Richmond County Sheriff’s Office wants to be part of the solution allowing protests without permits


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – You never know when a CSRA protest will kick off, but all of them, so far, have safely taken place, even without permission. 

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office shows up to all of these events, but never shuts them down.  NewsChannel 6 spoke with Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton to find out why.

Protesters have been speaking out against racial injustice, which they say comes mostly at the hands of police.  But hitting the streets can’t happen without the help of law enforcement.

Tuesday night, NewsChannel 6 spoke with two protesters.

One told us, “You could just hear our voices echoing through the entire streets.  It was crazy.”

“Everybody complied with all of the rules,” the other downtown Augusta protester said.  “It was no type of rioting.”

Peaceful protests have filled Augusta streets since last weekend.  And while people sending their messages of racial justice remained calm, mostly all of the gatherings have been spontaneous and with no permit.

Gwendolyn Gates, of Augusta, does not agree with that method.

“This kind of protesting going on, there should be permits to have this kind of gathering,” she said.

To hold a demonstration in Augusta, a four-page Application for Events on Public Property should be completed with a name and social security number and a written plan.  It should be filed in enough time to be approved prior to any event.  But even though Sheriff Richard Roundtree and his deputies have the power to shut people down, they don’t.

Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said, “If they’re probably going to do it anyway, wouldn’t you rather be part of the solution rather than part of the problem?”

The issue at the forefront of the demonstrations is the killing of George Floyd following former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee in his neck. It’s a type of police brutality Chief Deputy Clayton said does not happen here.

“Don’t paint me with the same brush that you’re painting that officer.  That’s not representative of the deputies that I have,” he explained. “We do not teach that in police training.  We teach that once you get somebody in custody, once you make the arrest, once you get them under control.  Your responsibility first is to get them under control.  Then second after that is to make sure they’re OK. Because if you have to use force, you have to anticipate that they could get hurt.”

As people cry out for justice at the hands of police, Chief Deputy Clayton said they are working to do just that, engaging with the community.  He said out of 300,000 to 400,000 calls a year, nearly all of them are good.  

“We have a Citizen’s Advisory Board,” he added.  “We have a group of citizens that are appointed usually by the Commission.  They attend community policing academy.”

Moving forward, Deputy Clayton said people of color can rest assured knowing that if they come in contact with a Richmond County deputy, they have a high school diploma, spent 18 weeks at Augusta Tech, completed police academy and follows a training model we can all related to, the same one Chick-Fil-A uses.

“We want you to work with a servant’s heart and you’re there to serve the public,” Cheif Deputy Clayton said of deputies.

Many people saw a photo of deputies lying on the ground with protesters Tuesday in downtown Augusta and were quite shocked.  Chief Deputy Clayton told us they do not advise deputies to become part of any demonstrations, only that they keep people safe.  

For the full interview with Chief Deputy Clayton, see below:

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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