Homegrown Hero: SRO Tommy Dorsey runs for sheriff

On May 21 the Athens-Clarke County local election and primary will be held. With no Republican candidate for sheriff, the Democratic primary will determine who wins that office.  Cedar Shoals School Resource Officer Tommy Dorsey is running against current Sheriff John Q. Williams

Born and raised in Athens-Clarke County, Dorsey has 25 years of experience in law enforcement. After stepping down due to his workplace closing, Dorsey became the school resource officer at Cedar Shoals and is currently working under the Clarke County School District police. 

BluePrints staff members Aiden Poe and London Moore interviewed Dorsey as Athens voters head to the polls.

BluePrints staff: Why are you running for sheriff? 

Tommy Dorsey: I have a passion for my community. Athens is home for me, I was born and raised right here. So I have a passion in that I want to be able to bridge law enforcement in the community. For years law enforcement has gotten such a bad rep. Just growing up in the community that is the Eastside of Athens, I take pride in being a Cedar Shoals Jag, so I just want to give back to my community.”

BP: What made you decide to run?

TD: “I have 27 years experience in law enforcement. I started my career off in a detention center until the center was closed down due to a lack of state funding. At that point I went to the sheriff’s office and served for 20 years there. I want to get the role of sheriff back to being an honorable position as opposed to what it is currently.” 

BP: What are going to be your top three priorities if elected?

TD: “All the men and women are putting their lives on the line on a daily basis. So pay is going to be one thing, and the second thing is morale. We’ve got to boost morale. Right now we’re at an all time low. The jail is just horrific right now. They are super short staffed so the people are stressed. They’re screaming for help. The third thing I want to do is partner with small communities to bring Athens back to what it was.” 

BP: Why do you think that the crime rate in Athens is as high as it is right now?

TD: “The poverty level, that’s a problem. We’ll definitely want to reach out to some of these people that are less fortunate, check backgrounds and I want to give them a career in law enforcement if possible. I think that \we can build the county up by hiring people that are right for the position, so we can offer people career opportunities as opposed to just a job.”

BP: What do you plan to bring to the table if you win the election? 

TD: “Transparency, versatility, safety. Throughout this entire campaign, I spoke on transparency and safety. They have a board that determines if the cops are doing the right thing. So it’s almost like a board for the police to make sure that the police are being policed the right way. I want to be transparent. I would like for everything to be publicized. If we go out and buy a new car, or we have to buy a new gun or a taser, I want the community to be aware of it. That’s something that has never happened in law enforcement.” 

BP: Seeing that you attended Cedar Shoals, how has the community changed over time in your opinion?

TD: “Cedar has changed tremendously. When I attended Cedar, the school was known as a place of excellence. Clarke Central was always the school of champions, while we were the school of excellence. We had the highest GPAs as a school and were academics focused, as opposed to now. Dr. Hooker said in a speech that 43 kids cause 85% of the problem. We’ve got to be able to tackle that 43 and find something for them. Those 43 kids are able to bring down other students as well, so it is about finding something for those kids so we can become a school of excellence again.” 

BP: What was your experience as a Cedar Shoals Jaguar?

TD: “I was a typical high school kid. That’s why I can relate to so many of the kids here. I didn’t hang out in the bathrooms all day because I was an athlete, but the athletes effectively ran the school. The athletes were the leaders of the school. That’s why we’ve got to get leaders. As an athlete you had to be in class, you had to be sitting on the front row, you had to have good grades and that was just to be eligible to play ball. Students need role models.”

BP: How do you see the school as an adult?

TD: “It needs a little update.For me working in a school is not as bad as the community might perceive it to be. Before I came to work at Cedar I heard these horror stories about the school. And I was like, ‘I really don’t want to go and work over here.’ But when I came I was like ‘wait a minute, It’s not that bad.’ I can relate to these kids, as they relate to each other. I believe that we need to focus a little bit more on academics. We’ve got to find that leader in the school for students to follow.”

BP:In regards to the recent passing of Augusta University student Laken Riley, how do you plan to prevent another incident like that from occurring?

TD: “The Legislature just passed a bill that the Local Sheriff is required to work with I.C.E. (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). If you do not work with I.C.E. you will lose state funding. If an immigrant came here to flourish and contribute to society, in my eyes they’re a regular citizen. As long as you’re not breaking the law I’m just here to help.”

BP:How do you believe schools could be made more safe?

TD: “We need more technology, there are many different options that are out there. You need different lighting, you need more cameras, you need different areas for kids to walk together. For example, If you’re going downtown, and you walk back to your dorm, don’t walk alone. I think that the school does a good job in that department. I would say to put more focus on the individual student.”

BP: What have you learned at Cedar, and how do you plan to apply it to being the sheriff?

TD: “To treat people the right way. I’ve learned that people want to be treated fairly regardless of their race or gender. I’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover. You know, don’t just look at someone differently because they look a certain way. I just want to help each and everyone of our citizens in any way possible.”

BP: What do you think the Athens community expects from the sheriff’s office?

TD: “Not a lot. That’s an issue, and I want to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community. I don’t think citizens really want to reach out to the sheriff or the sheriff’s office to be able to talk to them. So that’s that. I don’t think they’re expecting much, but we want to make sure that the citizens of Athens can have someone in law enforcement they can trust, because that’s what it takes.”

BP:How are you going to ensure that the inmates are treated fairly within the jail?

TD: “These inmates that were taught by our relatives, they are our friends that we went to school with, they’re people that we know. They’re not somebody that’s just there. I want to help them with rehabilitation, help them recover, help them to become model citizens, so that when they come out of jail, they’re able to be productive citizens and not just return to society as they were. I want to focus on their mental health issues. I want to focus on the education aspect, whether it’s GED or even college courses. I want to just have it to where you’re not just coming to jail and staying for years without any rehabilitation. I want to get completely away from that and I’m gonna focus on rehabilitating each and every one of the inmates.”

Aiden Poe

Junior Aiden Poe is a current staff writer for Cedar BluePrints.

Avatar photo