CHATSWORTH — Opening the new portion of the jail, assigning a detective to work just on drug cases, hiring a public information officer and actively trying to enlist public support and trust are among the objectives for new Murray County Sheriff Gary Langford.
Langford took office on Jan. 1 after defeating incumbent Howard Ensley by 58 percent to 42 percent in the November election. Ensley had been in office for 24 years. One of Langford’s first moves was to bring in Greg Fowler, a retired Georgia State Patrol post supervisor, as his chief deputy.
Langford said he offered former chief deputy Ray Sitton a job in the department, but he wanted his own man in the second-highest position. Langford and Fowler worked together for several years in the state patrol from which they’ve since both retired.
The new sheriff hopes to know soon whether he’ll be able to open the new portion of the jail, which has 160 beds as opposed to 120 for the current facility. He said he’s working with new Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman on a plan to allocate enough money to its opening without taking away too much from other departments.
Pittman said on Friday that officials are still working on a plan to open the jail and hope to announce that plan this week.
Langford said he didn’t yet have exact numbers on how many more people he would need to hire to staff the new jail, which has been sitting empty for several years while officials tried to come up with the money to move from the old 120-bed facility. The new detention center is equipped with a much more advanced video and surveillance system and has a larger kitchen and indoor recreational areas for inmates. It has 10 holding cells for people who are being booked while the current facility has only two.
Overcrowding is a frequent problem, officials have said. There is about 19,000 square feet of space in the old portion and roughly 51,000 square feet in the new.
Langford said he wants to remodel the old portion of the jail as soon as everyone is able to move out and eventually reopen that portion. He said the old portion could potentially be used to house female inmates so they are better separated from the males.
New way of doing business
Langford campaigned on a platform of getting sheriff’s office employees more training, and he said he’s working now on getting those things in place. That includes talking with the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office, where there is also a new sheriff, Gary Sisk, about sharing training sessions to save officers from having to travel long distances.
While Langford said the only personnel change he’s initiated so far is hiring a new chief deputy, he said he’ll eventually review everyone in the department and reevaluate how they’re being used.
He said he wants to assign a detective to work full time on drug cases. He also wants to designate someone to be a public information officer who can field calls from the news media and community members when he and other officers are too busy working a case to immediately respond.
Langford said he and Fowler have also been meeting with representatives of other law enforcement agencies including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Chatsworth Police Department to establish relationships and begin working together.
Fowler said he wants employees to bring out their ideas as well. There are a lot of good people in the department, he said, and some of their ideas and skills might not have been fully utilized in the past. Even if the eventual answer to someone’s suggestion is a “no,” Fowler said he still wants to listen. Langford said he’s looking into beginning an employee recognition program to reward those who do good work.
Officers who already patrol the roads where schools are located will be asked to be even more visible in the wake of recent school shootings, Langford said, and to work on developing relationships with the educators who work there.
There are about 80 employees in the sheriff’s office.
About Sheriff Gary Langford
• Goals include: Opening new portion of Murray County jail, assigning a detective to concentrate solely on drug cases, designating a public information officer to more quickly disseminate news, and building stronger relationships with members of the public.
• Work experience: 38 years in law enforcement working at various times for the Georgia State Patrol, Chatsworth Police Department and Murray County Sheriff’s Office.
• Thought: “We wanted to stress that we have not come in to make the Murray County Sheriff’s Office the state patrol. Georgia State Patrol was a great department, and we’re going to use a lot of our knowledge that we gained, (but) this is going to be the Murray County Sheriff’s Office from now on.”
About Chief Deputy Greg Fowler
• Pre-law enforcement trade: Funeral home director and mortician.
• Georgia State Patrol work: 1985 to Dec. 31, 2012. Served at times as commander at the Cartersville, Jasper and Dalton posts.
Inspiration for law enforcement: “In elementary school, a trooper came to school one day, and I thought that would be a grand thing to do.”
• Residence: Rocky Face, but he has family in Murray County.
• Philosophy: “I serve the citizens I work for. I understand that’s what my job is, is to take care of the citizens.”