Candidates for Chatham County Sheriff gathered Tuesday at a forum in Savannah, where they answered questions about their campaigns.
One of those questions came from a deputy who lost his job after Matthew Ajibade died in the jail last year. Chris Reed said he was the deputy who performed CPR on the inmate and was wrongfully terminated.
“I was terminated for doing my job,” said Reed. “What are you going to do to ensure people like me don’t lose their job.”
The question was directed at interim sheriff Roy Harris, but all the candidates addressed the concern about preventing deaths or making sure internal investigations are fair.
“Everyone (who investigated the death) was in complete agreement of the folks who did lose their jobs,” said Harris. “I’m sorry for that, but unfortunately that’s the way we have to do business. We simply cannot tolerate behavior that cost the life of a young man.”
Harris said he couldn’t comment much about the death because of a lawsuit filed against the jail.
“(Ajibade) person should have been taken to the doctor at the hospital,” said John Wilcher, who said there were signs Ajibade was having a negative reaction to drugs. “The first thing they said was, ‘he’s been cleared by EMT.’ EMT is emergency management technician, not a doctor. So, that’s where you need to start at right there to make sure they don’t take these people in the jail.”
“You want to make sure your side of the story is heard,” said Mcarthur Holmes, about internal investigations. “I don’t know what happened. I was gone four years before that, but that is the way I ran my investigations when I was there.”
“I’m not going to tell you that all investigations are unbiased. I’m not going to tell you that some stuff doesn’t get pushed under the rug,” said Kim Middleton, who is pushing for a citizen review board. “But having someone to come in and look at what’s being done and how it’s being done and have a checks and balances system will be something that I will establish.”
“I will look after my officers and my deputies,” said Ken Williamson, who also believes a few bad deputies can ruin the reputation of a department. “I will have a review board and I don’t know your case, whatever it is, but I promise all my deputies fair treatment.”
News 3’s Tina Tyus-Shaw will moderate the next sheriff candidate forum on Thursday, February 25, at the Calvary Baptist Temple on Waters Avenue in Savannah.
The special election to replace the late Al St. Lawrence will be held on Tuesday, March 1.