BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WJBF) – The top cop in Burke County made a historic transition back home to lead the Sheriff’s Department after working in law enforcement for decades. Sheriff Alfonzo Williams grew up in Burke County, left the Bird Dog Capitol of the World and is now back and making history.
NewsChannel 6 sat down with him to dig deeper into his plans now that he has been sworn into office.
“It’s finally here. We’ve been working on this for 18 years,” said Sheriff Williams, who reflected on the history changing moment nearly two decades later.
“I’m very happy to have made history not once, but twice [as the] first African-American police chief and first African-American sheriff all in the same county,” the native said.
Williams began as a cop in then Augusta Police Department, moving to Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and then becoming Waynesboro Police Chief, where he was the first black to hold the position.
He spent time in other positions before moving to chief of the Richmond County Board of Education Police. He pledges to serve and protect all though and he wants to begin with many changes such as transparency, especially in the first 100 days.
“As you know, the relationship between the police and the community is disturbing to say the least. We want them to understand just as they’ve trusted Sheriff Coursey over the past 36 years they’re going to be able to trust us to do the right things, to make the right decisions,” he explained.
Williams wants to focus on schools by mentoring students and assisting teachers. He wants to strengthen policies and guidelines and add training to protect deputies. He noted to date, there have been far too many law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty in rural Georgia.
He plans to add a traffic division too. And he’ll need some familiar faces from Richmond County to get the job done.
“[As] my chief deputy, I’m very proud to have Louis Blanchard who is formerly a Lt. with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. He’s joining me at the top of the transition team. He is bringing with him some officers,” he shared.
Officers will also come from the new sheriff’s most recent home at the Richmond County Board of Education School Safety Department too. With all of Williams’ key players in place, changes can begin.
He added animal control is already on the Commission’s radar with the task possibly going to the sheriff’s office.
“We believe that we are in a position to handle that responsibility and save the county tens of thousands of dollars. But, we also know that the county may have other plans,” he said.
Sheriff Williams said there will also be a narcotics division in place to drive out those drugs and a Special Operations Division to work with both narcotics and traffic. He plans to make his office a State Certified Law Enforcement Agency within the first year and a half.
“They’re giving us the money we need to bring in the right folks,” said Williams who laid out his transition plan and how he will fund it to NewsChannel 6. It’s full of new divisions and law enforcement officials from Richmond County to get the job done.
“We’ve gone to the county commission and we’ve laid out a plan. We’ve asked for funds to enact those plans. You will see us over the first 100 days putting those plans into practice so that when you call a deputy, he is equipped, he is knowledgeable, he is will trained and he can get the job done,” said Sheriff Williams on how he plans to fund the long list of new programs.
His list includes the following:
Traffic Division (focusing on Gov. Nathan Deal’s initiatives with safe roads and highways)
Special Operations Division
Professional Standards Division
Training Division (requiring 60 hours of training vs the state requirement of 20 hours)
Williams, who started in law enforcement when Augusta Police Department existed said he has already chosen his top cop and several other officers who will come from Richmond County.
“The majority of the folks who are coming with us are coming for the same salary they’re making in the Augusta area, but they believe the leadership and they believe in the vision,” he said.
Williams said the Burke County Commission is also considering having the sheriff’s office fund a new animal services division. If that plan passes, he said running animal services can save the county tens of thousands of dollars.
“A number of the calls we get will be stray animals, vicious animals, animals not being properly cared for. Many of those calls come to the Sheriff’s Office. When nobody else is working we are and so those folks call us,” he said.
Of course a lot of the funding will depend on the Burke County Commission. Sheriff Williams spoke a lot about transparency and gaining the same trust that his predecessor had in the office.
Photojournalist: Brandon Dawson