As we have matured, we now understand what our elders meant years ago; time flies, and the older we get the faster the years pass. Funny how smart those folks were way back then! It seems as if only a few months ago we were preparing this same report for 2019. Throw in technology and you can only imagine it will all get faster and busier.
The Appling County Sheriff’s Office is always doing the people’s work. We are moving at a rapid pace, already one quarter into 2021. Wow! All seven divisions of the Sheriff’s Office have worked diligently to provide services to the Appling County citizens. As the leader of this agency, I am extremely proud of each of these employees and their work ethic and dedication to Appling County. Make no mistake about it, these men and women are called to be in their individual roles here.
As an agency, we do so many things that we cannot list them all in this article, but we will hit some of the highlights. During 2020, the most visible component of the Sheriff’s Office, the Uniform Division, patrolled approximately 414,787 miles of mostly Appling County roads. While patrolling, the deputies conducted 4,105 traffic stops for various violations and infractions of Georgia Law. During these stops, they wrote 1,182 citations and issued 3,305 warnings. Included in these numbers, deputies arrested 57 Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and 141 drug violators. They also responded to over 5,000 other calls for service, served 1,242 warrants and 730 civil papers.
We have fulfilled our obligation to the courts of Appling County, with the assistance of our bailiffs, to include Superior Court, Grand Jury, Juvenile Court, State Court and Recorders Court. We have provided security approximately 45-50 times throughout the year, ensuring a safe environment for our court workers, attorneys, victims, citizens and defendants. The court security team provides services to other partners such as the County Commission, Courthouse Annex Complex, Registrar’s Office and Child Support Recovery Unit. We also provided security for all elections throughout 2020 to include the special election, primary and general elections.
Our Criminal Investigative Division (CID) continues to be a vital part of the ACSO. This unit initiated and opened 398 new cases during 2020. A major responsibility of the CID is to conduct complex and detailed investigations that oftentimes do not result in a prosecution. That does not mean they were not worthy of investigation, but by their nature, demanded review by law enforcement. While investigating these cases, they prepared and documented 54 search warrants on vehicles, homes and electronic equipment. As a result of these open cases, investigators issued 264 warrants and arrested 114 major violators. Those cases that have not been resolved are still under investigation and our team is working daily to bring these to a successful prosecution. When possible, we work closely with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and other federal and state agencies. As a result of these partnerships, we prosecuted at least five (5) federal cases and many state court cases and we assisted with numerous others that are pending prosecution. This group aided and received aid from the United States Marshals Service throughout the year to apprehend fugitives.
The Appling County School Resource Division, much like the rest of the ACSO, found itself working extremely hard for our citizens. During 2020, which encompasses parts of two school years, deputies provided security for approximately 60 home and 24 away events. They also assisted with Alternative School on at least 90 occasions, conducted 17 home visits with school staff and provided guidance regarding law enforcement verses administrative matters, to resolve all manner of situations. They made appropriate referrals to outside agencies regarding matters that were deemed law enforcement in nature and followed up to ensure prosecutions as required. During the year, one new School Resource Deputy (SRD) attended and completed CHAMPS Instructor Training and he along with two other Instructors provided these classes for “all” our fifth-grade students. Your SRDs also assisted the ACSO and Community Connections in presenting our PRIDE class at least twice during the year, allowing many youthful offenders one last chance at saving their license and possibly an increase to the parents insurance.
As always, the Appling County Detention Center (ACDC) and its staff never slow down or close. We maintained the safety and security of the jail, inmates and staff, daily. Throughout 2020, we averaged 72 inmates per day, with the last two months of the year increasing to approximately 100 per day. As a full-service facility, we provide medical/mental health services, food services and work detail services. The ACDC in conjunction with contractual agencies, prepared over 79,000 meals and completed 639 medical intakes, 396 sick calls, 91 doctor visits and 88 mental health visits. As a result of COVID-19, which caused the Department of Corrections to shut down their work details, we had the only details working in the county. They completed maintenance details at our county facilities, picked up trash on county roadways and aided the county road department. These detainees also assisted with special details such as community food distribution, Community Connections Teen Maze, Christmas toy drive, and helped the school system in building COVID-19 student dividers. They also provided inside details to wash, clean and maintain the facility.
Your Emergency 911 Dispatch Center is yet another part of this agency that never closes. We are up and running 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Between the Appling County Sheriff’s Office, Baxley Police Department, Appling County EMS, Appling County EMA, Appling County Coroner, Appling County Fire Departments and the Baxley Fire Department as well as numerous state agencies, there is always somebody demanding communication services. This unit received almost 12,000 Emergency 911 calls in 2020. In addition, they answered 25,594 non-emergency calls for service or information and placed 11,617 outbound calls for assistance or information for the entities they serve. It is amazing the volume of calls that your dispatchers are handling, and they do a super job of relaying this information.
Putting all these divisions together and making them work, falls on our Administrative Division. These employees are the glue that holds the fabric in one piece. They meet and greet every person that comes into the Sheriff’s Office, complete fingerprint request for employment and weapons carry permits. They handle open records requests, monitor and enroll sex offenders into our supervision model, track and monitor evidence and reach out to victims as offenders move through our system. They monitor our grants, billing, collections, contracts and general filings of all things inside the Sheriff’s Office. They track and monitor our criminal warrants and civil processes ensuring they are properly served and returns made. They validate and maintain each employee’s personnel file and confirm their required yearly training and certifications. They also track our calendar events to ensure the proper employees are notified or reminded of tasks and details. On top of all these duties, they help make sure we recognize and celebrate birthdays, special occasions and follow-up with staff that may need other assistance. In short, we could not be successful if not for this group.
In 2020 we initiated a Training Division that will be responsible to all divisions and employees of the ACSO. For the year of 2020, our deputies, detention officers, dispatchers and administrative staff attended and received credits for over 1,900 hours of training. At present we have a part-time director that is responsible for providing, recommending and tracking training for all our staff. Part of the responsibility for this division will be to find appropriate training, training instructors and locations with an emphasis on bringing the training to us, rather than us going to the training. A part of the expectations will be that all our staff receive training, not just our POST certified staff. This will be in fulfillment of our mission statement to provide a fully trained and professional staff.
In addition to these activities, our entire agency is very active in community events, to support Appling County in every way. We host Explorer POST 560 for young citizens, to encourage them to look at all the service-oriented professions. Our agency partnered with Appling Healthcare for an Ebola outbreak drill to prepare for such events. ACSO partnered with Appling Health Department to bring COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Our team also worked closely with the Chamber of Commerce to complete the 2020 Census, attended Festival Board meetings and participated in the Christmas parade. We have worked closely with our Board of Education to attend and provide security at many events such as board meetings, valentine dances, pageants, school climate meetings, back to school giveaways, graduation, prom and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader”. It was our pleasure to attend the JROTC Inaugural Military Ball and attend all the Homecoming events.
Additionally, your Sheriff’s Office conducted Church Security Training, hosted and encouraged our community to support the American Red Cross, resulting in record blood donations. We hosted a memorial to recognize fallen deputy, Woodrow Simmons, and Women in Action community meeting. It was an honor to welcome the Summerall Annual Family Reunion to Baxley/Appling County, partake in community leader Joyce Skipper’s Birthday Parade and attend NAACP Townhall meetings and the MLK Parade. And finally, it was the privilege of the ACSO, with the support of local citizens to adopt several families and provide them with gifts and meals for Christmas.