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New sheriff to review hiring process for jailers

Several jail officers charged in 2012 with various crimes

POSTED: December 24, 2012 5:43 p.m.

A string of former Hall County jailers has been charged in the past year with crimes ranging from identity theft to sexual abuse of a female inmate.

Sheriff-elect Gerald Couch says he will review the overall process of hiring jailers to see if there are ways it can be improved.

The current process of hiring and screening jailers is already stringent, said Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, the department’s public information officer.

“Jailers on each shift are directly supervised by corporals and sergeants, and each shift is commanded by a lieutenant,” Wilbanks said.

The hiring process starts like other Hall County jobs: in the human resources department.

“Those applications are forwarded to the sheriff’s office,” Wilbanks said.

Once the department gets the applications, a comprehensive background check is begun. Wilbanks said that if applicants have ever served as officers previously, their Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training records are checked.

Additionally, Wilbanks said, they are given a criminal background check through the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, a driver’s history check, a voice stress test — similar to a polygraph examination — and background investigation.

“The application package is then sent to internal affairs for further screening,” Wilbanks said. “If recommended by internal affairs, two interviews are conducted; one with the assistant jail commander, the second with the commander.”

The current jail commander is Capt. Danny Woods, he said.

“If selected after the interviews, a tentative job offer is made, pending the results of a drug screen, physical examination, and a psychological examination,” Wilbanks said.

A person who passes each of those exams is given a final offer of employment.

“New hires go through a one-week new-hire orientation, a two-week basic jail officer course to become certified jailers, and approximately eight to 10 weeks of on-the-job training,” Wilbanks said.

Wilbanks said that Couch has stated “he is committed to a thorough review of the entire hiring process to identify any aspects that may need to be modified or corrected.”

The latest incident involving a jailer occurred earlier this month when jailer Marcell Allen was fired after he was arrested for allegedly having sexual contact with a female inmate.

The issue of the jail and jailers was one of the biggest ones during last summer’s race to replace retiring Sheriff Steve Cronic. One candidate, Chuck Hewett, a former Hall County deputy, said during debates that the department has mishandled cases of inmate abuse in the past.

Couch, who won the July primary and was unopposed in November, begins his first term as Hall County sheriff on Jan 1.


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