Gwinnett sheriff’s office asks for money to create 105 new positions

Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway speaks during a 2015 press conference. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway speaks during a 2015 press conference. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

The Gwinnett sheriff’s office hopes to hire more than 100 new employees next year — and on Monday asked county officials to find the money to make it work.

Representatives from the sheriff’s office — which runs the local jail, serves warrants and provides security at government buildings — were among those from several county departments who will make their annual budget pitches this week. Overall, the agency’s proposed 2019 budget of more than $102 million would represent a roughly 6 percent increase over this year’s budget.

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A significant chunk of the would-be increase is accounted for by requests to create 105 new positions. Those jobs would include about 72 full-time deputies who would work at the jail, the county justice center or in the field.

The rest of the proposed positions would include jobs like “administrative support associates,” cooks and an IT associate to help with new body cameras.

“We’re stressed,” Chief Deputy Billy Walsh said of the current staffing situation.

The jail’s year-to-date population of 2,346 is already higher than 2017’s mark, Walsh said, which was several hundred higher than 2016.  He attributed the increase to the fact that county and city police departments are “staffing back up” and thereby have more manpower to investigate cases and to make arrests.

About half of the new deputy positions proposed would provide security at the new expansion at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center, on which construction is already underway.

The staffing increases proposed Monday would cost about $6 million, Walsh said.

He and fellow Chief Deputy Lou Solis were quick to point out that, over the last several years, the sheriff’s office has only been cleared to create about a dozen new positions.

The sheriff’s office is currently authorized for 768 positions.

The agency also requested just over $2 million to fund operations related to the federal 287(g) program, a controversial program that gives local law enforcement agencies some of the powers of immigration officials.  The figure requested Monday was about $300,000 more than what was requested for 287(g) for the current year’s budget.

Gwinnett has become one of the most prolific communities in the nation in terms of arresting and placing holds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement on people they believe could be in the country illegally.

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Just under 5,700 “encounters” under the 287(g) program were reported in Gwinnett County in 2017, according to stats previously provided by ICE. That figure accounted for more than one-fifth of all such encounters in the United States.

The 653 “removals” reported under 287(g) in Gwinnett in 2017 accounted for about 11 percent of the national total.

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