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Candidate Q&A – Melody Maddox (incumbent), candidate for DeKalb County Sheriff

Avondale Estates campaign coverage Crime and public safety Decatur Kirkwood Metro ATL Tucker

Candidate Q&A – Melody Maddox (incumbent), candidate for DeKalb County Sheriff

Melody Maddox
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About this series:

Decaturish sent questions to candidates running for DeKalb County Sheriff. The election is March 24, which also coincides with the state’s presidential preference primary. We will publish the candidates’ responses throughout the week. For more information about voting in the upcoming election, please see the note at the end of this post. For all of our 2020 election coverage, visit Decaturishvotes.com

Decaturish needs your help covering the 2020 elections. If you value independent local news that isn’t behind a paywall, consider becoming a monthly supporter of Decaturish. For as little as $3 a month, you can help us provide you with quality and comprehensive election coverage. For more information about becoming a paid supporter, click here

1) Why are you running for this position?

On December 1, 2019 I became the 50th Sheriff of DeKalb County and now I am running to remain your sheriff.  I was raised right here in DeKalb and raised my daughter here. Just as important, most of my career has been spent protecting and serving DeKalb County. With your vote and your support, I will continue applying my experience and passion for service as we all work towards making our county the safest and best it can be.

2) What makes you a better candidate than your opponents?

I am from DeKalb. I was raised off Gresham Road.  My daughter graduated from DeKalb Public Schools and my family is still right here in DeKalb. This is my home and my investment in all the communities of DeKalb is deep. This is not a job; protecting my home county is a personal mission.

Experience matters.  All of us have some combination of experience totaling 20+ years. I am the only one who started a police department, served as a police chief, am a hostage negotiator, worked in the DeKalb Police Department and am now the Sheriff.  I understand this job from every angle and understand the importance of building trust.

I am proactive.  A lot of candidates will talk about what they will do. I say look at our records. If someone was in a position to make a change and did not, that should be noted. If someone has been repeatedly removed from their positions, that should be considered. If someone has only worked in one agency, that should also give voters pause.  The sheriff’s office has a very specific mission. The way we grow and improve your safety is through doing our job well, getting better at it and working with other agencies so that we work together for you.

3) If elected, what will be your top two or three priorities?

It is my job as Sheriff to ensure the safety of every person in DeKalb County. My approach has been to update our culture such that every officer embraces the EAR principle.  I want our agency to be a model for Excellence Accountability and Respect in:

– The way we carry out our constitutional responsibilities

– The way we treat the inmates under our care.  We must always be mindful that there is a person and/or family and a community connected to every person under our care in the jail

– The way we interact with the community to build trust.  The lack of trust between some communities and law enforcement is well documented. Everyone should feel that they can contact us and we will listen and act accordingly.

4) The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office has a reputation of being a corrupt institution. Do you think this reputation is deserved and, if so, what would you do to change it?

Every organization has its challenges.  What I can say is that I became sheriff on December 1st and have been working diligently to update the culture to make it more welcoming to diverse persons and women and finding ways to be even more transparent.  There is nothing more important for law enforcement and the way we do our job than for the community to trust us.

Our agency received the Triple Crown Rating from the National Sheriff’s Association. This rating considers every aspect of an agency, including operations.  Our agency is one of fewer than 50 in the entire country to receive this distinction.

5) As sheriff, what will be your policy regarding cooperation with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement?

I do not support 287g.  We will comply with executing warrants for criminal behavior; however, we will not support or engage in rounding up individuals who do not have a warrant.

6) As sheriff, what will be your policy on housing transgender inmates?

The DeKalb County jail has a location for individuals who are transgender. I have and will keep that in place.

7) Within the last year, local activists have raised concerns about the treatment of people held within the county jail. Do you feel inmates in the jail are being mistreated? If so, what would you do to change it?

An area of focus for me is in ensuring that the inmates under our care are treated with dignity and respect.  A part of what I am doing as the new sheriff is working with the command staff and department leaders to train them on my philosophy and my expectations that we will operate with what I call E.A.R, that is, Excellence, Accountability and Respect.

Also, I make a point of personally walking the floors and talking with inmates almost every day.  This allows me to address issues personally as soon as I find out about them. That has already made a positive impact and I am building on this.

8) Prior to his retirement, Sheriff Jeffrey Mann was facing the possibility of having his certifications revoked due to an arrest in Atlanta in 2017 for exposing himself in a public park. Do you agree with his decision to remain on the job instead of resigning following his arrest and guilty plea?

I am not familiar with the details of the process through which he went. What I can say is that I will continue to serve with honor and integrity as I have for my entire career, including my tenure as Sheriff.

9) As sheriff, what will you do to help rehabilitate inmates in the county jail?

I am proud of the work we are doing.  When I was Chief of Police at Georgia Piedmont Technical College we partnered with the DeKalb Sheriff’s Office to provide job training for inmates who were set to be released.  One of the most rewarding aspects of being sheriff is to oversee this program I helped create.  Additionally, we provide GED services to inmates and will partner with community-based organizations to provide clothing and grooming for inmates so that they can access employment opportunities upon being released.  My belief is that the best way to break the cycle of recidivism is to connect inmates to needed services and employment opportunities.

10) This question comes from a reader: The Georgia Department of Corrections recently made a policy change to provide free and unrestricted access to feminine hygiene products to women in state facilities. This does not apply to county facilities. Will the Sheriff ensure this policy is also implemented and upheld at the DeKalb County jail?

Yes.  As the first woman to serve as full sheriff (we had an interim for 40 days), I am particularly sensitive to this.

11) Another question from a reader: It currently costs $2.70 for a 15-minute call for those in the county jail. Will the Sheriff continue allowing private to charge such high rates for family communication?

This is one of the issues I have already started working on. We have started having conversations with the provider on how to lower the costs. I am ever mindful that there is someone and a community attached to every inmate under my care and I am committed to treating all sides with respect.

12) What will be your family visitation policy for inmates?

The current policy is to conduct visitation by video conference. I will continue this as it allows visitors to have contact with their loved one regardless of where from anywhere.

13) What will be your approach to mental healthcare at the county jail?

As Sheriff, I can share with you that we take mental healthcare seriously. We will continue working with outside medical mental health providers and facilities to make sure that when inmates are released, they are connected to the assistance they need.

14) If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner?

Yes. I will conduct myself in the same manner I have for the entirety of my career–with dignity, honor and respect for the position of a law enforcement officer and respect for the citizens I serve.

More information about voting in the March 24 election:

The voter registration deadline for the March 24 presidential primary is Feb. 24.

You can look up your status by visiting the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter Page.” To visit the My Voter Page, click here. You can check your status by providing basic information like your last name, birthday and the county you live in. You can also see a sample ballot.

If you find you are not registered, there are a few ways you can get back on the voter rolls.

You can register online with the Secretary of State’s Office by clicking here.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, in order to register to vote you must:

– Be a citizen of the United States

– Be a legal resident of the county where you are voting

– Be at least 17 1/2 years of age to register and 18 years of age to vote

– Not be serving a sentence for conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude

– Have not been found mentally incompetent by a judge

For more information about how to register, click here.

People who wish to vote will need to bring one of the following forms of identification, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office:

– Any valid state or federal government-issued photo ID, including a free ID Card issued by your county registrar’s office or the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS)

– A Georgia Driver’s License, even if expired

– Valid employee photo ID from any branch, department, agency, or entity of the U.S. Government, Georgia, or any county, municipality, board, authority or other entity of this state

– Valid U.S. passport ID

– Valid U.S. military photo ID

– Valid tribal photo ID

The county board of registrar’s office is located at 4380 Memorial Drive Suite, 300, Decatur, GA 30032.

Early voting will begin on March 2. Here is a list of advanced voting dates and times from the county Board of Registration and Elections:

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