Seeking 3rd Term, Sapp Says Tattnall Co. Sheriff’s Office Has Come Along Way in A Short Time

Sheriff Kyle Sapp has been at the helm of the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office since he was first sworn in 2017. He’s running for election this cycle and recently chatted with TheGeorgiaVirtue about strides that have been made inside the Tattnall County Sheriff’s Office over his last two terms in office.

Staffing

In terms of office growth, patrol coverage of the county has increased from two deputies per shift to three. One deputy is in the north end of the county, a second in the south, and a shift sergeant splits time between the two depending on need. 

TCSO added one school resource officer, who also teaches the C.H.A.M.P.S program to 5th graders. C.H.A.M.P.S is different from the well-known D.A.R.E. program in that D.A.R.E. is nationwide and rigid in curriculum on drugs and alcohol, whereas C.H.A.M.P.S allows for catering to the community. As a result, Tattnall’s program encompasses drugs, alcohol, bullying, ATV safety, and other relevant modules.

Buildings, Equipment & Technology 

TCSO recently set up shop in their new location, already a county building, which was refurbished thanks to SPLOST funds. The larger building allows the Sheriff’s Office employees to all work in one location instead of across buildings as was the case before. The building is also more secure and provides for private interview space for citizens needing to speak with someone. Additionally, the building is equipped with a full generator back up thanks to equipment surplused in the federal property program, which means the only cost incurred by county taxpayers is for installation.

During his tenure, Sapp has expanded the use of technology within the office. Every patrol car is equipped with a computer and dash camera, and every deputy has a body-worn camera. 

Jail

The Tattnall County Jail has housed inmates for Long County, which does not have a jail, since 2010 and entered into a contract to do the same with Evans County in 2021. Annually, the office has budgeted the revenue from those counties for housing their inmates, which isn’t ‘profit’ but instead helps offset the costs of operations. Still, housing Tattnall’s inmates, plus two other counties, has been a balancing act. Long County is set to open their new 111-bed jail in August of 2024, which will alleviate some of the responsibilities for Tattnall with very little budgetary impact. Evans County also pays additional funds for a ‘transport deputy,’ which means a POST-certified deputy is doing transports instead of a jailer. 

Inside the jail, the camera system has been upgraded and maintenance for the building is up to date. 

Sapp says the jail also instituted video visitation, which allows for extended visitation hours for both inmates and families, requires fewer staff resources, and limits opportunities for introduction of contraband and illness into the facility. 

Courthouse Security

Sapp says the courthouse security has been enhanced tremendously in recent years, from additional personnel and screening technology to security plans and limited access badges for courthouse staff. The enhancements have proven worth the investment he says, due to the steady flow of prison cases that flow through the Tattnall County court system and often require additional resources. 

While high profile cases still take place in person, Sapp says he worked out an agreement with the Georgia Department of Corrections that has helped tremendously for inmate-involved criminal cases. Sapp asked the agency to purchase the equipment to conduct first appearance hearings virtually, since individuals are incarcerated anyway, and to take photographs and fingerprints on site instead of at the Tattnall County Jail. The process alleviates some of the pressures on the county while streamlining the process without having to move state inmates back and forth for brief hearings. 

Training

Within the new location of the Sheriff’s Office in Reidsville, the office has a large training room that is used for in-house courses and those shared with other agencies. TCSO has, on a number of occasions, hosted Autism Awareness programs to ensure deputies have the tools to work with autistic individuals. 

TCSO has incorporated additional training for jail employees to include NARCAN administration, CPR, and suicide prevention and Sapp said training for deputies goes beyond the state mandated minimum. Additionally, though jailers are required by law to be certified by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards & Training Council, that was not always the case in Tattnall County. Sapp says he is proud that all of the jailers have the necessary certifications and additional training on top of that. 

That goes for the road deputies as well. They’re encouraged to take courses, online and in-person, in specializations that interest them but that also apply to their daily duties. 

“One of things that we have really focused on and has been a passion of mine is training in the ALERRT program, which is an active shooter training,” Sapp said. The program is a research-based active shooter response training program under the nationally recognized ALERRT Center at Texas State University. Sapp said it’s the same program that Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, and DNR use. 

“We train all of our deputies in the ALERRT program and we refresh that throughout the year, especially during the summer when we can use the schools for training,” he said. The training isn’t unique to schools, however, as it can be applied to churches and businesses as well.

Other Safety Measures

In 2018, Sapp said the office implemented a Property Watch Program which created a county-level database that is integrated with the TCSO computer system. While patrolling, deputies do ‘house checks,’ particularly for unoccupied homes and properties.

“It’s been very positive for the community,” he said.

During Sapp’s tenure, TCSO also began supervising 911. They updated the technology, incorporated the municipalities as well as EMS, which allows dispatchers to see locations of those out on the road in real time. Along those same lines, they’re in the process of upgrading the radio infrastructure, mostly with SPLOST and ARPA funds.

Relationships

Sapp has served on the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) since 2018 and is a member of the Georgia Sheriff’s Association. His Chief Deputy, Jeff Rogers, is on the Pineland Mental Health Board and he says both have worked hard to maintain an open line of communication between the Georgia Department of Corrections.

“Those relationships that we have built have really put us in a position to be able to pick up the phone and call when we need assistance, especially when there is something that is outside of the scope of the resources we have. Take for instance, a mental health patient who is in crisis and needs immediate placement.”

Looking Ahead

If elected to serve another term, Sapp says he wants to build on what they’ve put in place and look ahead for the growth that’s coming. That can be expensive. Under Georgia law, as a constitutional officer, a sheriff is entitled to the necessary budget he or she needs to run the office. 

“But I’m also a taxpayer,” Sapp said. “I try to move slowly and gradually to where we need to be on all of these things. I’m always asking myself ‘Where do we need to be?’ ‘What do we need to not let growth that is coming to our region overtake us before we are prepared?’ How do I best answer these questions while being fiscally responsible to taxpayers.”

“But even still, we’ve come a long way in a very short amount of time.”

Sapp is running for reelection in a contested primary against challenger Dale Kirkland. Both will appear on the Republican ballot on May 21st. Early voting continues through May 17th. Follow Sapp’s campaign on Facebook.

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and co-creator of of the Peabody Award-nominated podcast 'Prison Town.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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