Under tight security, sheriff rearranges staff

By Ed Brock

With armed "observers" stationed on the roof of the Clayton County Jail Complex, the county's new sheriff spent his first day on the job rearranging his command structure

By mid-morning Sheriff Victor Hill decided not to reinstate 16 members of the Sheriff's Department command staff and he was still making more changes.

Hill confirmed that his "observers" on the roof were armed, but he wouldn't say if they had rifles. Their role, he said, was to watch for trouble and report it to the patrol cars below.

"Any time you don't reinstate somebody, emotions run high," Hill said.

Hill said his concerns stem from the case of DeKalb County Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown who was killed shortly before he was to take office. The man he defeated for the office, former Sheriff Sidney Dorsey and two others were arrested in connection with the incident and Dorsey was convicted of murder.

Hill said he wanted to learn from history and he was concerned not only with his own security but with the security of others.

"The security of everybody who comes into the courthouse is my responsibility and I take that very seriously," Hill said.

However, Hill said there had been no serious incidents during the course of the restructuring.

Hill also said that some people in the department thought they were protected under Civil Service laws, but he said those laws did not apply to anybody in the sheriff's office. In order for the sheriff's employees to have Civil Service protection, Hill said, the sheriff has to request it in writing from the county commission and the commission has to act on it by way of passing a resolution.

This was not done under the previous administration, Hill said.

Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, also on his first official day at the job, called Hill's actions "unlawful and in violation of the county's Civil Service Act and its accompanying regulations."

According to a press release issued by Bell, the discharged employees complained about how they were treated.

"The employees told Bell they were herded into an area of the jail where they thought they were going to be sworn in. Instead, they stated, their badges and equipment were stripped from them and they were then escorted off the premises in a prison van," according to the press release.

Bell states through the press release that he assured the discharged employees that their "county will take every administrative and legal action to assure they are treated fairly as employees of Clayton County."

He also stated that he is asking the court to reverse the action immediately.