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Clayton County sheriff defends conference

By Ed Brock

Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle is defending his use of personnel in hosting a summertime conference during which sheriff's deputies earned comp time while escorting family members of conference attendees.

In July, Tuggle's office hosted the Southern Police Institute Alumni Association's annual conference that was attended by law enforcement personnel from around the nation. In many cases their wives and children came too and, while the training seminars were being held, deputies escorted the family members on trips to tourist spots like Stone Mountain and Six Flags Over Georgia.

A report aired Monday evening by WAGA Fox 5 News' I-Team criticized the conference as a misuse of taxpayer's money, saying the deputies were used as "babysitters." They showed video taken during the conference that showed the deputies in bathing suits with the youths at an amusement park or watching the wives shop at a local mall.

At one point, they showed a sheriff's department car escorting families to The World of Coke and using the bluelight to get them to the exhibit.

Tuggle said the conference overall was a benefit to his department and to the county's taxpayers.

"Any time we're the host agency for anything, there's going to be some expense and use of personnel," Tuggle said.

In response to the use of the blue light, the sheriff said he didn't know about the incident and didn't order it to be done.

The SPI, based at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, teaches courses on administration and management for members of law enforcement. Tuggle is an alumnus of the institute, as is sheriff's Capt. Samuel Smith.

Smith organized the conference because, as president of the SPIAA, it was his turn. The department took three years to plan the event. They raised money through cookouts, raffles, dress-down days and a paintball tournament.

Conference attendees paid a $270 fee as well, that went to cover some of the cost of the conference. Much of the entertainment for the families, such as the tickets to Stone Mountain, were donated.

Tuggle said the department raised around $90,000, more than what was needed to pay for the conference. The extra money financed another week of training at Homeland Security for local and state agencies operating in Clayton County, Tuggle said. It will also be used to send two more owill also be used to send two more of sheriff's department personnel to

SPI, something that would have come from the department's training budget otherwise.

"I think we're getting a good return from the manpower we used at the conference," Tuggle said.

The I-Team report pointed out that the officers received comp time, essentially extra vacation time given in lieu of overtime. They said the comp time for the 25 employees worked out to an average of a week's worth of comp time each.

Tuggle said that it is true they received comp time, but pointed out that many of the officers involved in the conference are salaried, so they get paid the same amount regardless of when they work.

Also, the department canceled one of two youth academy classes they hold during the summer to make room in the schedule for the conference. Many of the deputies involved in that community policing program were instead interacting with the youth from the conference, essentially doing the same job of interacting with young people, Tuggle said.

"It's better that we interact with (young people) now than when they are adults," Tuggle said.

The deputies who participated in the conference took care of their duties before or after going to the conference or were on call during the conference. The comp time was also taken at times when the department could spare the personnel, the sheriff said.

"We didn't impact our service to the county whatsoever," Tuggle said.

As for the training, Tuggle said it went beyond the lectures since it provided them with contacts in agencies all over the country.

"The information swapping that went on after the conference presentations was probably even more than during the lessons," Tuggle said.

As for another criticism to be aired tonight that two deputies received credit for the seminar even though they did not attend, Tuggle said the deputies watched videotapes of the seminars afterward and had access to the instructors by telephone if they had any questions.

"That's an acceptable way to get credit for the training according to (the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council)," Tuggle said.

The sheriff said he discussed the conference ahead of time with Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray and he's not trying to hide anything.

Bray said that Tuggle's management of the conference was at the sheriff's discretion and he had no problem with it.

"The sheriff told me that he got more than he expected in training," Bray said.

It was 1976 when the SPIAA conference was last held in Atlanta, and at that time it was also held in Clayton County.

This year's event was held at a hotel in Fulton County because it was large enough to accommodate what was needed.

f sheriff's department personnel to

SPI, something that would have come from the department's training budget otherwise.

"I think we're getting a good return from the manpower we used at the conference," Tuggle said.

The I-Team report pointed out that the officers received comp time, essentially extra vacation time given in lieu of overtime. They said the comp time for the 25 employees worked out to an average of a week's worth of comp time each.

Tuggle said that it is true they received comp time, but pointed out that many of the officers involved in the conference are salaried, so they get paid the same amount regardless of when they work.

Also, the department canceled one of two youth academy classes they hold during the summer to make room in the schedule for the conference. Many of the deputies involved in that community policing program were instead interacting with the youth from the conference, essentially doing the same job of interacting with young people, Tuggle said.

"It's better that we interact with (young people) now than when they are adults," Tuggle said.

The deputies who participated in the conference took care of their duties before or after going to the conference or were on call during the conference. The comp time was also taken at times when the department could spare the personnel, the sheriff said.

"We didn't impact our service to the county whatsoever," Tuggle said.

As for the training, Tuggle said it went beyond the lectures since it provided them with contacts in agencies all over the country.

"The information swapping that went on after the conference presentations was probably even more than during the lessons," Tuggle said.

As for another criticism to be aired tonight that two deputies received credit for the seminar even though they did not attend, Tuggle said the deputies watched videotapes of the seminars afterward and had access to the instructors by telephone if they had any questions.

"That's an acceptable way to get credit for the training according to (the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council)," Tuggle said.

The sheriff said he discussed the conference ahead of time with Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray and he's not trying to hide anything.

Bray said that Tuggle's management of the conference was at the sheriff's discretion and he had no problem with it.

"The sheriff told me that he got more than he expected in training," Bray said.

It was 1976 when the SPIAA conference was last held in Atlanta, and at that time it was also held in Clayton County.

This year's event was held at a hotel in Fulton County because it was large enough to accommodate what was needed.