Bill would require certification for sheriff candidates

Georgia sheriff's badge

ATLANTA – Aspiring Georgia sheriffs would have to earn their law enforcement certification before they pin on their badge under a bill advancing in the state Senate.

The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to pass Senate Bill 183 on Tuesday. It says that anyone who wants to file to run for sheriff in one of Georgia’s 159 counties must already be certified by the state Peace Officers Standards and Training Council. The council would have to attest that potential candidates haven’t had their certification revoked, haven’t been suspended in the past five years and aren’t under any sanction from the council at the time they qualify.

Republican Sen. Randy Robertson of Cataula, who is sponsoring the measure, said the idea is to raise standards.

“I realized it was an opportunity to correct some things that throughout the years had maybe led to some issues within law enforcement of us maybe not getting the most qualified person, or in some cases maybe not the best person, for the job,” Robertson told the committee.

Now, any sheriff elected who is not certified is required to complete training within six months. Probate judges are supposed to remove any sheriff who doesn’t complete the training. Robertson said he couldn’t think of any sheriff elected in recent years who failed to win certification. The Georgia Sheriffs’ Association has long sought to require certification before running.

However, the requirement to be in good standing could trip up some sheriffs who have gotten into trouble. For example, Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill had his certification put on probation in 2017, although the two-year sanction would have expired by the time Hill ran again in 2020. DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann retired in 2019, days before he dropped an appeal and the council revoked his certification.

Some senators questioned whether the move was necessary, but Georgia already imposes a long list of qualifications on sheriff’s candidates, including that they be a U.S. citizen older than 25, have a high school diploma, have never been convicted of a felony and undergo a fingerprint check. Robertson also noted that some other elected positions require certain training.

“Is he an attorney?” Robertson asked. “Then he can’t run for district attorney either.”