Volunteer deputies For the love of it

Published 7:09 pm Friday, February 26, 2010

If the other profile stories are about ordinary people doing the extraordinary, than this story is about the extraordinary doing the ordinary—two deputies on the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office who love their job, but volunteer their time.

Ramsay Simmons III and Dr. Alan Wilson, who have professions where they get paid well, risk their lives doing the sometimes mundane tasks as a sheriff’s deputy.

For approximately 40 hours a week, Simmons and Wilson are at your service as Decatur County sheriff’s deputies. Spending the majority of their time tending to routine tasks—standing in a room because of a request for extra security, doing crowd control at a function or traffic control during a festival. Then there are the sparse moments of sheer excitement.

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“It’s for the love of the job,” said Simmons, who is the fourth generation of the founding family of Elberta Crate and Box Company.

Simmons and Wilson work along side the other paid deputies in various capacities. They both pull regular patrols, making traffic stops, patrolling areas in the county and being part of the team that protects county citizens.

Simmons and Wilson also each have special duties within the Sheriff’s Office.

Wilson responds with the Sheriff’s Office SWAT team—going in with them in full protective gear and being right there with the other team members in case something bad happens.

Simmons is a member of the PACE team, or the pro-active crime enforcement team, that deals with drugs and works with the K-9 units that include Michael Logue and Ed Moorhead.

Sheriff Wiley Griffin believes Decatur County is in the most unique position of having a successful businessman and a general surgeon who are both fully deputized, yet volunteer, on his staff. In fact, he said there is no other sheriff’s department in the state of Georgia that has volunteer deputies like Simmons and Wilson, Griffin said.

“Decatur County Sheriff’s Office has got quite a unique situation here, in my opinion. With what’s here and in this office here. It’s pretty darn cool,” Simmons said.

And the situation of Simmons and Wilson are different from the old rescue squad that assisted with the equipment, or the volunteer firefighters scattered throughout the county who respond during the emergencies. Simmons and Wilson come in during the not-so-glamorous times and help free up the regular deputies for other duties.

Saving money

Griffin said the taxpayers of the county are saving money too because by having Simmons and Wilson volunteering their time, he doesn’t have to pay a salary to help staff a shift. He does pay for their workmen’s compensation.

The sheriff said he has 36 deputies, of which 16 to 20 are road deputies, which means the Sheriff’s Office normally has five deputies on the road per shift covering this 600-square-mile county. As a comparison, Griffin said the Bainbridge Public Safety Department has approximately 5-10 officers per shift patrolling just the City of Bainbridge.

“It would be nice to have professionals come on in here and help us in law enforcement who weren’t compensated for it,” Griffin said.

Another plus for the Sheriff’s Office was that Simmons paid for his 10-week training to become post certified, which means he has full arrest powers. Griffin said it usually costs anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000 to train an individual at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, Ga.

Griffin would like to see that 10-week course changed in order to accommodate more professionals who can’t spare a full 10 weeks away from their jobs to become post certified.

The day it stuck

A day when Wilson and Simmons were on patrol together along Highway 97 South is when it all became clear as to why they spend their evenings and weekends out on the road instead of in front of the TV.

Simmons said they were riding along when they noticed a truck had just hit a tree.

“We were the first ones on the scene before it was even called out,” Simmons said. “We had law enforcement and a doctor right there on the scene, and it was just a wonderful feeling to be able to help that lady. She was in distress and hurting, and we were right there when it happened. So that was very gratifying. That made me realize that yeah, this is pretty cool.”

That incident wasn’t the first time “Doc,” as his colleagues in the department refer to him as, has been at the right spot at the right time.

The sheriff can remember incidents where Wilson perhaps saved a person’s life. One was a bad automobile accident and Wilson was there assessing the emergency care for the victim prior to EMS’ arrival. There was another incident when a bicyclist was hit by a car and Wilson was there providing emergency care prior to the arrival of EMS.

He’s been with deputies on meth lab busts and is most always with the SWAT team when it is activated. Wilson has also been the medical director for the county Emergency Medical Services, where he is responsible for responding to catastrophic events in the county. One such incident was the Bainbridge shooting death of Ebony Clarke in 2008, which is when Griffin first saw Wilson in action.

Wilson came to Bainbridge in 1997, and has been practicing general surgery here for nine years. Prior to his and his family’s arrival to Bainbridge, Wilson was completing his medical residency in Macon after earning his medical degree at Mercer University in Macon.

“I get compensated for helping people at my other job,” Wilson said. “I think everyone should volunteer and give back to the community in some form or fashion. And this, I can’t think of a more enjoyable way for me to do that than what I’m doing right now.”

Always loved it

Simmons said he’s always loved law enforcement. In 2002, he was named an honorary state trooper by the Georgia State Patrol because of his support for them.

In March 2008, Simmons, who his fellow deputies refer to as “Rambo,” started on the with the department. Simmons he attended Bainbridge College and the University of Georgia, majoring in business administration, although he half teased that his real major was partying. He never graduated though.

Simmons said Elberta Crate and Box Company is his first priority. “That’s my job first and foremost.”

But to patrol is what he does every chance he can.

Simmons said he gets compensated at the sheriff’s department in ways money can’t measure.

“This is my way to give back to the community,” Simmons said. “To give back to the community, to make me feel good to know that I can make a difference here in this community: I can’t do it that way or this way, but I can do it this way. I took my time, went through the academy and got certified. I hope I’ve made a difference.”