Macon-Bibb Sheriff Candidates Speak
In less than three weeks people will head to the polls. One of the races on the ballot: The sheriff of Macon-Bibb County. David Davis holds that job now. Challenging Davis are two former law enforcement officers, Mike Smallwood and Tim Rivers. We invited Davis, Smallwood and Rivers for "Off the Cuff" conversations here at GPB Macon.
GPB’s Michael Caputo first spoke with Smallwood and asked about why he’s running for the job.
Mike Smallwood: Well actually I love law enforcement. I still love the sheriff's office. And I think I can make a difference.
Michael Caputo: Tell me about your background a bit more and explain how your background makes you makes you right to lead this department.
Mike Smallwood: I'm the most experienced law enforcement in this right. Still today after being retired since 2013. I have worked in the corrections (department), communications, patrol. I was one of the first administrator sergeants on patrol. (I was on) Criminal Investigation for 28 years. Was that patrol’s commander for six months. Went back to criminal investigation. I know how to catch criminals.
Michael Caputo: You have said that you want to do more shoe leather police work in an article in The Telegraph. How would you do that if, as Sheriff Davis has dealt with, government is cutting on the public safety budget, cutting it back? How do you do that work?
Mike Smallwood: Just get them out of the cars; get them out of the offices (and) on the street. They're there. You don't have to hire additional people. We just change some jobs around. You got to get out in street. Criminals are ot going to walk in the sheriff's office. You got to get out there on the street with them. And walk. Talk. You'll find out what's happening.
Michael Caputo: What do you think about the idea of having to do outreach as a sheriff. What, in your mind, does that mean when when folks are out there and need to know what the sheriff is about? How do you do outreach?
Mike Smallwood: We just talk to people, we communicate with them. We do Facebook and you know stuff like that. E-mail. And we try to explain what we're about.
Michael Caputo: How would you deal with young people, the at-risk youth that are in line for being in trouble.
Mike Smallwood: We get to get Board of Education police department and work close with them on this truancy. They can let us know. We can get a little task force going, they can let us know who's not in school. We'll partner with them and go check them houses. We'll have the juvenile unit can do that. If a they just laying on their behind just don't want to go to school, we have to take them to their counselors and take them over to the school. We gotta get them while they're young. You've seen the guy just yesterday, the day before yesterday. He just admitted (he) was a gang member. Thirty-one-years-old. We've all seen him somewhere down the road. Nobody ever went after him to try to bring him back.
Michael Caputo: One final question before we let you go but you could give me the 30 second, you know, they call it the elevator pitch. You've got 30 seconds to tell somebody: Here's why you got to vote for me. What would you tell that person?
Mike Smallwood: My experience. I've been there before. I've done it. I've run task force. I've been on every joint investigation since the 1980s between the city and the county. I know what there the problems are. I could read daily reports and tell you where the problem are. I don't have to walk the neighborhood. I did it for years.
Caputo then turned to incumbent sheriff David Davis. The first question was about an initiative or development that Davis would stake is reelection on.
David Davis: Well you know consolidation is one thing we took the Macon police department which was a large organization and combined it with the Bibb County sheriff's office which was another large organization to create a large metropolitan police department. We're the fifth largest sheriff's office in Georgia and we are one of the top ten largest police departments in Georgia. So that is a large undertaking. The sheriff here is the chief of a large law enforcement agency as well as the keeper of a large thousand bed detention facility. But if I want to say one of the things I'm most proud is that we have accomplished is our outreach, is our presence in this community. We've done our neighborhood walks. We've gone out to see what the neighbors need. We've seen the blight we've seen some of the despair and hopelessness that comes in these neighborhoods and that breeds crime of course. So we came up as a counter to that with our PRIDE program which stands for Presence, Reaction Interaction Deterrence and Excellence. So if you bring those concepts into a neighborhood you fight hopelessness with pride and you get to the people in the neighborhood. To feel better about themselves to figure out a way that they can make a difference in their communities. And you reach these young people, you reach the folks who have some hopelessness and hopefully get them on the path to keep them out of criminal activity.
Michael Caputo: Well let's talk a little bit, going back to consolidation. Part of what happened with consolidation is every department had to cut back. Your department had to cut back. How are you going to deal with cutbacks if they have to continue in government?
David Davis: Well in your department part of the cutbacks was the early outs that we had last year we lost over 50 people. Good people, you know, I hate to see the them go but we have good people coming up to take their places. Some of the winnowing out ,some of the attrition to make us more efficient, more lean. We've been working with the county government to reduce our budget we've been able to do that to help them achieve the 20 percent reduction that they've been needing, as mandated as part of the consolidation charter. There's been a lot of challenges that we've met but we've also been able to put these new programs in the PRIDE concept. Our "Consider the Consequences," but we've also been able to fight crime and solve crimes. We've solved 90 percent of the homicides that we've had in Macon and Bibb since I've been an elected sheriff.
Michael Caputo: Homicides have gone up. What is your department doing to deal with that.
David Davis: Well it's all about community involvement. It's hard to be in every bedroom in every driveway. With with with homicides. Last year was another year. But we ran the gamut. There were three children who died with suspicious means last year. We had a lot of domestic homicides last year. We had a few of what you call the gang type homicides. But if you look at those numbers of those type homicides those numbers have been going down. The year before last, we had the Wings Cafe, where we had multiple homicides in one incident. So we're making some inroads were dropping other crime categories in thefts, like auto thefts. So we're making some headway there.
Caputo finally spoke with challenger Tim Rivers and began by asking him why he wanted the job.
Tim Rivers - Well I want to run for share Macon Bibb County Sheriff because I want to reduce crime in our neighborhood. I want to make it safer. I want to boost morale in the workplace because without boosting morale, we can't get no work out of our deputy. And I also want to develop a strong community partnership where a lot of business will come back to Macon. We've got to get crime down first.
Michael Caputo - Tell me about your background and really what I want to know is: What in your background, makes you ready to run a department?
Tim Rivers - Well my background Mike, I moved up pretty fast. I began my law enforcement career in 2010. Moved from regular patrol to the Crime Investigation Division. Moved from there to graduate number one in a state of Georgia in my canine bomb training program. Also serve a high felony arrest warrants. I also served high felony search warrant with the GBI. I worked in Atlanta, I worked in Savannah. I mean everything I've done so far as got me ready because the crime that we got going on right now in my is ridiculous and I know in our community.
Michael Caputo - We can talk a little bit more about that. What do you think you can do - we saw a spike in homicides last year - what do you think you can do to combat that.
Tim Rivers - We need to combat it first by putting more deputies back out on the street. We need to bring our staff to full staff. Not only that, I want to start our first ever TBC Crime Suppression Unit. TBC simply means to take back control of our community where they're responsible for getting out in the community, serving high arrest warrents. I also want to start a canine program here where deputies can get the advantage of getting training where they get certified and trained here. In Macon-Bibb County through the state of Georgia.
Michael Caputo - Now there is there is been cuts and there's been cuts in everybody's budget for Macon County government. How would you approach the leadership in the county government to get the money you would need if you're going to try and hire more deputies.
Tim Rivers - Well to be honest with you, the money is there. The money is there. But again we've got to get a high qualified candidates and bring them up. The money is there. That's what I want to do I want to work to insure since this consolidation that we get this salary description fixed. We do have a salary discrepancy. We need to come together and get it fixed and of course you know I have to work with a commissioners. Thank you for asking that question.
Michael Caputo - So tell me about what that first change would be that you would make in the department if you actually won this.
Tim Rivers - You know the first phase would be is to get more deputies out there. We got a lot of deputies that are retired and can come back and work. We've got qualified candidates right now, qualified deputies right now that sitting at home. When we ask can get them out working part time. We've got the guys that been demoted that can be brought back. And that's the thing. And let me let me point out one more thing. See my opponent say that we moving forward one street at a time and I have to laugh at my opponent. Crime has not been reduced. So what I say to my opponent is we must be still stuck on that same street.