Troup County Sheriff candidates make their cases

Published 10:00 am Saturday, April 27, 2024

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The Republican primary candidates for Troup County Sheriff squared off on Tuesday in an election forum hosted by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce.

Incumbent Sheriff James Woodruff is being challenged for the Republican nomination by Ben Turner.

The forum was organized by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce and live-streamed by The LaGrange Daily News. Videos of the forum in its entirety, including other races, are available on both the Chamber and LDN Facebook pages.

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Woodruff is finishing his third term as sheriff, having first been elected in 2012. Turner is a pastor and former Georgia State Trooper. He recently stepped down as pastor of Teaver Road Baptist Church to run for sheriff.

Each candidate was given 90 seconds for each question, with two minutes for an opening and closing statement.

In his opening statements, Turner criticized TCSO, saying the sheriff’s office has posted a 7% closure rate on burglaries compared to the national average of 12.2% and said the department has had an eight-year gap between active shooter training.

Turner also took issue with staffing at the sheriff’s office.

“In June of last year, there were 18 vacancies in the jail, 22 vacancies for the deputies. They are still running the same staffing they had when Mr. Woodruff took office in 2013 on patrol shifts,” Turner said.

Woodruff contradicted Turner, providing some of the TCSO statistics from 2023. Woodruff said that in 2023 they had 97 burglary cases with 22 arrests (22.7% total arrests per burglary). He said 69 cases remain open, four were closed and two were determined to be unfounded.

Woodruff added that they also had one murder case where one person was arrested and one kidnapping where an arrest was made. There were also five rapes reported with one arrest made, one case closed and three were unfounded.

“We just had ALERRT training [Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training], which is the same thing as active shooter training. I know it had been a little gap since we’ve had that but we’ve had it and we’re going to have it some more this year,” Woodruff said.

Some of the topics covered in the question and answer portion of the forum include:


The candidates were asked about the importance of training and professional development for deputies and how to ensure that they get the necessary training.

“We offer at least 96 to 100 hours of training per year at the sheriff’s office. I have several trainers, I myself, am a state-certified trainer. I’ve trained in the Columbus Police Academy. I’ve trained at other agencies, so I’m a big proponent for training because laws are always changing, situations are always changing and threats are always changing,” Woodruff said.

“I’ve got a team of trainers, both inside the sheriff’s office and we bring them in from outside the sheriff’s office,” Woodruff said. “We brought in ALERTT trainers that have worked with Nathan Taylor to get that training done.”

“Absolutely. It’s important,” Turner said. “The skills that we’re talking about are perishable are like just about anything else that you do. If you don't do it continuously and repetitively, that skill is going to fall by the wayside.”

“You have to train to the level that you desire to rise to, in the sense of an emergency or when things go bad, you’re not going to rise to a level of mythical performance, but rather you’re going to fall to your highest level of training, so training has to be paramount.”

“It’s something that has to be of the utmost importance because we have to put not just a deputy out there. We know nobody wants Barney Fife to respond to their call. You want a proficient deputy. You want someone that skilled that’s up to date and everything that they’re practicing and doing and that they are a true professional in what they do.”

Woodruff took issue with the Barney Fife comment.

“I know Ben didn’t mean this on purpose. But we don’t have any Barney Fifes in the Troup County Sheriff’s Office. We’ve got highly trained men and women. They do a professional job every day that I’m proud to work with, put on that uniform and come to work every day and do a great job for our citizens,” Woodruff said.


The candidates were asked what strategies they would implement to reduce crime rates and enhance public safety and unincorporated Troup County.

Turner said the first thing he would do is take the traffic unit that’s on the interstate and put them back in communities and on county roads.

“When you turn the blue lights on in the community that deters crime. Criminals are going to think twice before they decide to go rob a gas station or before they decide to burglarize someone’s home,” Turner said.

“Put that traffic unit in our community, and then when they’re making traffic stops, they’re able to use the time at the window that they are they’re talking to the driver. That’s when you may find out that the person who you pulled over for a brake light actually has a warrant or maybe they have stolen goods in the vehicle. Maybe they’re drunk or maybe they have they have drugs in the car,” Turner said.

Woodruff said they have done several things to reduce crime but he disagrees with pulling units off the interstate.

“I disagree with that because there are 53 miles of interstate here in Troup County,” Woodruff said.

“Just the other day we had a call to go out there where a person was driving down the road. He was hanging out the sunroof driving with his feet. We had ended up pitting him. The State Patrol pitted him to get him stopped out there. The day before we had a fatality where a runway driver got on the interstate going north in the southbound lane.

Woodruff said TCSO can either have units on the interstate preventing accidents, or they can have even more deputies out there cleaning up a fatal accident.

“I believe that the Interstate is part of our community. Our people go up and down it to work, to go eat, to go on vacation or whatever. I think we have to keep that safe out there as well,” Woodruff said.


The candidates were asked about the capacity of the Troup County Jail and if they feel its current 80 percent capacity is a problem.

“It definitely is not a problem now,” Woodruff said, noting it was a bigger issue during COVID.

“When I took off this we completed Pod C, which would give us a maximum capacity of 600 inmates. When we had COVID hit, we had 600 inmates and sometimes more than that in there because the courts were absolutely shut down.”

“I’m glad to report today that there are 450 inmates at the Troup County Jail,” Woodruff said, adding that there are 40-plus up on the hill in the former prison for work release.

“There’s about 450 [in the jail], which is 150 vacancies that we don’t have to take care of every day. If it costs $45 a day to take care of an inmate. We’re saving the Troup County taxpayers $6,700 a day and care for these inmates. Even if they don’t have any medical problems, that is just to feed them and clothe them. If they’ve got medical problems, it’s much more than that,” Woodruff said.

“The Troup County Jail is doing just fine. Plus we’ve got the Troup County annex up on the hill with additional space that we can always use as we did when we had COVID,” Woodruff said.

Turner said that given that there are 150 beds open and extra space at the prison annex, he doesn’t think it’s a problem.

“We have to look at what are we doing with the 450 that are there. There are inmates there who are in pretrial confinement. We have inmates who are there who are waiting to be transported to federal or state prison, whichever one they may be going to, and then we have some who are there to serve their misdemeanor sentences. We need to open the jail up for opportunities to correct these inmates and help them in their rehabilitation process so that they can be productive members of society.”