Sheriff asks, ‘What’s wrong?’ after 33 arrests of officers in three years

The sheriff of Richmond County, Georgia, is trying to figure out why there have been so many officers charged with crimes — and how to curb the misconduct.

Richard Roundtree is the sheriff in Richmond County, Georgia. He has a serious problem. Over 30 of his officers have been arrested during the last three years. Most of them were charged with smuggling items or drugs into the county jail, or assaulting prisoners.

What are we doing wrong?” “We ask ourselves: “What is it that we’re doing wrong?” Roundtree asked in June, after announced the arrest on charges of passing synthetic marijuana to a prisoner.

The crisis in Richmond County is similar to the dilemma that many county jails face, where those accused of committing crimes are detained before trial or served short sentences. Experts, workers and inmates say that jails across the country are overcrowded. This makes conditions for detainees as well as guards worse. Roundtree said that the arrests in Richmond County could be due to these factors. However, he is still trying to determine why so many officers have been charged with crimes and how to stop it.

Are we missing something during the hiring process?” Roundtree asked at the news conference , “Are we not providing sufficient training?” “All these issues have already been thoroughly addressed and discussed, yet misconduct continues to occur despite the fact deputies being arrested and losing careers.”

He said: “The only truth that we’ve been able detect is the monetary gain.” “It seems to be about money.”

Roundtree’s office refused to grant an interview request or answer questions in writing, referring NBC News back to Roundtree’s previous public statements.

The sheriff said that his staff numbered about 700 and that it would be helpful if the commission of the county gave him more money for salary increases. Payroll records reveal that road patrol deputies make an average salary of $46,500 and jailers average $42,500. Roundtree said that low pay makes it hard to keep and recruit good people and more likely for them to try to smuggle in drugs or other items to get cash.

Wayne Guilfoyle, a Richmond County-Augusta Commission Member, said that money was not an excuse.

Guilfoyle stated that the reason for their illegal behavior has nothing to do about pay. It’s more of a character flaw. “I think that he should raise his standards for the people he hires.”

Roundtree said he was exploring “enhanced screening” of recruits. This includes more thorough background checks and expanded training. He also wants to increase access to internal counselors and expand the availability of in-house counseling.

Roundtree stated in a news conference in March that “we will have to implement something to enforce our core values and to define what type of agency we are.”

Documents obtained by public records requests reveal that the majority of 33 arrests were for contraband or assaulting inmates or having sexual relations with them. Thirteen arrests were based on allegations of misconduct both in the workplace and outside of work, including domestic abuse and drunk driving. After their arrests, all 33 of them were either fired or resigned.

Four cases of alleged assaults on inmates have been dropped because grand juries refused to indict officers. One of these officers now has his job back, and another works for a police department nearby.

Records show that most of the cases remain pending before courts. Two officers were sentenced to probation. One for charges relating to smuggling and the other for sexual assault against a prisoner.

In interviews, lawyers who represent people in this prison said that there is not enough staff and many are stressed and inexperienced.

Jack Batson is an Augusta-based lawyer. “The problem with the organization is that it has a difficult time finding qualified people. When they are understaffed, they give responsibilities to individuals who haven’t been in combat for long enough.”

Tanya Jeffords is another lawyer who said that 33 arrests over three years indicates the seriousness of jail problems.

Jeffords stated that “poor treatment of inmates is systemic but is often covered up.” “It’s so bad at this point that the carpet had to be pulled up.”

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