Silas looks to move from Road Patrol to Sheriff
Though Robbie Silas has often credited former Richmond County Sheriff Charlie Webster and his brother-in-law, current Sheriff Ronnie Strength, with being role models, he looks to Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt for inspiration.
“A lot of people downplayed him because he was on road patrol,” Silas says. “Being on road patrol is a great thing. You learn the streets, you learn the community. He came out with first-hand knowledge of what needed to be done in the community and made it work over there.”
It makes sense that Silas should be inspired by Hunt’s rise. As a road patrol lieutenant, Silas is attempting to make the same jump Hunt did. On the other hand, there’s Scott Peebles, who is running as the head of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), which is considered a more traditional path to the top spot.
Though it may not be conventional, it’s clear road patrol has no bigger advocate than Robbie Silas.
“People say you don’t have criminal investigation skills — that’s bull,” he says. “Road patrol officers handle the same things that investigators handle, and there are lots of times we don’t even get an investigator.”
Investigators are mostly called in for murders and rapes and times when they’ve got to build a better case file, he says.
“Everything they can do in CID we can do just as good on the road patrol,” he says. “So saying that if you’re working here you’re not prepared to be sheriff is false.”
Throughout the campaign, Silas has fought against the notion that because Peebles comes from CID he’s not only better qualified, but he’s shown more initiative toward becoming sheriff.
Silas disagrees, saying that the command structure does not favor a supervisor moving from road patrol to CID.
“A good supervisor knows people,” he says. “A good supervisor has leadership skills — you wouldn’t have made him a supervisor if you didn’t think he was going to be a good leader — so to me you should be able to take him and put him anywhere in the department. We don’t do that. Once you get promoted to road patrol, you’re stuck.”
Though it’s still possible to make the move, Silas says you’re not going to get promoted to CID once you become a sergeant or a lieutenant on road patrol unless you give up your supervisory duties.
And then there are the lifestyle changes.
“Going to CID — you’ve got to make adjustments,” he says. “In Criminal Investigations, you don’t get the family time. I’ve got a wife and two children that are still in school. I love being at the baseball games and spending time there at Masters City [the Little League program where he currently serves as president], and being up there would have shut a lot of that down.”
It’s not that he’s not dedicated, he says, he just wasn’t ready to accept being somewhere that would take away that family time.
“Plus, they don’t move supervisors around, so once I made rank, there wasn’t an option to go up there as a supervisor,” he says. “If I could have gone up there as a supervisor, I would have done it. But it just wasn’t there.”
And then there’s the fact that Strength is his sister’s husband, which has spurred rumors of nepotism, which he vehemently denies.
“From Day One when I started back under Sheriff Webster, Ronnie’s never done anything for me,” he says. “He’ll tell you to this day that he’s probably done more to hurt me than to help me, and it makes me feel good that I can go home and lay my head down at night and know I’ve earned everything I’ve gotten.”
His entrance into the race was also seen by Peebles supporters (or Roundtree detractors) as a complication, potentially splitting the white vote which could conceivably allow Roundtree to walk away with the sheriff’s office.
Another thing Silas has worked to overcome is the perception that he resists the administrative requirements of the office.
“There have been some comments, and I think Scott made some comments, about pushing the pen,” he says. “I made that statement, and it wasn’t directed at any candidate. It’s basically saying that I’m not in the office pushing a pen, because I’m not.”
He does his administrative work when he first gets to the office, he says, then he’s on the streets.
“I’m not going to just sit in the office with my feet propped up, which I could if I wanted to,” he says. “To me, I want to get out there and make a difference. That’s what I meant about pushing the pen. I’m not in the office pushing a pen all the time. I’m out there on the street.”
As a candidate, he is running on the platform of adding more officers, building better community relations, revitalizing youth programs and creating a citizens advisory board.
The citizens advisory board is something Strength strenuously opposes.
“Some people have a different take on it,” he admits. “My thing is — I don’t want a group of folks coming in telling me how to run my department. I want a group of folks to come in and see how the department is being run.”
That kind of public understanding does more than help public awareness, he says. It can trickle down to the commissioners, who hold the purse strings.
“That way, when it comes down to the commissioners having to add another millage rate to the taxes or whatever, they can say, hey — I’ve seen it in action. I’ve seen how things are going.”
He also wants to tighten up the promotions procedure, making it less about who you know and more about being qualified.
“With the black and white issue — I think there is some disparity with black supervisors in our department,” he says. “However, there have been some black folks that have turned down promotions — and white folks, too — because what happens most of the time is, when you get promoted now, especially in road patrol, you pretty much go to night shift. A lot of folks — they don’t want to change their lifestyle, so people have given it up.”
Such a slight answer might have drawn fire from those at a recent NAACP forum, but Silas left after the introductions, citing a previous engagement.
Another thing Silas says he would like to see is more communication among the divisions, and he points to one of Peeble’s shining moments as an example.
“This Operation Smokescreen,” he says. “They had a lot of folks they were supposed to arrest, but it was weeks later before we even got photographs of the folks that we wanted. When you’ve got 300-some people on the road patrol, it would be nice to have those pictures, because we’re out there every day. We see what they’re doing.”
Silas says he finally got the information, but only after requesting it.
Regarding his association with South Augusta and its long but fading legacy as the real seat of Augusta’s political power, Silas shrugs.
“People have misconceptions about the Southside Mafia trying to restore itself with me being a candidate,” he says. “That’s not the case. What’s the difference between a group of folks in South Augusta wanting to better their community when you’ve got a group of folks in West Augusta who meet on a regular basis, too? They don’t call it the West Augusta Mafia.”You Might Also Like: