Burke County Sheriff Williams pushes education amongst his officers

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WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WJBF) – Sheriff Alfonzo Williams raises the stakes when it comes to education and enforcing the law. He says his officers will be equipped with more than just a gun and badge, especially when moving up the ranks.

“If we want to stop seeing people of color dying unjustly at the hands of police, then let’s improve the standards,” said Sheriff Williams.

Sheriff Williams says he is speaking from experience regarding the importance of getting an education when he was turned down for a job with the city of Waynesboro police.

“The night they were to vote to confirm me as chief, they gave the job to someone else. A person who was in the training program at Richmond Academy who had just graduated from the police academy granted he was older; he had a degree. They said to me, well, we didn’t give it to you because you didn’t have a degree,” said Williams.

But not just any education– a college-level one, which he says can sometimes go overlooked when trying to enter into law enforcement.

“At 18 years old and 11 weeks of training, he’s given a badge and a gun to go out and police, and he doesn’t have any life experiences, doesn’t have a lot of personal experiences he doesn’t have any work experiences he doesn’t understand diversity and the psychology the social skills and sociology, and he can go out and enforce the law, and he doesn’t even know what he’s doing, ” said Sheriff Williams.

He wants to change that especially within his community.

“Law enforcement leadership is behind; we are so far behind because we won’t embrace education. We have sheriffs right here in Georgia and around this country who don’t require a college-level education because they don’t want their people to be marketable and go somewhere else to work want to keep them in that same rut. I’m trying to grow leaders,” said Sheriff Williams.

He’s urging his officers to get a college education level, but there has been pushback within his office.

“In the last year, we’ve had maybe four people leave, in the last several months maybe 3 or 4 of those folks may be, we have not had a mass exodus we have not. I’ll submit to you that that is not the case; I’ll show you the numbers. Not everybody will like it, but it’s not for everybody. If they think that requiring more of them is a bad thing, then we want to free them for other opportunities,” said Sheriff Williams.

He believes the community has lost trust in and respect for law enforcement, resulting from a lack of knowledge on the police side.

“If we want things like better law enforcement if we want to restore trust and respect in our communities, then we have got to work to improve standards so that in the long term we will have better outcomes.”

And he’s even created opportunities for not only his officers but also the entire community of Burke County.

“I don’t require any particular college, I do have one that I’ve found that I like, they offer us 50 percent of tuition, if you’re a Burke County resident and it’s not just for police it’s for anybody in Burke County, I got this college in Alabama to offer a 50 percent discount on tuition,” said Sheriff Williams.

The sheriff says he’s working on pushing for police retirement reform in the state. You can watch the full interview below:

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