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'Law enforcement is evolving': Bibb County Sheriff candidates talk race relations, use-of-force

JT Ricketson is challenging Incumbent David Davis for Bibb County Sheriff this November.

MACON, Ga. — This November, former GBI Agent in Charge JT Ricketson is challenging Democrat Incumbent David Davis for Bibb County Sheriff. 13WMAZ sat down with both candidates to discuss the issues.

This year, protests across the country have demanded police reform after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.

Both candidates spoke about these cases and use-of-force in law enforcement. They agreed that law enforcement -- nationally -- is changing in response to those cases and protests.

"Anytime you have any law enforcement officer that acts outside of policy or acts outside of the law, that's just unimaginable. It's troubling. It's disgusting to me as a life-long, career-long officer," Davis said. 

In response to the Breonna Taylor case, JT Ricketson says he needs to get all the facts before making a statement.

"I like to refrain from drawing any conclusions on that, but my heart goes out when any kind of tragedy occurs when law enforcement is there, because the last thing we want to do is harm anybody. We're just trying to make the streets safe," Ricketson said. 

So, how do we prevent tragedies like those from happening here in Macon? 

Both candidates say it boils down to training and supervision, but also who you have on the force. Davis says the department's demographics reflect the community. 

"That helps keep our folks honest. You don't have little enclaves of officers that start doing things because everyone is together. Everyone looks out for one another. Everyone watches out for each other, and on each other if a deputy starts doing this that is despaired or unfair," Davis said. 

"It's on us when they're hired to make sure that we don't have the person that's way out here on this end… that's too meek and mild and too scared to go to an incident because we got to run towards problems. We run towards danger, but I can't help the other person that's out here on this end. That is an agitator that wants to get in a fight. Those folks, I don't have any use for out here," Ricketson said. 

Ricketson and Davis say when law enforcement arrives on the scene, they should always look to de-escalate before using force. 

Ricketson, a former training coordinator with the GBI, says they taught officers what not to do to prevent improper use-of-force incidents.

"Every time we had an incident, whether it was with the GBI or it was with a local law enforcement agency, we took that situation and we built a training scenario around it so we could make sure that the agents were better trained," Ricketson said.  

Davis says the Bibb County Sheriff's Office has a strong use-of-force policy and that they do not tolerate improper force. He noted that less than a month ago, they fired and arrested a deputy for shooting at a moving car. 

"Anytime use-of-force is used, it's reviewed by the supervisors as well as our internal affairs," Davis said. 

Both Davis and Ricketson say that in response to highly publicized cases, people will be seeing more training coming down the pipe from the federal and state levels and that will include more instruction on use-of-force.

"The sheriff's office is evolving. Law enforcement itself is evolving. What we've seen on a nationwide basis, we're going to see some added training, some added responsibility," Davis said. 

"For somebody to cut your hair, a cosmetologist, will go through over 2,000 hours of training to cut your hair. Now, we'll give a badge and a gun to somebody with only 440 hours. Where they can either take your liberties, which is your freedom and lock you up or they can take your life, so yes, we need to look at increasing the amount of hours we're training these officers and deputies out there," Ricketson said.

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