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Clayton election: Sheriff's race questions

All candidates for the office of sheriff of Clayton County were provided questions by the Clayton News Daily and given two weeks in which to answer. What follows are the candidates' verbatim answers to four selected questions. Candidates Victor Hill and Godreque Newsome did not respond to the questionnaire.

— Kathy Jefcoats

Jon Antoine

Age: 40

Occupation: Investigator with Clayton County District Attorney's Office

Education: B.S. degree in criminal justice and master's degree in public administration

Years in law enforcement: 17

Q. What do you deem the primary issues facing the sheriff's office?

A. A lack of leadership and accountability. This office doesn't come with entitlements, there are no crowns when you become sheriff. People who don't vote for me, I'm their sheriff too. The sheriff has got to be willing to put himself on the line. If I have to argue with the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, I'll do it. We can disagree agreeably but it has to be for the betterment of the county.

Q. Specifically, how do you think the sheriff's office should operate?

A. The sheriff's office has three constitutional duties -- serving warrants, handling courthouse security and running the jail -- and we've got to get back to that. The sheriff we have now has never patrolled, never done any of the physical aspects of the job. The duplication of services with the Clayton County Police is ridiculous. The office needs to do what the constitution requires it to do. Do that first. If not, the citizens should run me out on a rail.

Q. What do you think is the most important attribute to being a good sheriff's deputy? How important is having a fully-trained staff?

A. A well-trained staff is a well-run staff. Training is paramount and the right training is as paramount as the training itself. I want to see the number of training hours increased. I know that resistance to that includes not having enough instructors to provide the training or having deputies beat down so bad with work, they just don't have time to get training. But I propose in-house training and web-based training. I'm an instructor. I plan to teach. Training is so important because when you have a case involving excessive force, the first thing the attorneys look at is the training the deputies have had.

Q. How important is it to you to work well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county? Do you have any specific plans to foster good relations among all the Clayton agencies?

A. I plan to make myself available to other cities but there won't be any of this, 'I'm the sheriff, come see me and we'll talk.' I will meet them at their locations to find out what they need from me. And we need to include the Farmers Market police and the Clayton State University police. Whatever they need done, I'm there for them. Fostering relationships and networking makes our jobs so much easier.

Tina Daniel

Age: 46

Occupation: Clayton County Police Department

Education: Studied criminal justice at Tuskegee University and Florida Institute of Technology

Years in law enforcement: 17

Q. What do you deem the primary issues facing the sheriff's office?

A. The irresponsible spending of millions of dollars that has contributed to the overall budget deficit in the sheriff’s office and the county, the gross lack of integrity causing sexual harassment lawsuits, hiring of officers from other metro Atlanta police agencies that have already paid out millions of dollars due to officers negligence and the lack of respect for the employees and citizens. Not to mention the thousands of un-served warrants, which adds to the increase of crime.

Q. Specifically, how do you think the sheriff's office should operate?

A. The primary responsibilities of the sheriff’s office are to 'secure the jail, serve the warrants and to protect the courts.'  The county's police department is the designated first responder, which means they answer 911 calls. As a law enforcement agency, the deputies of the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office will work with the police departments to play their role to reduce crime and ensure services are not being duplicated. I disagree with consolidating the police and sheriff’s office because each department has its own distinct responsibilities.

Q. What do you think is the most important attribute to being a good sheriff's deputy? How important is having a fully-trained staff?

A. The most important attributes are 'honesty and integrity.' The sheriff and her deputies must realize their job is to enforce the law and that they are not above the law. Attitude reflects leadership and that sets the tone for the department. It is essential to provide a fully-trained staff, which ensures that everyone has the skills and resources to uphold the duties of the sheriff's office. It will be imperative that on-going training and development take place due to the vicarious liability inherited by the sheriff when she takes office.

Q. How important is it to you to work well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county? Do you have any specific plans to foster good relations among all the Clayton agencies?

A. Due to the fact that the main concern of our residents is being victims of burglaries, it is crucial that the sheriff is able to work with the other law enforcement agencies in the county. I will work with all of the police departments to create a Multi-Jurisdictional Burglary Task Force that will include all of the local jurisdictions to involve the Solicitor General and District Attorney's offices. This ensures the assets from each agency are being utilized together to decrease the burglaries and prosecute the violators.  This partnership will start on the day that I am elected, not every three years when election time rolls around.

Lawrence Ethridge

Age: 44

Occupation: Former assistant director of campus operations for the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

Education: Working on degree in criminal justice.

Years in law enforcement: 16

Q. What do you deem the primary issues facing the sheriff's office?

A. It is my opinion that trust or the lack of is the primary issue.  I will say that since 2005, the last two sheriffs have used the office as their bully pulpit. This must stop which is why I am an advocate of the Citizen Review Panel. The purpose of the Citizen Review Panel is to ensure that there is no cover up of any allegation of misconduct or civil rights violations.  While I strive to be honorable at all times, I want the citizens of Clayton County to see that I am humble enough to let them in their sheriff’s office to provide that level of transparency to build trust.

Q. Specifically, how do you think the sheriff's office should operate?

A. If elected as your sheriff, I will return it back to a 24 hour, 365 days a year sheriff’s office to reduce crime, preserve life, become an agency that all citizens can be proud of and an example for other agencies to follow. I would relinquish the school resource officer unit and remove the mobile precincts outside our schools, but add a few deputies to do our part to interface with the school district but would make sure those deputies are properly trained. I would allow the jail staff to choose by majority if they want to stay on their shifts yearly or rotate every four months.  I would also look for ways to send staff to the police academy, purchase less than lethal weapons to preserve life, increase training, and increase and update the technology. 

Q. What do you think is the most important attribute to being a good sheriff's deputy? How important is having a fully-trained staff?

A. Being honorable and displaying integrity is very important.  I would also say that industriousness is just as important.  The citizens should never be in fear of their local law enforcement officials.  I will add being in good physical, emotion, mental and spiritual health will provide the citizens of Clayton County with the type of sheriff deputy they can be proud of.  Also continuing education classes are a plus. 

Q. How important is it to you to work well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county? Do you have any specific plans to foster good relations among all the Clayton agencies?

A. I believe that this is most crucial in reducing crime for all of Clayton County.  As the chief law enforcement officer I will lead the way in developing positive relationships with all law enforcement agencies and prosecuting agencies within Clayton County along with state and federal agencies. I will host monthly meetings with all law enforcement executives to ensure all our agencies are cooperating.  Criminals do not have jurisdictions so it’s important to communicate.  I also have a goal to deputize all law enforcement agencies within Clayton County to ensure no criminal escape our reach.  Being sheriff is a 24 hour, 365 day a year job, so I will be accessible to them.

Sheriff Kem Kimbrough

Age: 40

Occupation: Clayton County sheriff

Education: Law degree from Emory University

Years in law enforcement: Five as a sheriff's deputy; sheriff since 2008

Q. What do you deem the primary issues facing the sheriff's office?

A. The primary issues I see for the future of this agency lie in its technology and capital infrastructure.  Most of the capital assets of the agency are approaching 12 years of age; replacement is going to prove very costly, and there seem to be no sources of funding available.  On the other hand, the cost of failure for any of those assets is too terrible to bear.  Our technology needs are similarly positioned; we need more technology to help us work more efficiently and effectively to meet our resource shortfalls, but again there seems to be no funding to acquire the technology that we need.  Once we are past the political season, our focus has to turn toward addressing these issues.

Q. Specifically, how do you think the sheriff's office should operate?

A. The sheriff's office should concentrate on its three primary functions: serving warrants and process, securing the courts and maintaining the jail, but the sheriff is also charged by law with performing "any other duty that necessarily appertains to the office" - which means that the sheriff should fill in the gaps where other agencies need their assistance.  The people do not expect to hear "No, that's not my job" from their sheriff; instead, it is the responsibility of the sheriff to see to it that the people's needs are met, while coordinating with and giving due regard to the other agencies involved, whenever possible.

Q. What do you think is the most important attribute to being a good sheriff's deputy? How important is having a fully-trained staff?

A. The most important attribute for a good deputy sheriff is to have and maintain a customer service oriented attitude about their duties.  Dealing properly with the public oftentimes can soften the blow when we lack the resources to address their needs.  Training is very important, given the diversity of roles and missions we are expected to fulfill.  Training is a continuous process, and we often must compromise on time spent training to meet our operational responsibilities.  The sheriff has to ensure that sufficient time is set aside for proper training, and I have aspired to do that over that past four years as this agency has grown and evolved.

Q. How important is it to you to work well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county? Do you have any specific plans to foster good relations among all the Clayton agencies?

A. I have put a good deal of effort into working well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county; from entering into agreements to deputize officers from various agencies to enable them to work more closely together, to planning joint operations amongst the departments to address county-wide issues, to holding a monthly meeting for the chiefs of all law enforcement agencies so that we can gather to discuss our challenges. I plan to continue in this spirit, should the citizens grant me a second term.

Ricky Redding

Age: 46

Occupation: Not answered

Education: High school diploma, Georgia Law Enforcement Command College at Columbus State University

Years in law enforcement: 11 years

Q. What do you deem the primary issues facing the sheriff's office?

A. Unprofessional jail operations, accidental releases, slow release times and unsafe conditions. Failing to operate within core responsibilities and operational budget. Unfair employment, promotional standards and discriminatory discipline practices. Low employee morale and trust at the sheriff’s office.

Q. Specifically, how do you think the sheriff's office should operate?

A. It should operate to perform the core functions of the office, which consists of the courts, the county jail and the service and execution of warrants and civil papers. The sheriff’s office will also perform other duties deemed necessary to create a safe environment for the citizens.

Q. What do you think is the most important attribute to being a good sheriff's deputy? How important is having a fully-trained staff?

A. One of the most important attributes to being a good sheriff deputy is integrity and willingness to serve. It is very important to have a fully-trained staff.  Having a fully-trained staff will reduce the number of lawsuits and citizens complaints.

Q. How important is it to you to work well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county? Do you have any specific plans to foster good relations among all the Clayton agencies?

A. The sheriff’s office cannot fight the battle against crime alone.  As long as I am sheriff, I will create a countywide coalition working with all law enforcement agencies in the county.  We are a team and the sheriff's office cannot afford to have a 'go it alone' cowboy mentality.  The mission of fighting crime calls for the strength and effort of more than just one agency.  By building and maintaining meaningful relationships with all law enforcement agencies, we can effectively combat crime in Clayton County.

Rica Wright

Age: 47

Occupation: Former Clayton County sheriff's major

Education: BS in criminal justice, working on MBA in management

Years in law enforcement: 14

Q. What do you deem the primary issues facing the sheriff's office?

A. Morale is ridiculously low; there is no trust, respect or faith in the current administration. Employees are fearful of their jobs and personal relationships that do not involve the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office. Equal enforcement, visibility, financial accountability, unethical hiring practices and promotions.

Q. Specifically, how do you think the sheriff's office should operate?

A. We would operate within the confines of the U.S. and state constitutions; comply with all federal mandates; abide by Civil Service Rules and the Standard Operating Procedures and Rules and Regulations of the sheriff’s office. Sheriff’s deputies should not be used in our schools, the sheriff should not travel in a motorcade using valuable workers as bodyguards, the number of deputies assigned to community service should be cut and those deputies should be assigned to provide additional warrant servers.

Q. What do you think is the most important attribute to being a good sheriff's deputy? How important is having a fully-trained staff?

A. The most important attribute is the ability to learn, retain information and apply the same. If I demand that my deputies do a certain procedure or task I must make them aware of it, train them, follow up to ensure compliance and know the procedure myself. Leadership, good or bad, always has and always will reflect through the ranks. If I am resistant to compliance and training, my deputies will be also and the entire agency is affected.

Q. How important is it to you to work well with the other law enforcement agencies in the county? Do you have any specific plans to foster good relations among all the Clayton agencies?

A. It’s very important to ensure that the county agencies work together to accomplish one common goal, make Clayton County safe. It is imperative that we foster good working relationships and share information and resources. I need to have them support my efforts as I will support theirs. Contrary to what one might believe, we are dependent of each other. I encourage them to address me when I make mistakes because when you know better you do better. We are not perfect.