Friday, March 9, 2012

Sheriff Ronnie Strength Calls It Quits

Friday, March 9, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

It's now official. This is the last year Ronnie Strength will serve as the Sheriff of Augusta-Richmond County. He announced his retirement at a press conference earlier this afternoon. Strength has been the Sheriff for the past 11 years but has been a familar face in Augusta area law enforcement for the past 35 years. For the most part Strength has been lauded as one of the best sheriffs the county has ever had, restoring integrity and confidence  to a department that was often the focus of corruption and scandal. Strength spearheaded several high profile stings responsible for taking guns and criminals off the streets, with the most recent being Operation Foxhunt. However, Strength's tenure is not without some criticism, most notably his denial early on that Augusta had a gang problem and his reluctance to adopt community policing strategies.

Now the question is, who will replace Strength? By all accounts, it is believed that  Scott Peebles is Strength's hand-picked successor, but politics may get in the way of that. Unlike most local offices, the Sheriff's office is partisan, and Strength always ran as a Democrat, despite having little in common with contemporary party leaders. Strength was able to keep in tact a coalition assembled by predecessors like former Sheriff Charles Webster, which  included elements of The Southside Mafia political machine. But doubts remain if Peebles can keep that coalition in tact and whether he would even want to  run as a Democrat.

It's been no big secret that high level movers and shakers in Augusta have been twisting Sheriff Strength's arm to stay on for one more term to give Peebles time to politically ripen. Their fear is that a strong black Democrat with high name recognition could easily win the Democratic nomination without Strength's name on the ballot. And that candidate appears to be Richard Roundtree.

For all practical purposes, if Peebles intends to take Strength's place, he will have to play pretend and run as a Democrat. A white Republican would have an uphill battle winning against a black Democrat in a general election with President Obama on the same ballot. But Roundtree has his critics, even within the black community, and is by no means a shoe-in. Roundtree said that if Strength decided to run for re-election that he would bow out and not run against him... and that sparked an effort to encourage Strength to stay on for one more term. Critics of Roundtree say that morale would plummet with him at the helm and there would be an exodus of deputies from the department. Questions also linger over an alleged self-promotion campaign on The Augusta Chronicle website comments section, with Roundtree supposedly posing as a "grateful" mother of a crime victim.

But Scott Peebles will have questions of his own to answer from critics, such as what went wrong with Operation Foxhunt, where officers accidentally raided the wrong home, which could have resulted in injury or death of innocent citizens? Peebles has since publicly apologized for the mis-hap and has vowed to correct the problems that lead to it.

Peebles has still not announced that he intends to run, but with today's news, we expect to hear something soon. Richard Roundtree is most likely definitely in the race now that Strength has bowed out. So is a duel shaping up between Roundtree and Peebles? Not so fast. There is another name being mentioned as a possible candidate to take Strength's place: Lt. Robbie Silas, who is Sheriff Strength's brother-in-law.

So who will the power brokers back in this one? This could end up being  the most expensive Sheriff's race in Augusta-Richmond County history. For an office  where the incumbent rarely ever has an opponent, this could be a real nail-biter and could be the end of conservative white democrats dominating the Sheriff's office. It looks like we have a race on our hands.***


Related Stories:
Sheriff Strength's Exit Could Have Big Impact on 12 District Congressional race
Peebles Announces Run for Sheriff; Silas Could Be Starting a Family Feud

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1 comment:

Auglawman1991 said...

The wrong house WAS NOT raided and all three operations led by Captain Scott Peebles took hundreds of criminals off of the streets, removed many guns and drugs from our community and have even received national recognition for their success. More than 50% of those arrested were not only charged with felonies but were prosecuted on federal charges meaning they will serve a minimum of 85% prior to even being eligible for parole.

The house you are referring to where Captain Peebles did apologize to the homeowner was the listed address on file for the suspect on the warrant although he was no longer staying there. No officers ever even entered the home, they simply knocked and the homeowner came to the door. Captain Peebles however, went above and beyond and apologized for her being scared but the operation was a huge success removing approximately 30 criminals during the operation and over 70 upon its conclusion. This information has since been discussed and is available under open records. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise was returned to the owners and many guns were taken off of the streets from felons.

As for community policing, when you have a Sheriff's Office that has lost over 40 sworn deputy positions in the past 4 years, millions from the budget, has been hit with furlough days, and lost 1.5 million from the jail budget, it is pretty darn hard to do real community policing. Deputies in RC have a call volume of more than 50% of that in other nearby counties so like it or not, until the commission properly funds the Sheriff's Office, community policing will be extremely difficult if not impossible.

As for the candidates, Captain Peebles is by far the most educated, prepared, honest, leader who is prepared to take a good department and make it a great one.