Black Lives Matter rally comes to Jasper

Featured, Featured Stories, News

JASPER, Ga. – Protesting continues across many North Georgia counties as demonstrators rally in the wake of media reports on the death of George Floyd and other protests.

Tonight saw another of these rallies in the city of Jasper, Georgia, as police blocked off parking spaces and sections of side streets around the Pickens County Courthouse downtown. While some showed early and stood on the sidewalk with signs, it appeared like it would be a small turnout even after 4:00 p.m. passed.

However, less than twenty minutes later, a large group marched onto the lawn of the courthouse from the east, on Court Street. The march rallied into those already present swelling the numbers over a hundred strong.

Chants rang out of “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” and “No Justice No Peace” repeatedly as demonstrators held signs and cheered on as supporters would drive by honking.

Calling attention to a central point, protesters took a knee as they said it was to respect those present and to fight the “injustice” they were opposing. One of the first to speak, Jeff Samuel said, “What matters today is those of us standing here for equal rights and justice for all.”

Samuel said he was proud of Jasper and of those present at the protest standing for their beliefs.

Samuel led the push for more people to speak saying that all voices need to be heard. One by one, protesters stepped forward, taking the megaphone to speak to those gathered. Some spoke to counterprotesters as well.

Black Lives Matter protesters rally in Jasper, Georgia, on June 7, 2020.

Most of those speaking spoke specifically about the Black Lives Matter movement, George Floyd, and racism in America. Others spoke about race in general and the importance of equality in the nation. Some spoke thanks to officers present that were protecting them and their right to gather and speak. Nearly an hour and a half continued with speakers stepping forward.

Eventually, the protest heard from the three organizers of the event, Mack Thomas, Kat Phillips, and Maxie Woodall.

Offerings thanks for those attending, Thomas said it was everyone’s support that helped make the day what it was. He pointed out Kat Phillips saying that she was the one who went to Sherrif Craig to make sure the protest was safe.

Woodall spoke saying that she expected a handful of people to show up and to have a small group of mostly teenagers present for the protest, but never could have expected the number and variety of people saying it was “awesome.” She spoke about the names of victims, the names of black people who have died from police brutality.

Phillips offered one statement saying, “We are going to make a change.”

rally

Black Lives Matter protesters rally in Jasper, Georgia, on June 7, 2020.

Some protesters split into a separate group playing music and dancing on Depot Street and offering more chants for the rally, moving to another end of the courthouse lawn.

Counter-protesters also came to the event, chanting and waving American Flags, Trump Flags, and one man playing the bugle in opposition to those speaking. However, the few that remained after the rally declined to speak directly on camera to address the counter-protests and their message.

Speaking after the rally, organizers Mack Thomas, Kat Phillips, and Maxie Woodall offered a few extra words to FYN about organizing the event and their interactions with police leading up to it.

Phillips said her experience with organizing with the police was a positive one saying, “They were so nice about it and the way he organized everything as our right was really nice. Craig actually did a wonderful job helping me with this.”

A sentiment echoed by Sheriff Donnie Craig who said he was pleased with the crowd and the way things unfolded at the event. Addressing online comments about needing permission, Craig said that the county and the city do not have a permit process, but that the opportunity to touch base with protesters about the event and their desires allowed him to better coordinate and work with demonstrators and their rally.

From left to right, Mack Thomas, Kat Phillips, and Maxie Woodall speak about organizing the protest and the turnout in Jasper, Georgia.

When asked about protesters thanking local law enforcement during the rally, Craig said, “That was a strong message to our local law enforcement.”

Handing out fliers and continuing along, the final moments of the protest were spent dancing with music played from one protester’s truck before dispersing peacefully for the night.

However, organizers said this would not be the end. Thomas said that the next step is continued talks with Craig and with officers, “We can’t do anything about racism unless something happens with the law.”

Thomas said that speaking to those with hiring abilities in these departments will express the people’s desires in their police force.

All three agreed that more protests could come until they are heard and a change comes.

Drug Task Force Officer Arrested

News

Jasper, Ga. – The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has arrested and released reports for warrants and booking for one Charles Daniel Hamrick.

According to the Arrest Warrant, Hamrick is accused of using his position as a peace officer to convince a person to send nude and semi-nude photos to him. The offense violates his oath as a public officer.

The warrant alleges that Hamrick convinced a lady that she was a confidential informant for him and that she could have potential criminal charges brought against her. He then allegedly told her that he had destroyed her confidential informant file in return for the photos.

Having been arrested and booked on the charges, Hamrick has since paid a $1,000 bond and been released. As the official charge states Violation of Oath by Public Officer, it is charged as “a violation of the Oath taken by Hamrick as a Deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Commander of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force…”

Drug Task Force Officer Arrested

News

Jasper, Ga. – The Pickens County Sheriff’s Office has arrested and released reports for warrants and booking for one Charles Daniel Hamrick.

According to the Arrest Warrant, Hamrick is accused of using his position as a peace officer to convince a person to send nude and semi-nude photos to him. The offense violates his oath as a public officer.

The warrant alleges that Hamrick convinced a lady that she was a confidential informant for him and that she could have potential criminal charges brought against her. He then allegedly told her that he had destroyed her confidential informant file in return for the photos.

Having been arrested and booked on the charges, Hamrick has since paid a $1,000 bond and been released. As the official charge states Violation of Oath by Public Officer, it is charged as “a violation of the Oath taken by Hamrick as a Deputy with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the Deputy Commander of the Zell Miller Mountain Parkway Drug Task Force…”

 

Fetching Features: a look at Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Community

Out of 159 sheriffs in the Sheriff’s Association, nine serve as regional vice-presidents. Then, there is the executive board with a first vice president, second vice-president,  secretary/treasurer, and the president of the Sheriff’s Association.

This year, the position of president is filled by Gilmer County’s own Sheriff Stacy Nicholson.

After serving for six years as a regional vice president, Nicholson ran for the position of secretary/treasurer in 2015. Having been elected to that position, the process continued as the elected person will serve in all positions until he reaches and concludes with the presidency. A process that Nicholson says helps to prepare that person for the presidency as he gains experience and service throughout each other position.

But this is more than just a presidency as it sets his future in the Association on the Board of Directors. While he has served on the board in previous years as a regional vice president, his election in 2015 placed him permanently on the board as long as he serves as sheriff. This is because the Board of Directors is made up of the four Executive Board members, the current regional vice presidents, and the past presidents of the association.

Our sheriff’s progress along this path was not always so clear, though. He began at 19-years-old when he took a job at the jail. Nicholson says he wasn’t running around as a kid playing “sheriff” or anything that would have preceded his life in law enforcement. He had never considered the career until his mother made a call one day and got him a position in the jail in March of 1991. In a process that only took one weekend, the young man went from needing a part-time job and searching for something to fill that need to an on-the-clock deputy working and training at the Detention Center on March 3.

There was no training seminars to attend, no special certifications to obtain. He simply spoke with Sheriff Bernhardt on the phone as the interview, showed up to collect his uniform, and began work the next day.

Even then, it was never a thought in Nicholson’s mind about the position of sheriff. Instead, he began immediately looking at the next level of law enforcement, a deputy. More specifically, he began striving to become a deputy-on-patrol. Serving daily at the jail led to a quick “training” as he dealt with situations and convicts, but it was also short-lived.

Six months after entering the detention center, he achieved his goal and secured his promotion.

To this day, Stacy Nicholson holds true to his thoughts, “Anybody who wants to be in local law enforcement, where they’re out patrolling the streets of a community, they ought to start out in the jail because you’re locked up in a building for 8-12 hours every day with inmates.”

The situation quickly teaches you, according to Nicholson, how to handle situations, criminal activity, and convicts. It is how he likes to hire deputies as he says it “makes or breaks them.” It allows the department to see if that person can handle the life the way they want it handled. More than just handling difficult situations, though, it is a position of power over others that will show if you abuse the power while in a more contained and observed environment.

Though his time in the detention center was “eye-opening” and an extreme change from his life to that point, Nicholson actually says the part of his career that hit the hardest was his time as a deputy.

The life became more physically demanding as he began dealing with arrests, chases, and the dangers of responding to emergencies and criminal activity. However, it also became more mentally taxing as Nicholson realized the best tool for most situations was his own calm demeanor. That calm sense could permeate most people to de-escalate situations.

Nicholson relates his promotion out of the jail as similar to the inmates he watched over. He says, “It was almost a feeling like an inmate just released from six months confinement. He feels free, I felt free. I’m in a car, I’m a deputy sheriff… I can go anywhere I want to in this county.”

Nicholson’s high point of the promotion was shattered quickly, though, with one of the first calls to which he responded. He notes that at that time in the county, at best, he had one other deputy patrolling somewhere in the county during a shift. A lot of times, he would be the only deputy patrolling on his shift. Still, even with another deputy on patrol, he could be twenty minutes away at any given time.

It became an isolating job, alone against the criminal element. Though we still live in a “good area,” and even in the early ’90s, a lower crime area relative to some in the country. Still, Nicholson says, there were those who would easily decide to harm you, or worse, to avoid going to jail.

Telling the story of one of his first calls on patrol, Nicholson recalled a mentally deranged man. The only deputy on duty that night, he responded to a call about this man who had “ripped his parent’s home apart.” Arriving on the scene and beginning to assess the situation, he discovered that this deranged man believed he was Satan. Not exaggerating, he repeated this part of the story adding weight to each word, “He thought that He. Was. Satan. He actually believed he was the devil.”

Scared to death, he continued talking to the man and convinced him to get into his vehicle without force.

It became quite real about the types of things he would see in this career. It sunk in deep as to exactly what the police academy and training could never prepare him to handle. Yet, Nicholson says it taught him more than anything else. It taught him he had to always be quick-thinking and maintain the calm air. It became a solemn lesson to “try to use my mouth more than muscle.”

The flip-side of the job, however, makes it worse. Though sharing the extreme stories like this one showcases the rarer moments of the position, he says it is actually a slow, boring job on patrol. It is because of this usual pace that sets such a disparity to the moments when he got a call to more serious situations. His job was never like the movies with gunfights every day and then you just walk away and grab a drink. The high-intensity points were harder to handle because you are calm and relaxed before the call. It causes an adrenaline spike and your body kicks over into a different gear so suddenly. An “adrenaline dump” like that made it hard for Nicholson to keep from shaking on some days.

Even in his years as a detective, it seemed it would always happen as he laid down to sleep when a call came in. The rebound from preparing to sleep and shut down for the day all the way back to being on high function and stress of working a crime scene could be extreme. With so much adrenaline, Nicholson can only refer to these moments as “containment, ” conquering the feeling and holding it down in order to function properly in the situation.

“It’s all in your brain and, I guess, in your gut,” Nicholson says that while he has known people who thrive on the adrenaline and actively seek it, they really become a minority in the big picture, only 1-2%. He notes, “If a cop tells you he has never been in a situation where he was scared, he’s probably lying.”

This is the point of courage, though. He references an old John Wayne quote, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” It is the point of the job that sets them apart from most people. You cannot do the job without courage, you cannot last in it.

Courage in the moment doesn’t mean you don’t feel the effects. Dealing with everything that an officer sees, feels, and hears through the line of duty is another trial all its own.

Handling it, he said, is to just put it away for a while. Still, he says he had to deal with it eventually. Nicholson says throughout his time in this career through deputy, detective, and sheriff, he deals with those emotions and dark points through camaraderie with friends and fellow officers, taking a night to talk with close friends and talking through the hard points.

Nicholson also says he finds relief in his faith in God after becoming a Christian in 1982. Turning to him in order to find comfort in letting go of the issues, “talking to God” is something that Nicholson says he falls on later. As you find yourself in certain situations and you put off the emotions to deal with, you have to turn back and face it with God’s help at some point. Stress is an enormously negative factor in his position and dealing with it productively in the key. Fighting against destructive processes that lead to heavy drinking and suicide is the reality of any serious law enforcement career.

One of the hardest points in his career is one well known in Gilmer County. It is hard to speak about the Sheriff’s Office in Gilmer without speaking of one of its biggest losses in Officer Brett Dickey. Even over 20 years later, Nicholson says it shapes and affects him to this day.

Directly involved in the shooting, Nicholson was one of the officers on location that night. He and Mark Sanford were on location attempting to get a man out of the house with other officers forming a perimeter around the residence.

Even speaking of it today, watching and listening to Sheriff Nicholson retell the story, you can see the change it puts into his face, into his voice. You watch his eyes fall to the floor as he mentions the details. You see him straighten in his chair slightly as if preparing to brace against an impact. You hear his voice soften, losing a little of the authoritative tone. In this moment, you hear the wound.

“That’s the only shot I’ve ever fired in the line of duty.” Firing the shot at the suspect as he was shooting, Nicholson says he fired into a very small area to try to shoot him to stop the gunfire. With 10 shots fired randomly, Nicholson says, “The entire situation, it seemed like it took thirty minutes to unfold, but it actually happened all in about three to four seconds… Two deputies were hit, it was definitely a dark night in the career.”

He swears it is an incident that he will never forget. It was a turning point that set the direction for his life in the coming years. After that, Nicholson began taking training personally to become something more. It became more than just a job that night.

It was a night that forced Nicholson deeper into the life that is law enforcement.

Even now, as Sheriff, he couldn’t quite answer the question if the lifestyle is something he can turn off after he leaves. It even defines his goals in the position as he says, “My number one goal is to never have to bury an officer. That’s my number one goal, and my second goal is that we don’t have to kill someone else.”

Accomplishing both of these goals is something Nicholson says he understands isn’t as likely as it used to be, but it is something he continually strives for in his career.

With his career and training advancing, Nicholson began thinking about running for office in 1998. Though he was thinking of it at that time. He didn’t run for the position until 2004. Now on his fourth term, Nicholson continues his efforts into the position of law enforcement. While he looks at it from more of the big picture standpoint than he did as a deputy, he says he has to remember he is first a law enforcement officer and must act accordingly. However, the position of sheriff is a political figure and has public responsibilities because of that.

He offers an example of his wife and kid being sick at one time. Heading to the store to get Gatorade to help them feel better, he says he may get caught for an hour in the Gatorade aisle talking to someone about a neighbor dispute going on. “The sheriff is the representative of the law enforcement community to the citizens. The citizens would much prefer to talk specifically to the sheriff than a deputy that’s actually going to take care of the problem.”

It becomes a balancing act of the law enforcement lifestyle and being a politician. Being in a smaller community only increases the access as everyone knows and commonly sees the sheriff.

On the enforcement side, taking the role in the big picture sense, he says he has had to pay more attention to national news and its effects on the local office and citizens. Going further, rather than worrying about what to do on patrol, he’s looked more at locations. Patrol zones and the need for visibility of officers in certain areas over others.

The position also separates you from others, “It’s tough to have to discipline someone who is one of your better friends… You learn to keep at least a small amount of distance between yourself and those you are managing.” As much as you want to be close friends with those you serve alongside, the position demands authority. Nicholson compares the Sheriff’s Office to more of a family, saying someone has to be the father. Someone has to be in that leadership role.

The depth of the role is one thing Nicholson says he has been surprised with after becoming sheriff.  He explains that he didn’t expect just how much people, both citizens and employees, look to him to solve certain problems. He chuckles as he admits, “I can’t tell you the number of times that I pull into the parking lot and I might handle four situations in the parking lot before I get to the front doors of the courthouse.”

People often look to the sheriff for advice on situations or to be a mediator.

Despite the public attention, Nicholson says the hardest thing he deals with in his position is balancing the needs against the county’s resources. Speaking specifically to certain needs over others is a basic understood principle of leadership, it is one Nicholson says he knows too well when balancing budgets and funds versus the office’s and deputy’s needs. Whether it is equipment, training, salary, or maintenance, he says that trying to prioritize these needs and provide for them is the toughest task.

Despite the surprises and the difficulties, Nicholson states, “It’s me, it’s my command staff, all the way down to the boots on the ground troops. I think we have put together one of the best law enforcement agencies that Georgia has to offer.”

Gaining state certification in his first term was one proud moment for Nicholson as the office grew in discipline and achieved policy changes. Though it wasn’t easy, he says he had to ‘hold his own feet to the fire’ during the process as the office went down the long checklist to accomplish the feat. Setting the direction for the office at the time, the changes to policies and disciplines were only the start of keeping the office on track to the task.

It signaled a growth and change from the days of one or two deputies on patrol in the county into a more professional standardized agency, a growth that Nicholson holds close as one of his accomplishments that his deputies and command staff have helped him to achieve.

It is a point echoed by his one on his command staff, Major Mike Gobble, who said, “When he took office, one of his first goals was to bring the Sheriff’s Office up-to-date and modernize the sheriff’s office from salaries to equipment. Making sure we had the pull to do our job, that was one of his major priorities.”

Gobble says going from one to two deputies on shift to four or five deputies on shift improved their response time alongside managing patrol zones. Gobble went on to say its the struggle that he sees the sheriff fight for his deputies for salaries, benefits, and retirement that shows his leadership. It is that leadership that draws Gobble further into his position in the command staff.

Now, having Gilmer’s sheriff moving into the position as President of the Sheriff’s Association, it’s prideful to see that position held here in Gilmer County. As sheriff, Gobble says he handles the position with respect and class. He knows how to deal with the citizens of the county, but also with those outside the county and at the state level. “He’s a very approachable kind of person. Not just as a sheriff, but an approachable kind of person.”

It is a quality Gobble says serves the people well to be able to talk to people respectfully while having an “open ear” to help them with their problems. Its the point that not every employee sees, he’s working towards improving their positions and pay for what they give to service.

Improving these positions is something Nicholson himself says is very difficult, especially around budget times in the year. Noted repeatedly over the years for the struggles at budget times in the county, Nicholson says it is about the perspective of the county. “I’m not over those departments, I’ve got my own stuff to look after… but we are all a part of the same county government.”

It is always a difficult process for those involved. He continues his thoughts on the topic saying, “I always have a true respect for the need for the other county departments to have adequate funding… But when it comes down to it, I’ve got to put being a citizen aside and be the sheriff. My responsibility is to look after the sheriff’s office.”

While the financial portions of the sheriff’s position stand as Nicholson’s least-liked part of the job, he balances the other half seeing the community support for officers in our county. He says he gets disappointed at seeing the news from across the nation in communities that protest and fight law enforcement. Living in this community affords him his favorite part of the job in being around people so much.

From the employees he works alongside to the citizens that speak to him to the courthouse’s own community feel. Its the interaction with people that highlights the days for Nicholson as he says, “It ought to be illegal to be paid to have this much fun.”

Even the littlest things like one situation that he recalls, he was speaking with an officer at the security station of the courthouse, one man came in and began speaking with Nicholson as another man walks in. The two gentlemen eventually began conversing with each other, but it became apparent that neither could hear well. As the conversation progresses with one trying to sell a car and the other speaking on a completely different topic of a situation years earlier. Nicholson says it was the funniest conversation he has ever heard and a prime example of simply getting more interaction with the public as sheriff.

It is an honor that he says competes with and conflicts with his appointment to the Sheriff’s Association, conflict simply in the idea that it is just as big of an honor to be a part of the leadership of Gilmer’s community as it is to be a part of the leadership of the state organization.

The presidency will see Nicholson in the legislature’s sessions and a part of committee meetings in the process. Traveling to the capitol during legislative session and a winter, summer, and fall conference for the association make-up the major commitments of the positions.

Starting to look at the Executive Committee 2009 as something he wanted to achieve, he gained this desire from a now past president that still serves on the Board of Directors as an inspiration to the position. As one of a few people that Nicholson calls a mentor, this unnamed guide led Nicholson to the executive board through his own example in the position. Now achieving it himself, Nicholson says he hopes that he can, in turn, be that example for other younger sheriffs and build the same relationships with them that have inspired him.

Calling the presidency a great achievement, Nicholson didn’t agree that it is a capstone on his career saying, “I’m not done with being sheriff in Gilmer County.”

While focusing on his position on the Executive Board and his position as Gilmer Sheriff, Nicholson says he doesn’t have a set goal to accomplish past the coming presidency. Promoting the profession of law enforcement as president of the Sheriff’s Association and growing the Sheriff’s Office in Gilmer County, these are the focus that Nicholson uses to define the next stages of his career.

To continue his growth in the county office, he says he is reaching an age where he can’t plan several terms ahead anymore. He wants to look at the question of running for Sheriff again to each election period. That said, he did confirm that he definitely will run again in 2020.

 

Fetching Features: a look at Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson

Community

Out of 159 sheriffs in the Sheriff’s Association, nine serve as regional vice-presidents. Then, there is the executive board with a first vice president, second vice-president,  secretary/treasurer, and the president of the Sheriff’s Association.

This year, the position of president is filled by Gilmer County’s own Sheriff Stacy Nicholson.

After serving for six years as a regional vice president, Nicholson ran for the position of secretary/treasurer in 2015. Having been elected to that position, the process continued as the elected person will serve in all positions until he reaches and concludes with the presidency. A process that Nicholson says helps to prepare that person for the presidency as he gains experience and service throughout each other position.

But this is more than just a presidency as it sets his future in the Association on the Board of Directors. While he has served on the board in previous years as a regional vice president, his election in 2015 placed him permanently on the board as long as he serves as sheriff. This is because the Board of Directors is made up of the four Executive Board members, the current regional vice presidents, and the past presidents of the association.

Our sheriff’s progress along this path was not always so clear, though. He began at 19-years-old when he took a job at the jail. Nicholson says he wasn’t running around as a kid playing “sheriff” or anything that would have preceded his life in law enforcement. He had never considered the career until his mother made a call one day and got him a position in the jail in March of 1991. In a process that only took one weekend, the young man went from needing a part-time job and searching for something to fill that need to an on-the-clock deputy working and training at the Detention Center on March 3.

There was no training seminars to attend, no special certifications to obtain. He simply spoke with Sheriff Bernhardt on the phone as the interview, showed up to collect his uniform, and began work the next day.

Even then, it was never a thought in Nicholson’s mind about the position of sheriff. Instead, he began immediately looking at the next level of law enforcement, a deputy. More specifically, he began striving to become a deputy-on-patrol. Serving daily at the jail led to a quick “training” as he dealt with situations and convicts, but it was also short-lived.

Six months after entering the detention center, he achieved his goal and secured his promotion.

To this day, Stacy Nicholson holds true to his thoughts, “Anybody who wants to be in local law enforcement, where they’re out patrolling the streets of a community, they ought to start out in the jail because you’re locked up in a building for 8-12 hours every day with inmates.”

The situation quickly teaches you, according to Nicholson, how to handle situations, criminal activity, and convicts. It is how he likes to hire deputies as he says it “makes or breaks them.” It allows the department to see if that person can handle the life the way they want it handled. More than just handling difficult situations, though, it is a position of power over others that will show if you abuse the power while in a more contained and observed environment.

Though his time in the detention center was “eye-opening” and an extreme change from his life to that point, Nicholson actually says the part of his career that hit the hardest was his time as a deputy.

The life became more physically demanding as he began dealing with arrests, chases, and the dangers of responding to emergencies and criminal activity. However, it also became more mentally taxing as Nicholson realized the best tool for most situations was his own calm demeanor. That calm sense could permeate most people to de-escalate situations.

Nicholson relates his promotion out of the jail as similar to the inmates he watched over. He says, “It was almost a feeling like an inmate just released from six months confinement. He feels free, I felt free. I’m in a car, I’m a deputy sheriff… I can go anywhere I want to in this county.”

Nicholson’s high point of the promotion was shattered quickly, though, with one of the first calls to which he responded. He notes that at that time in the county, at best, he had one other deputy patrolling somewhere in the county during a shift. A lot of times, he would be the only deputy patrolling on his shift. Still, even with another deputy on patrol, he could be twenty minutes away at any given time.

It became an isolating job, alone against the criminal element. Though we still live in a “good area,” and even in the early ’90s, a lower crime area relative to some in the country. Still, Nicholson says, there were those who would easily decide to harm you, or worse, to avoid going to jail.

Telling the story of one of his first calls on patrol, Nicholson recalled a mentally deranged man. The only deputy on duty that night, he responded to a call about this man who had “ripped his parent’s home apart.” Arriving on the scene and beginning to assess the situation, he discovered that this deranged man believed he was Satan. Not exaggerating, he repeated this part of the story adding weight to each word, “He thought that He. Was. Satan. He actually believed he was the devil.”

Scared to death, he continued talking to the man and convinced him to get into his vehicle without force.

It became quite real about the types of things he would see in this career. It sunk in deep as to exactly what the police academy and training could never prepare him to handle. Yet, Nicholson says it taught him more than anything else. It taught him he had to always be quick-thinking and maintain the calm air. It became a solemn lesson to “try to use my mouth more than muscle.”

The flip-side of the job, however, makes it worse. Though sharing the extreme stories like this one showcases the rarer moments of the position, he says it is actually a slow, boring job on patrol. It is because of this usual pace that sets such a disparity to the moments when he got a call to more serious situations. His job was never like the movies with gunfights every day and then you just walk away and grab a drink. The high-intensity points were harder to handle because you are calm and relaxed before the call. It causes an adrenaline spike and your body kicks over into a different gear so suddenly. An “adrenaline dump” like that made it hard for Nicholson to keep from shaking on some days.

Even in his years as a detective, it seemed it would always happen as he laid down to sleep when a call came in. The rebound from preparing to sleep and shut down for the day all the way back to being on high function and stress of working a crime scene could be extreme. With so much adrenaline, Nicholson can only refer to these moments as “containment, ” conquering the feeling and holding it down in order to function properly in the situation.

“It’s all in your brain and, I guess, in your gut,” Nicholson says that while he has known people who thrive on the adrenaline and actively seek it, they really become a minority in the big picture, only 1-2%. He notes, “If a cop tells you he has never been in a situation where he was scared, he’s probably lying.”

This is the point of courage, though. He references an old John Wayne quote, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” It is the point of the job that sets them apart from most people. You cannot do the job without courage, you cannot last in it.

Courage in the moment doesn’t mean you don’t feel the effects. Dealing with everything that an officer sees, feels, and hears through the line of duty is another trial all its own.

Handling it, he said, is to just put it away for a while. Still, he says he had to deal with it eventually. Nicholson says throughout his time in this career through deputy, detective, and sheriff, he deals with those emotions and dark points through camaraderie with friends and fellow officers, taking a night to talk with close friends and talking through the hard points.

Nicholson also says he finds relief in his faith in God after becoming a Christian in 1982. Turning to him in order to find comfort in letting go of the issues, “talking to God” is something that Nicholson says he falls on later. As you find yourself in certain situations and you put off the emotions to deal with, you have to turn back and face it with God’s help at some point. Stress is an enormously negative factor in his position and dealing with it productively in the key. Fighting against destructive processes that lead to heavy drinking and suicide is the reality of any serious law enforcement career.

One of the hardest points in his career is one well known in Gilmer County. It is hard to speak about the Sheriff’s Office in Gilmer without speaking of one of its biggest losses in Officer Brett Dickey. Even over 20 years later, Nicholson says it shapes and affects him to this day.

Directly involved in the shooting, Nicholson was one of the officers on location that night. He and Mark Sanford were on location attempting to get a man out of the house with other officers forming a perimeter around the residence.

Even speaking of it today, watching and listening to Sheriff Nicholson retell the story, you can see the change it puts into his face, into his voice. You watch his eyes fall to the floor as he mentions the details. You see him straighten in his chair slightly as if preparing to brace against an impact. You hear his voice soften, losing a little of the authoritative tone. In this moment, you hear the wound.

“That’s the only shot I’ve ever fired in the line of duty.” Firing the shot at the suspect as he was shooting, Nicholson says he fired into a very small area to try to shoot him to stop the gunfire. With 10 shots fired randomly, Nicholson says, “The entire situation, it seemed like it took thirty minutes to unfold, but it actually happened all in about three to four seconds… Two deputies were hit, it was definitely a dark night in the career.”

He swears it is an incident that he will never forget. It was a turning point that set the direction for his life in the coming years. After that, Nicholson began taking training personally to become something more. It became more than just a job that night.

It was a night that forced Nicholson deeper into the life that is law enforcement.

Even now, as Sheriff, he couldn’t quite answer the question if the lifestyle is something he can turn off after he leaves. It even defines his goals in the position as he says, “My number one goal is to never have to bury an officer. That’s my number one goal, and my second goal is that we don’t have to kill someone else.”

Accomplishing both of these goals is something Nicholson says he understands isn’t as likely as it used to be, but it is something he continually strives for in his career.

With his career and training advancing, Nicholson began thinking about running for office in 1998. Though he was thinking of it at that time. He didn’t run for the position until 2004. Now on his fourth term, Nicholson continues his efforts into the position of law enforcement. While he looks at it from more of the big picture standpoint than he did as a deputy, he says he has to remember he is first a law enforcement officer and must act accordingly. However, the position of sheriff is a political figure and has public responsibilities because of that.

He offers an example of his wife and kid being sick at one time. Heading to the store to get Gatorade to help them feel better, he says he may get caught for an hour in the Gatorade aisle talking to someone about a neighbor dispute going on. “The sheriff is the representative of the law enforcement community to the citizens. The citizens would much prefer to talk specifically to the sheriff than a deputy that’s actually going to take care of the problem.”

It becomes a balancing act of the law enforcement lifestyle and being a politician. Being in a smaller community only increases the access as everyone knows and commonly sees the sheriff.

On the enforcement side, taking the role in the big picture sense, he says he has had to pay more attention to national news and its effects on the local office and citizens. Going further, rather than worrying about what to do on patrol, he’s looked more at locations. Patrol zones and the need for visibility of officers in certain areas over others.

The position also separates you from others, “It’s tough to have to discipline someone who is one of your better friends… You learn to keep at least a small amount of distance between yourself and those you are managing.” As much as you want to be close friends with those you serve alongside, the position demands authority. Nicholson compares the Sheriff’s Office to more of a family, saying someone has to be the father. Someone has to be in that leadership role.

The depth of the role is one thing Nicholson says he has been surprised with after becoming sheriff.  He explains that he didn’t expect just how much people, both citizens and employees, look to him to solve certain problems. He chuckles as he admits, “I can’t tell you the number of times that I pull into the parking lot and I might handle four situations in the parking lot before I get to the front doors of the courthouse.”

People often look to the sheriff for advice on situations or to be a mediator.

Despite the public attention, Nicholson says the hardest thing he deals with in his position is balancing the needs against the county’s resources. Speaking specifically to certain needs over others is a basic understood principle of leadership, it is one Nicholson says he knows too well when balancing budgets and funds versus the office’s and deputy’s needs. Whether it is equipment, training, salary, or maintenance, he says that trying to prioritize these needs and provide for them is the toughest task.

Despite the surprises and the difficulties, Nicholson states, “It’s me, it’s my command staff, all the way down to the boots on the ground troops. I think we have put together one of the best law enforcement agencies that Georgia has to offer.”

Gaining state certification in his first term was one proud moment for Nicholson as the office grew in discipline and achieved policy changes. Though it wasn’t easy, he says he had to ‘hold his own feet to the fire’ during the process as the office went down the long checklist to accomplish the feat. Setting the direction for the office at the time, the changes to policies and disciplines were only the start of keeping the office on track to the task.

It signaled a growth and change from the days of one or two deputies on patrol in the county into a more professional standardized agency, a growth that Nicholson holds close as one of his accomplishments that his deputies and command staff have helped him to achieve.

It is a point echoed by his one on his command staff, Major Mike Goble, who said, “When he took office, one of his first goals was to bring the Sheriff’s Office up-to-date and modernize the sheriff’s office from salaries to equipment. Making sure we had the pull to do our job, that was one of his major priorities.”

Goble says going from one to two deputies on shift to four or five deputies on shift improved their response time alongside managing patrol zones. Goble went on to say its the struggle that he sees the sheriff fight for his deputies for salaries, benefits, and retirement that shows his leadership. It is that leadership that draws Goble further into his position in the command staff.

Now, having Gilmer’s sheriff moving into the position as President of the Sheriff’s Association, it’s prideful to see that position held here in Gilmer County. As sheriff, Goble says he handles the position with respect and class. He knows how to deal with the citizens of the county, but also with those outside the county and at the state level. “He’s a very approachable kind of person. Not just as a sheriff, but an approachable kind of person.”

It is a quality Goble says serves the people well to be able to talk to people respectfully while having an “open ear” to help them with their problems. Its the point that not every employee sees, he’s working towards improving their positions and pay for what they give to service.

Improving these positions is something Nicholson himself says is very difficult, especially around budget times in the year. Noted repeatedly over the years for the struggles at budget times in the county, Nicholson says it is about the perspective of the county. “I’m not over those departments, I’ve got my own stuff to look after… but we are all a part of the same county government.”

It is always a difficult process for those involved. He continues his thoughts on the topic saying, “I always have a true respect for the need for the other county departments to have adequate funding… But when it comes down to it, I’ve got to put being a citizen aside and be the sheriff. My responsibility is to look after the sheriff’s office.”

While the financial portions of the sheriff’s position stand as Nicholson’s least-liked part of the job, he balances the other half seeing the community support for officers in our county. He says he gets disappointed at seeing the news from across the nation in communities that protest and fight law enforcement. Living in this community affords him his favorite part of the job in being around people so much.

From the employees he works alongside to the citizens that speak to him to the courthouse’s own community feel. Its the interaction with people that highlights the days for Nicholson as he says, “It ought to be illegal to be paid to have this much fun.”

Even the littlest things like one situation that he recalls, he was speaking with an officer at the security station of the courthouse, one man came in and began speaking with Nicholson as another man walks in. The two gentlemen eventually began conversing with each other, but it became apparent that neither could hear well. As the conversation progresses with one trying to sell a car and the other speaking on a completely different topic of a situation years earlier. Nicholson says it was the funniest conversation he has ever heard and a prime example of simply getting more interaction with the public as sheriff.

It is an honor that he says competes with and conflicts with his appointment to the Sheriff’s Association, conflict simply in the idea that it is just as big of an honor to be a part of the leadership of Gilmer’s community as it is to be a part of the leadership of the state organization.

The presidency will see Nicholson in the legislature’s sessions and a part of committee meetings in the process. Traveling to the capitol during legislative session and a winter, summer, and fall conference for the association make-up the major commitments of the positions.

Starting to look at the Executive Committee 2009 as something he wanted to achieve, he gained this desire from a now past president that still serves on the Board of Directors as an inspiration to the position. As one of a few people that Nicholson calls a mentor, this unnamed guide led Nicholson to the executive board through his own example in the position. Now achieving it himself, Nicholson says he hopes that he can, in turn, be that example for other younger sheriffs and build the same relationships with them that have inspired him.

Calling the presidency a great achievement, Nicholson didn’t agree that it is a capstone on his career saying, “I’m not done with being sheriff in Gilmer County.”

While focusing on his position on the Executive Board and his position as Gilmer Sheriff, Nicholson says he doesn’t have a set goal to accomplish past the coming presidency. Promoting the profession of law enforcement as president of the Sheriff’s Association and growing the Sheriff’s Office in Gilmer County, these are the focus that Nicholson uses to define the next stages of his career.

To continue his growth in the county office, he says he is reaching an age where he can’t plan several terms ahead anymore. He wants to look at the question of running for Sheriff again to each election period. That said, he did confirm that he definitely will run again in 2020.

 

Casey Cagle’s Reprehensible Acts, The Michael Williams Press Conference that missed the Target

Featured, Politics

“The Die Has Been Cast”

Swing and a miss, strike two.  State Senator Michael Williams now has two strikes against him with the media in his quest to be the next Governor of Georgia.

Williams’ first strike was at the State GOP convention when he announced in a speech that a member from  Lt. Governor Casey Cagle’s campaign team approached him backstage and offered him a deal to get out of the Governor’s race.  In his speech at the GOP convention Williams claimed in front of 1500 people that he was offered the Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee if he would get out of the race.  He never named the individual with Cagle’s team who made the offer in the backroom deal.  An accusation with no name leaving the media hanging. Strike one.

Williams’ press conference last Thursday at the Capitol was strike two.

Williams sent out an invite last Wednesday announcing a press conference he would be holding at the Capitol Thursday afternoon. The invitation stated he would be revealing the reprehensible acts of Lt. Governor Casey Cagle.

The press conference was scheduled for 2PM and Williams was 30 minutes late.  The press conference only lasted twelve minutes.  I attended this press conference and from memory the only thing I got out of it was ‘campaign Casey, a member of Casey Cagle’s team, offered him a committee chairmanship to get out of the race.  Angered that Cagle may have out maneuvered him on minimum wage for Sheriff deputies, Willams directly asked Cagle to get out of the race and something about “tying shoes”.

The media pressed Williams to give the name of who from Cagle’s team offered him the chairmanship. Williams’ only response was, ‘not at this time.’  I asked him the final question of the press conference, “did you not say that it was a member of Cagle’s team?” Williams said, “correct.”  And I asked, “and you’re not prepared to give us who that is”?  Williams: “no”.  Williams then told everyone to have a nice day and walked off taking no more questions.  

Williams held up a copy of SB 254 entitled: Minimum annual salary for each deputy appointed by each Sheriff; provide; Local Law Enforcement Officer Compensation Commission.  

Senators Greg Kirk and Josh McKoon co-sponsored the bill along with Williams.  Williams claims that Cagle is the reason the bill went nowhere during the past legislative session.  Maybe Williams thought this would be his strongest campaign issue. This could show he is the true friend of law enforcement in the campaign.

In May Cagle announced along with Greg Kirk the Compensation of Police and Sheriffs Task Force.  Statement released by the Lt. Governor’s office, “The service and dedication of our law enforcement officials is nothing short of heroic,” said Lt. Governor Cagle. “We must make every effort to ensure local compensation packages are both competitive and fair to those who protect and serve. COPS will help local governments identify ways to maximize their support for the men and women who bravely protect our communities and neighborhoods.”

Kirk, one of Williams’ co-sponsors gone and with the other Josh McKoon running for Secretary of State he may not have any backup concerning his claim that Cagle killed the bill.

Recently Cagle commented about a possible sheriff deputy minimum wage.  He has not gone into any detail though.

This week is the Sheriffs’ Association’s Summer Conference where each candidate will get a chance to address the Association.  

Brian Kemp, Hunter Hill, Michael Williams and Casey Cagle will have their chance to make their pitch.  You can forget this week which one is the true conservative, cause this week all you will hear is ‘I am the true friend of law enforcement’, {no} ‘I’m the true friend of law enforcement,’ {no}  ……

My suspicion is that the Sheriffs’ Association will support whomever they think will be best able to get something done for them when it comes to minimum wage for deputies.  If that turns out to be Cagle then that may mean  Williams has been totally out maneuvered on the issue and SB 254 could turn out to be, as a campaign issue for Williams, no more than good initiative/poor judgment.

You can understand Williams’ frustration.  If Cagle gets almost every Sheriff in the state to actively campaign for him that is big.  Really big.  Maybe that is the ‘reprehensible’ act.

But, Williams’ shoe tying comment directed toward Casey Cagle was a ‘low blow’ no pun intended.  Williams experienced several personal attacks especially during his first State Senate race.  The rumors are already flying and emails being sent concerning Williams’ past.  Maybe Williams’ comment was a subtle warning not to go personal.  It’s disappointing this early in the campaign that things are taking a dirty turn rather than  staying focused on the issues.

The voters of Georgia may want to hear about issues like casino gambling, rural economic development, tax reform, healthcare, infrastructure…… not who can tie their own shoes.

I feel Williams’ gets one more strike with the media.  I can only speak for myself.  If he calls another press conference I will attend. Williams has to make good on his claims of reprehensible acts by Cagle soon or that will be strike three and he will lose his credibility. It’s a long time until election day and Williams will need the media to take him serious to help get his message out.

Kemp and Hill have not commented on the Williams’ attacks of Casey Cagle.  They both seem to be able to keep their campaigns focused on the issues and not the dirt for the time being.  Odds are they will have to join the mud pit before the race is over.

Michael Williams was the first Georgia politician holding a state office to support Donald Trump for President.  Williams is attempting to run a Donald Trump-style campaign.  There’s only one problem, he is not Donald Trump.

Trump never held public office. He had no legislative voting track record.  He could run against Washington D.C. and the Media.

Williams has a State Senate voting record. During his first two years in the State Senate his voting record looks like he was working well with the Republican Establishment.  His third year looks more like someone preparing to run for governor.

I am not questioning Williams’ conservative credentials, just the direction his campaign is headed.  If you going to demand Casey Cagle  get out of the race, it’s time to give the reason why with the facts.

 

 

 

Updated: Pickens County High School Teacher Arrested for Inappropriate Contact with Students

Featured, News

Mr. Daniel Culbreth, a math teacher at Pickens High School, was arrested on Thursday night (October 6, 2016) for Computer Exploitation of Children and Sexual Assault by Persons with Supervisory Authority.  Culbreth, also a PCHS running back coach was arrested for DUI of alcohol in 2015. (see arrest/booking report below).  The arrest came during an investigation into inappropriate communications with a student. Led by Detective Steven Holmes of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office, who also serves as an agent for the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, detectives began following up on a tip that Mr. Culbreth had been using the popular teen social media app Snapchat to communicate with female students. According to the information received by detectives, the content of some of his communication was highly inappropriate. After receiving and verifying this information, Pickens Sheriff’s Office Detectives executed a search warrant on Mr. Culbreth’s Snapchat account and found this information to be true.

 

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Numerous Pickens High school students were identified in the content of Mr. Culbreth’s Snapchat account. The content indicates that Culbreth had engaged in inappropriate conversations with several students. As a result, search warrants were obtained which led to additional information being gathered. This information together with multiple interviews with students verified Mr. Culbreth had multiple cyber relationships with students and had a physical relationship with at least one student.

Once verified, Mr. Culbreth was arrested without incident and is currently being held at the Pickens County Adult Detention Center. He is awaiting a First Appearance Hearing before a Judge to determine if bond will be set.

Detectives are also examining all evidence, and additional charges may be forthcoming.

Sheriff Donnie Craig stated, “In cases like this, nobody wins.” He went on to explain, “Yes, we may have made a good arrest, but a number of teenage girls have been made victims by someone that we, as parents, have entrusted to care for them.”

The Pickens Sheriff’s Office is urging parents to be very proactive in knowing how their kids are using social media. Detective Steven Holmes urges parents to “know who your kids are talking to and what they are sending over these sites.” If you believe that your child may have been a victim of inappropriate communication with Mr. Daniel Culbreth, you can contact the Criminal Investigation Division of the Pickens Sheriff’s Office at 706-253-8935.

If you would like to learn more about what you can do to prevent your child from becoming a victim of internet crimes, please visit http://www.gaicactaskforcecom.

Incident on 575 Bridge in Ball Ground

News

An incident this morning involving a young lady on the Sharpe Mountain Bridge of 575 could be suicide as she was found dead under the bridge.

According to Public Information Officer Lt. Jay Baker of the  Cherokee County Sheriff’s Dept, at 6:42 am, Cherokee County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call involving someone jumping from the Sharpe Mountain Bridge’s northbound lane on 575. As Deputies arrived they found a vehicle parked on bridge and a 35-year-old female, deceased, under the bridge. Of course, officials are not releasing the person’s name at this time as an investigation will be undertaken by the Sheriff’s Department, although currently there is no indication of foul play as a witness to the incident traveling southbound was also found. With Fire and Emergency Services on hand to aid the process, authorities did shut down one lane, the eastbound lane, to process the scene and continue their duties. However, traffic is continuing as normal during the investigation.

Morning Monologue 5/19/16

Opinion

Trumps Staff and Fannin Sheriffs on today’s Morning Monologue.

Ads in Fannin Focus do not show up correctly in Sheriff Candidates Campaign Financial Reports

Featured, Featured Stories, News

Mark Thomason, the publisher of the Fannin Focus has been in the news a lot lately. This is an unrelated story to Thomason’s arrest, “Journalist Jailed”. It does, however go with the big picture of Thomason’s publication the Fannin Focus, “Intent on Integrity”. Read the story and you decide.

FYN has a copy of every Fannin Focus issue since primary election qualifying. We have reviewed each page for all campaign advertising. We also have a copy of the Fannin Focus advertising rate sheet. We have cross referenced the ads with the rate sheet. We have all the documents to support this article. FYN files the following report on three Fannin County Sheriff Republican Party Candidates, Johnny Scearce, Jack Taylor and Larry Bennett.

Fannin Sheriff Candidates Political Ad Reporting in Fannin Focus

#FanninCartel Defined

“A coalition or cooperative arrangement between political parties intended to promote a mutual interest”. Did this happen in the Fannin County Sheriff’s race?

Larry Bennett, Republican Candidate for Sheriff placed ads in issues of the Fannin Focus on 3/31, 4/7, 4/14 and 4/28. According to the Fannin Focus advertising rate sheet, the number of ads and the size of the ads Bennett placed should have totalled $1,142.78 in advertising with the Fannin Focus. According to Bennett’s Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report he spent $0 in advertising with the Fannin Focus. Bennett is the former police chief of McCaysville GA.

Jack Taylor Republican Candidate for Sheriff placed ads in issues of the Fannin Focus on 3/3, 3/10, 3/17, 3/24, 3/31, 4/14, 4/21, 4/28, 5/5, 5/12 and 5/19. According to the Fannin Focus advertising rate sheet, number of ads and size of the ads Taylor should have totaled $7,970.63 in advertising with the Fannin Focus. According to Taylor’s Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report he spent $600 in advertising with the Fannin Focus. This left $7,370.63 of unreported spending with the Fannin Focus. Remember all those full page ads Taylor ran in the paper?

Remember the marquee at the Swan Drive-In, “Vote Jack Taylor for Sheriff”? What did Taylor pay Steve Setser, the owner of the Drive-In, for the advertising? Taylor listed Setser on his Campaign Contribution Disclosure, but in the space where a candidate has to give the amount of the contribution, Taylor wrote “Setser“ but would not give a price or “no charge” (You can legally donate goods or services to a candidate {In-Kind} but the candidate must describe the donation and place a value on their campaign disclosure). In-Kind contribution values must comply with campaign finance laws. Setser is required to place a value on his contribution. Steve Setser also donated $463 for T-Shirts and $300 for flyers to the Taylor campaign.

Jack Taylor Swan

Now, that brings us to Johnny Scearce. Scearce is currently the Blue Ridge City Police Chief. Scearce has run for Fannin County Sheriff several times and is used to filling out a “Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report”. One would assume that Scearce would understand he has to list everyone who contributes to his campaign and show all outlets where he has spent money.  According to Scearce’s Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report filed on 6/30, he showed $0 left in his campaign account.

Johnny Scearce Republican Candidate for Sheriff placed ads in issues of the Fannin Focus on 3/17, 3/31, 4/7, 4/14, 4/21, 4/28, 5/5, 5/12 and 5/19. According to the Fannin Focus advertising rate sheet, the number of ads and size of ads Scearce placed should have cost $4,946.89 in advertising with the Fannin Focus. According to Scearce’s Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report he spent $0 in advertising with the Fannin Focus.

johnny brenda 3johnny full page 3

Scearce hired  Kendell Goss as Campaign Marketing Manager. Scearce paid Goss $3,369.00 and listed it as advertising. Sources tell FYN, Goss handled the campaign website, prepared speeches, and campaign video along with other marketing materials.

Let’s just suppose Goss used some of the money to place ads in the Fannin Focus…it still would have to be disclosed! Scearce disclosed that he spent money directly three times with The News Observer and once with WPPI – FM so why wouldn’t he disclose any money paid to the Fannin Focus or place the ad directly himself?

There is no disclosure on who paid for the ads. We could not find one Johnny Scearce or Larry Bennett ad in the Fannin Focus that discloses “Paid for By.” One could understand if the publisher missed one ad but it seems he missed them all! Why not show who is paying for the campaign ads, it’s a campaign finance rule?

Sheriff Dane Kirby spent $0 with the Fannin Focus and placed no ads in its paper.

The publisher of the Fannin Focus is Mark Thomason. If Thomason decided to give the advertising to the candidates for free, the Fannin Focus would still have to be listed on the candidates campaign finance reports with an “In-Kind” amount. If an “In-Kind” was the desired result to benefit the above listed candidates by Thomason, the amounts have far exceeded the campaign contribution limits.

Some questions…Did Mark Thomason extend $13,460.30 of free advertising to three Fannin County Sheriff candidates? Why just the Sheriff candidates? Could they have been in cahoots (colluding or conspiring together secretly)? Wonder how the other candidates who paid for their ads must feel? Wonder what the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission will think?

Click to read campaign finance reports.

Johnny Scearce 6302016

Jack Taylor 6302016

Larry Bennett 6302016

 

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Related story: Fannin Focus Mark Thomason Arrested, Journalist or Vendetta

 

 

 

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