Interview with Sheriff Ira Edwards

Sheriff Ira Edwards
Sheriff Ira Edwards

Sheriff Edwards declined a video interview due to social distancing rules imposed by the threat of COVID-19. Instead, we completed the interview over email.

Here are the questions APN asked, and his responses:

Athens Politics Nerd: “Why should voters choose you over your opponent?”

Sheriff Ira Edwards: “Stability in Leadership.

  • Training and Experience includes 34 years in law enforcement with several recognized accomplishments.
  • A longtime resident of the Athens-Clarke County who knows the community and is invested in the public safety; invested in the health, education, and faith based institutions; and a stakeholder and supporter of growth in industry for the financial wellbeing of the citizens.
  • Common sense approach to addressing community needs.”

Athens Politics Nerd: “What will your top priorities be in your next term in office?”

Sheriff Ira Edwards: “In addition to recruiting, educating, rehabilitating, and further accreditation (NCCHC and ACA):

  • Leveraging or expanding technology through video conferencing and more utilization of “less than lethal force” products.
  • Ensuring the new judicial complex is designed in such a way that it utilizes the best security practices while not hindering the judicial process yet providing efficient accessibility for the public.
  • Continue to evaluate operations and provide cutting edge training to the C.C.S.O. Team members.
  • Continue to work toward reducing recidivism by encouraging inmates to participate in the numerous jail programs that are currently available to them so that they can become productive citizens in our community”

Athens Politics Nerd: “How will you address the problems the Sheriff’s office is facing with deputy morale, recruitment and retention?”

Sheriff Ira Edwards:

  • “Providing the most up to date and advanced training to our staff so that they have the tools to perform their jobs in the most competent manner.
  • Holding staff accountable so that mediocrity doesn’t take hold. Instilling a servant approach to leadership and supervision.
  • Continue to blitz the community with recruiting efforts that focus on advertisements that reach the broader community.”

Athens Politics Nerd: In a recent audit, some deputies reported being retaliated against for bringing up issues they face day-to-day at the jail. They say there is a culture of fear and intimidation in the Sheriff’s Office, and also favoritism shown to certain employees. How do you respond to that?”

Sheriff Ira Edwards:

“Favoritism – Mitigating perceptions of favoritism involves communication. In recent meetings with the shifts, communication between all levels of rank was emphasized. There are also built in mechanisms such as performance evaluations that allows this communication to take place. If members are not satisfied with the response they receive from their immediate supervisors, then they can take it to the next level, but they can’t use retaliation as an excuse because we do not retaliate against anyone.

Retaliation – The Sheriff’s Office does not lead by fear and intimidation. Our policies and actions reflect that. The Supervisors and Command Staff have an open door policy and we reminds deputies of that often. The Command Staff has met individually and collectively with deputies on several occasions to hear their concerns and fear and intimidation has never been mentioned. Deputies are welcome and invited to share any concerns. Any instances of leading by fear, intimidation, or retaliation will swiftly be addressed if it becomes known.”

Jesse Houle for ACC CommissionAthens Politics Nerd: “The Sheriff’s Office was criticized by some community groups in 2018 for cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE. Many feel that holding people in jail without formal charge is unconstitutional, and we shouldn’t do it just because ICE asks us. So, what is your opinion on ICE detainers?”

Sheriff Ira Edwards: “Our current practice – The Sheriff will honor ICE detainers that are accompanied by a judicial warrant or an order from a court. I will also continue to comply with state law, which requires a query to the Law Enforcement Support Center of the United States Department of Homeland Security for any foreign national brought to the Clarke County Jail who lacks documentation of lawful status.”

Athens Politics Nerd: “Why did you comply with ICE detainers back in 2018?”

Sheriff Ira Edwards: “The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office has never participated in immigration roundups or in any targeted immigration enforcement with ICE. Cooperation with ICE officials is strictly limited to instances where an individual has been arrested on a charge not related to the person’s immigration status and who has been transported to the Clarke County Jail for booking.

The initial compliance with ICE detainers was done from a viewpoint of keeping our community safe through the abatement of human, drug, and weapon trafficking, and the reduction of other crimes that can flourish when undocumented persons enter the country illegally. Whether an offender is documented or undocumented, it is my duty to uphold the law and keep our community safe from those that would create or cause harm to our citizens.”

Athens Politics Nerd: “What is your opinion on the 287g program?”

Sheriff Ira Edwards: “Given that the Sheriff’s Office does not participate in any immigration enforcement or works side-by-side with ICE, it is not necessary.”

Athens Politics Nerd: “Is there anything else you’d like to talk about that didn’t come up so far?”

Sheriff Ira Edwards: “In closing, I have worked well with all segments of our community, and I ask that the citizens consider my experience, leadership, education, training, and proven history of positive accomplishments in and outside of law enforcement as the foundation for providing the highest quality service to Athens-Clarke County.”

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