undersheriff Dave Fisher have been working towards many of their goals for the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office. These include:
- Nearly all the Office’s patrol vehicles have been updated with the current logo, giving them a fresh look while also reducing confusion caused by multiple different markings. A few vehicles couldn’t be painted due to damage from previous accidents. The upgrades were made for only half the cost of the previous markings.
- The Sheriff has been prioritizing community involvement, and believes it’s important to interact with and understand the citizens of Elbert County. He participates in school activities, including a reading program, meetings and even a sleepover at Singing Hills Elementary, where he bought pizza for everyone there. The Sheriff and Undersheriff have also been meeting with homeowner groups, including a group in Sun Country dealing with livestock deaths attributed to two dogs.
- The Sheriff’s Office is in the process of hiring a school resource officer, a brand new position that will work closely with school administrators and faculty to ensure schools are safe places for students to learn. The new position will be partially funded by the local school districts[EK1] .
- The record-breaking March blizzard was a good test of the Sheriff’s Office emergency response. The Sheriff and Undersheriff worked in the Emergency Operations Center along with several other emergency response officials throughout the course of the blizzard, except when out on rescue missions. The County had more than 400 people in three shelters, many who were from outside the area. Undersheriff Fisher said that they learned a lot of lessons during this blizzard, many of which they were able to apply to the second spring storm.
- The Sheriff’s Office completed a reorganization and several assessments of its critical functions with outside agencies and experts in jail operations, evidence, patrol and SWAT. They’ve completed internal audits and established a new citizen oversight committee.
- The office has strengthened partnerships with first responders throughout the region.
The Sheriff’s Office is still facing a number of challenges ahead. Despite adding eight deputies since the first of the year, staffing continues to be a challenge.
“Our absolute biggest challenge is getting quality people hired, and more importantly, keeping them with the Sheriff’s Office,” Fisher said. “There are issues with pay and benefits that we need to address or we will continue to lose our staff to agencies that pay several thousands of dollars more to start, in addition to having excellent benefit packages and top notch equipment.”
They are also in need of a new jail. The current facility is old and in need of significant maintenance and upgrades, according to Fisher, and with growth predictions indicating there could be more than twice as many prisoners in the next five years, a facility update is necessary. The Sheriff's Office is conducting an assessment of the staffing and functions of inmate housing, court security and transportation, and Fisher predicts it will show that these areas are understaffed.