October 28, 2012

Candidate profile: Chitwood cites accomplishments

There are many accomplishments of which Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood said he’s proud, not least among them the department’s unsolved murder rate.

“We do not have an unsolved murder over the last 20 years,” said Chitwood, who is running again for the post he has held since 1992. “Our agency has solved every one that we have investigated. I don’t know how many agencies can say that, but Whitfield County is one that can.”

He said he didn’t know without looking through records how many murders there have been during that time.

Chitwood, a Democrat, faces Republican Jim Stafford, a former Whitfield County sheriff, in the Nov. 6 election. Stafford worked in the sheriff’s office for several years before being sheriff from 1984-1988. He is now a corporate security director.

A member of First Church of the Nazarene, Chitwood said he is on many boards locally. He has parents and a brother and sister who live in Whitfield County.

Chitwood was born in Florida but has lived in the Dalton area since he was about 3 years old, he said. He is a graduate of Dalton High School and obtained a degree in criminal justice from what was then Dalton Junior College.

Chitwood said he got his start in law enforcement partly through his father, who was a bondsman who knew then-sheriff Jerry Mauldin. Mauldin hired Chitwood in 1975 as a patrol officer at the sheriff’s office and he worked his way up in investigations to become a detective. He said he took a break in service at one point to become a corporate security director for a carpet and rug company that was eventually bought by Shaw Industries. He returned to the sheriff’s office under a different administration and ran at age 37 for the top job as that sheriff was retiring.

Today, he oversees a budget of about $12 million and has a staff of about 190.

Chitwood said he’s tried to make the office more professional and up-to-date. That includes becoming part of the Conasauga Gang Street Task Force headed up by the FBI that has severely curtailed the number of reported incidences of gang activity and becoming part of the 287(g) program in which the sheriff’s office has officers trained to check the immigration status of individuals in custody on state violations.

Chitwood said that even after 20 years on the job, he isn’t tired of it.

“I still feel like I’m a young man,” he said. “I just felt like that we were providing a service to the people. I feel like I still had a lot to offer to the community. We had developed, I think, a strong administration that was producing, I think, a professional service.”

Chitwood said he is especially proud of the drug busts the department has had in recent years, including an incident involving several law enforcement agencies in which some $2.2 million in cash from a drug deal was seized. He said Whitfield County will receive $821,000 of that seizure, which he plans to use to buy some additional vehicles. Five people are assigned to the drug unit.

Domestic violence is an issue that has come to the forefront in the past several years as other issues, like gang activity, have been dealt with, Chitwood said.

“I think we have addressed and educated the communities now to such a degree that people know you have resources, you have support groups out there,” he said. “If you become a victim of domestic violence, you have somewhere to go. Years ago, those resources weren’t there. I don’t know that we have a larger number of incidences occurring. We have a much larger number of incidences being reported.”

Chitwood said his plan for curtailing violence is to continue educating the public as well as deal with offenders. He said he also wants to continue all the programs and policies he’s put in place.

“When I ran 20 years ago, I promised to the public and the people that I felt like I could bring some structure, organization, management and leadership along with professionalism to this department; and I think as I look back we have delivered that,” he said. “The challenge before us is to maintain this level of professionalism that we have brought forth.”

Chitwood can be reached at the sheriff’s office at (706) 278-1233 or by email at sheriff@whitfieldcountyga.com

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