Nothing in My Closet
Ivey feels he’s the best choice to lead
Sheriff’s Lt. John Ivey makes no bones about it — he thinks he is the best man to replace Ronnie Strength as sheriff of Richmond County.
“I actually believe I’m the only one who can be fair,” he says. “I’ve worked with them all. I know them all — that’s why I’m in this race. This county deserves better.”
An African-American with 32 years on the force, Ivey has seen many changes in Augusta, but he insists things are still lagging behind at the Sheriff’s Office, which he says is plagued by an unfair promotion system that is costing Augusta good law enforcement officers
“A lot of them will tell you they don’t have a future,” he says. “When they talk about not having a future, they don’t have any way of advancing because of who they are.”
The promotion process, he says, is too centralized. And too white.
“I don’t know how these people are chosen [for the promotions board], but I know this — they’re all white,” he says. “And that itself is a problem.”
Ivey is old enough to remember a time when blacks couldn’t patrol certain areas and when they couldn’t go into certain businesses, and while that has changed, he says the thinking about black officers hasn’t.
“It’s sad to say because a lot of officers that are white got there because of that,” he says. “That’s the reason, because they knew somebody. That’s what’s wrong with the department, and that hasn’t changed. They don’t want it to change, because their families get jobs and their families get opportunities.”
While he was able to work his way through the system, he says it was never easy.
“It’s always been a system I’ve recognized,” he says. “To the new generation — it’s hard for them. They work hard and they know they don’t have a future — that’s why they leave. Me — I knew how to get around it and how to accept it, but the new ones won’t stay because they want it to be fair, and it’s not fair. I don’t care what you say or how they print it, it’s not fair.”
Ivey takes special issue with something fellow candidate Scott Peebles said in his interview with the Metro Spirit, when he related that Sheriff Strength has said he wouldn’t lower standards just to hire someone who’s “white, black, female or anything else.”
“It says white, black, female or anything, but it’s implying that he’s talking about blacks because the focus here was about blacks,” he says. “He can add anything he wants, but he’s talking about blacks, and that’s a slap in the face.”
Ivey says he’s committed to making the Sheriff’s Office more representative of the community.
“I want to even it up to make sure the department reflects the community, and the only way you’re going to do that is by having more black officers than white,” he says. “It might not get there during my term, but I want to be more reflective — the ratio is just too large.”
Though he favors community policing, he says it wouldn’t have to cost more money. To him, community policing means that officers are more familiar with their beats and more in touch with their problems.
“When I was out there working the street, I found that if you got along with the public, the public gets along with you, and when something happens, they’ll tell you,” he says. “And that’s what he has to do. You have to develop that type of relationship between the public and the officers. They’ll see we’re approachable and they won’t be running away.”
Part of that, he says, comes from showing the public respect.
“I tell officers all the time that we are no better than the ones we serve,” he says. “You may be in a better position because you have a job, but we’re a service company and you can’t look down on anybody.”
He maintains the recent incident at Augusta’s First Friday celebration, where six people were shot, three of whom were under 18, is an example of a lack of responsibility and the erosion of the family unit.
“I really believe that we have a responsibility more than just enforcing the law,” he says. “We have to be leaders.”
They have to be leaders, he says, because the community lacks role models.
“There are two generations of kids who have not been chastised or punished at school or chastised or punished at home,” he says. “So what you have is grown ups or older children who have not learned respect, who have not even learned what respect is. After a while, it’s going to be a community full of leftovers, and we’re going to have chaos.”
Given the fact that he feels law enforcement has to lead by example, he says he is the most appropriate candidate for the times.
“Open my closet — you’re not going to find anything,” he says. “Open these other guys’ closets, there’s no telling what you might find. They won’t find things in my closet.”
He’s running now, he says, because this is the first time he’s had a real opportunity, given the circumstances.
“I have a family and I had to take care of that family,” he says. “Now, financially, I’m in a better position. If something happens, I can retire and it won’t hurt my family.”
In other words, running for sheriff from within has always been a dangerous game.
“I don’t know of any other candidates in the past that ran for sheriff that was with the Sheriff’s Department after the sheriff was elected,” he says. “And if you let someone know you’re running before, you don’t stay there long — you’re got to remember, you work at the pleasure of the sheriff.”
There is no position more powerful, he says, which is why there is so much at stake.
“It’s all about control,” he says. “You’re controlling jobs, you decide who gets investigated. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about that power and control, and they don’t want to lose that.”
The fact that he’s black makes his run for office especially dangerous.
“They can’t get me because of my background,” he says. “They have to physically do away with me, and I doubt if they’ll go to that point right now.”
But is that kind of fear really rational? Has he honestly feared that kind of retaliation?
“I have in the past, because there’s so much at stake here,” he says. “You can’t put anything beyond anybody.” You Might Also Like: