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Bibb County's deputy shortage still climbing

The sheriff's office now has nearly 100 more vacancies than five years ago.


In high school, Frederick Gray learned what it takes to be in law enforcement through the Bibb County Sheriff's Office Explorers Program.

Gray grew up in south Macon and says he saw a lot of violence and crime around him.

"One day, it's quiet. The next day, someone is getting killed," he says.

Gray says he stayed away from that lifestyle and credits his parents and a special relationship he formed with deputies in his neighborhood.

"They taught me to stay in school, stay out of the way, do not join the wrong crowd."

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Through the Explorers Program, Gray says he found a passion for helping others and decided to turn it into a career. He is now the first Bibb deputy recruited from that group.

"I want to serve and protect along with helping others," he says. "As well as dealing with the youth, because the youth need someone to tell them that it's OK and they need someone to guide them."

Gray is one of the newest deputies at the sheriff's office, but also one of only a few.

Records from the Bibb Sheriff's Office show there are around 143 vacancies, up from an average of 56 for 2015. So far in 2019, the sheriff's office has lost 40 deputies and only recruited 24.

"There may be a time, if we follow this path, that we may not be able to do the job that we hope we can do," says Sheriff David Davis.

He says the shortage is forcing more reactive than proactive policing, with deputies working double and sometimes triple shifts to keep up with calls.

"How long we can sustain that remains to be seen," he says.

Davis says he is confident in his staff's ability to prioritize and respond to calls. He also says he would have enough resources to handle a major incident like a mass shooting, severe weather, or even a big event like a presidential visit. He fears, though, that his office would not have the ability to respond if anything else, big or small, happened at the same time.

According to Davis, Bibb's starting pay is around $35,000 per year, which is roughly $5,000 less than neighboring Monroe County. He says unless Bibb commissioners raise the starting salary, he predicts more of his deputies will leave and fewer people like Deputy Gray will choose to join.

Gray admits he is hopeful the pay will get better, but he also says working in law enforcement is not always about the money. He says he's seen the difference deputies can make in a community and hopes more people will accept the challenge.

"If we had more deputies, you would have more deputies out there talking with the younger people, talking with the whole community about how they can get better, how we can get better. We all work together, and if we did that, crime would be less," Gray said.

Sheriff Davis says that is why, even with the shortage, he wants to maintain outreach efforts like the Explorers Program.

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