Gwinnett sheriff wants to add 79 more deputies in 2020

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 County Sheriff’s Office wants to spend about $5 million more a year to hire 79 more deputies to address growing needs at the county government headquarters, to serve warrants and for other duties, the department said in its annual budget presentation Monday.

Chief Deputy Bill Walsh made the presentation on behalf of Sheriff Butch Conway. While the county’s jail population is “stabilizing,” more sex offenders and an expanded Gwinnett Justice and Administrative Center have created the need for more men and women in uniform, Walsh said.

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The sheriff’s office made its request for new deputies in four separate installments, which the budget committee can approve or deny. Each group of requested deputies includes at least one supervisory deputy.

A request for 35 deputies and one lieutenant would provide courtroom security and perform security screenings at GJAC’s entrance. The government center is adding two new courtrooms — one for Superior Court cases and one for juvenile cases — and will have a third entryway in the near future, requiring more deputies, Walsh said. The annual cost of those 35 deputies is estimated at $1,610,083.

Another 28 deputies, plus one sergeant, would address a variety of jail needs. Of those, 12 would be designated to specialized housing units in the jail, including mental health treatment units. One would be dedicated to the jail’s re-entry and intervention program, five would work in hospital security and medical transport, and two would provide security in courtrooms at the jail, where first appearance and preliminary hearings are held.

Eight of the 28 requested deputies would be trained in drawing blood for DUI cases. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test was inadmissible in court in February, but officers are still able to compel drunk driving suspects to provide a blood or urine test to prove their level of intoxication. The additional 29 deputies would cost $1,832,569 per year.

The third cache of deputy requests is a group that would handle warrants, the county sex offender registry and temporary protection orders for family violence. The office requested three new master deputy positions for uniformed warrant operations and two for serving fugitive warrants. Two would handle family violence and temporary protection orders. Two would be added to the team managing Gwinnett County’s sex offender registry and the work required to keep tabs on the offenders. The number of registered sex offenders has grown in Gwinnett from 236 in 2011 to 542 currently, Walsh said. The group, which also includes two corporals and one sergeant, would cost $1,409,866.

The final request is for a single deputy assigned to the Gwinnett County Police Academy. While the academy is run by the Gwinnett County Police Department and primarily teaches GCPD cadets, up to 20 new sheriff’s deputies go through the academy each session, Walsh said. The proportion of sheriff’s deputies in the academy has risen to the point that the police department wants a full-time sheriff’s deputy at the academy to help with training, according to Walsh. That deputy would come at a cost of $112,004.

The sheriff’s office is confident these new positions would be filled without much delay; the department has 44 vacancies in sworn positions and seven for non-sworn, a total vacancy rate of about 6.3%.

“If we’re given the positions, we are going to fill them,” Walsh said.

The total requested 2020 budget for the sheriff’s office is $104,934,324. The county budget committee will set a budget for the department later this year.

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