People can’t accuse Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree of not going to bat for his officers … at least, when it comes to cash.
This past budget season, Roundtree really put his neck out trying to get his employees proper raises.
He even ran a 20-second ad on local airwaves urging the public to support a pay increase for deputies, a move that didn’t sit well with several Augusta commissioners.
“The much-needed raises for law enforcement were not included in the 2018 budget. Shouldn’t these officers be equally compensated for the work they do?” an announcer in the ad asked. “Responding to over 370,000 service calls. Reducing violent crime over 30 percent and property crime over 40 percent. These officers are doing their job. So please ask your commissioners, what’s more important than the safety of our community? Commissioners, you now have the opportunity to make things right.”
The ad ended with the message “Paid for by Sheriff Richard Roundtree.”
But some Augusta commissioners were disappointed that the sheriff didn’t attend many of the budget workshops and, instead, turned to the airwaves to make his case.
Despite the sheriff’s actions, the Augusta Commission and City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson compromised and found the sheriff some additional funds by mid-November.
In the end, the sheriff was allocated about $1.8 million for staff pay increases in the 2018 budget.
While it was less than the $2.4 million Roundtree had originally asked for this past summer, it was more than the $750,000 that the Archer Company, the firm hired to conduct the county’s compensation study, had recommended late last year.
But sometimes, it’s not always about the money.
Dollars can’t buy commitment to a department, particularly when it comes to law enforcement agencies.
Sure, there are some deputies who are leaving Richmond County due to the low salaries, but others are allegedly leaving because of some major problems within the department that don’t have anything to do with pay.
When law enforcement officers are involved, respect, honor and dignity go a long way, and some former deputies are saying that the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is really lacking in those departments.
Specifically, there are two top members of Roundtree’s command staff that some deputies claim are out of line with verbal abuse and their treatment of county personnel.
And before everyone starts screaming that this Insider is being racist, these are two white members of the sheriff’s command staff.
But officers working under these two top cops fear putting anything on the record or making an official complaint because they don’t want to be seen as a “rat” within the agency.
They also worry that filing such a complaint would haunt their careers if they decide to look for employment within another local law enforcement agency.
It’s easier to pack up and leave than fight the system.
Some former officers have gone as far as to describe the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office as a “toxic workplace.”
If that’s the case, are people really surprised that several deputies are leaving the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to join other local law enforcement agencies in Columbia County or Aiken? And how about those deputies who have left to join the Richmond County Marshal’s Office under the leadership of Marshal Ramone Lamkin?
It’s not for the money. In fact, some are even getting paid less.
It’s because deputies respect Lamkin and his leadership style.
They know that at the marshal’s office, they won’t face an abusive commander each day who’s not going to allow them to do their jobs and properly serve the community.
And apparently, Lamkin’s popularity has irritated some of the command staff within the sheriff’s office.
Earlier this year, when the marshal’s office tried to offer help in lowering crime, traffic fatalities and assisting with community outreach regularly performed by the sheriff’s office, the staff at the marshal’s office was allegedly told they were not needed.
Not needed? Really?
It’s completely absurd.
At this point, many of the veteran officers in the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office are simply trying to hold out until retirement.
In fact, some even have their countdown to retirement listed as their screensaver.
That’s the truth.
So, what are Richmond County citizens to do?
How do you put pressure on the sheriff to correct the behavior of his command staff if deputies aren’t willing to file complaints or publicly voice their concerns?
Some Augustans will immediately say, “Change it from the top.”
Get real. Roundtree was just re-elected in November 2016 with almost 74 percent of the vote. When he was originally elected in 2012, he became the first African-American sheriff in the office’s 230-year history.
Let’s face it, Roundtree isn’t going anywhere.
And everyone knows when most sheriffs are elected to that position, they stay there for at least 10 years, if not more.
For example, former Richmond County Sheriff Charlie Webster served as sheriff from 1984 until 2000. Then, former Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength followed in his footsteps and served as sheriff for the next 11 years.
Roundtree is still a fairly young sheriff and he has served only five years as sheriff so far.
Strength was 66 when he retired after serving three terms as sheriff, while Webster was 68 when he retired after serving four terms.
So, if there are actual problems within the sheriff’s office and its command staff, it’s up to Roundtree to properly address and correct those issues if deputies aren’t willing to file a formal complaint against these top officers.
It won’t be easy, but being sheriff is never easy.
If Roundtree really wants to retain more deputies and officers in his department, he might want to seriously talk to them about their work environment.
Money won’t buy loyalty, but treating officers with respect will go a long way.