The struggling economy, evolving crime trends and the county’s new courthouse have forced Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle to re-evalute his agency’s operations.
“We have a situation where we have less money, but you want to provide as good of services to the public as you can,” he said. “I knew I had to make some changes.”
Carlisle started at the top by announcing John Cagle’s promotion to undersheriff last week.
A veteran lawman who spent more than 30 years with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Cagle will be responsible for day-to-day operations at the agency.
He previously oversaw the office’s criminal investigation division.
“With his years of experience and knowledge, that’s who I need as my chief deputy,” Carlisle said.
Maj. Greg Rowan, who served as undersheriff since February 2009, now commands the patrol and criminal investigations divisions.
Carlisle said the changes were made to further the department’s level of service.
“You have to look at each individual person and look at what is the best fit in the department for that person’s skills,” he said.
In addition, Tony Wooten was promoted to captain over patrol and investigations. His duties as public information officer and school resource supervisor will continue.
“Putting Tony over patrol frees up the division’s lieutenant and puts another car on the streets,” Carlisle said.
The sheriff also disbanded his traffic enforcement unit to create a new division designed to suppress crimes such as thefts and vehicle break-ins, which have increased during the economic downturn.
“We have two patrol officers that we’re attaching to the criminal investigations who will focus on areas where we see crimes like thefts and drugs. They’ll be in these areas,” he said.
“Crime is not the same as it was a few years ago and we realize we have to make changes to stay ahead.”
The county’s new courthouse, expected to be complete in late summer, also played a role in the agency’s evolution, Carlisle said.
“With the number of courtrooms that’s going to be in it and moving all county offices into that one building, we’ve got to look at the amount of traffic that’s going to be going in and out of that courthouse,” he said.
To that end, Carlisle restructured sheriff’s services and named Maj. Brandy Branson commander of the new division.
Branson will oversee the courthouse operations and security, warrants, the civil division and prisoner transports.
Carlisle said Branson’s years of experience, coupled with his knowledge of the community and how to deal with the public made him the obvious choice to lead the new division.
“One thing I’ve stressed is that the courthouse will be a secure building,” Carlisle said. “When you open the front door, you’re going to go through a metal detector.
“But Brandy has the common sense to know when someone is going to be at the courthouse to cause problems instead of just coming to pay for their car tag.”
Carlisle said the moves, which took effect March 1, are the first phase of a process.
Cagle is now tasked with reviewing the entire department and its operations “to see what we can do to get a better job function from all our employees,” Carlisle said.
He admitted some positions could be cut and additional improvements should be expected.
“I don’t want to say I am going to eliminate positions, but we are looking at that,” he said. “If a position is not benefiting this department or the citizens of this county, we probably will be doing away with that position.”