Captain Tony Wooten’s last day with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office was Tuesday, August 23, 2016 — on the two-year anniversary of his unlawful arrest of citizen journalist Nydia Tisdale at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm.
Captain Tony Wooten lost his bid for Dawson County Sheriff to Jeff Johnson in a runoff race 47.94% to 52.06% on July 26, 2016. Voter turnout was 27.5% of registered voters.
In a memorandum dated August 8th, 2016, Captain Tony Wooten writes to Sheriff Billy Carlisle:
I have enjoyed working at Dawson County Sheriff’s Office for the past 18 years. I appreciate the opportunities you have granted me. I will greatly miss serving our citizens and working with a great group of officers. Thank you for allowing me to work here and alongside you for this time in my life. I will be resigning today and if you so choose, my last day will be August 23rd.
Captain Tony Wooten intimated that he may resign from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office if he lost the race for Sheriff during a debate on March 29, 2016. Wooten states:
Unfortunately, when some of us may lose this, we may not be here anymore. So, this may be all for a couple of us on the stage tonight. This may be my last chance to tell you how much I appreciate working for Dawson County.
Major Jeff Johnson, then-candidate for Sheriff of Dawson County, tells voters during a debate in Dawsonville, Georgia on March 29, 2016:
Ladies and gentlemen, you’re electing a Sheriff. You’re electing someone to enforce the laws of this County, to treat people right, to treat people fair, to treat people with respect and dignity.
Ladies and gentlemen, the liability is far too great for us to risk. And what I mean by that is simply this. In today’s society — it’s a very litigious society — and as Law Enforcement Officers, we have certain duties that we, that we execute.
Any time that we put our hands on someone, we have seized them in the eyes of the Court. We have to justify that seizure.
And that means that we — one, hopefully, we’re mature; hopefully, we’re making the good decisions; hopefully, we’re making them with probable cause; hopefully, we’re making them in accordance with state law, with case law. It touches that.
Ladies and gentlemen, you’re tasked with finding a Sheriff. Someone to lead your department for the next four years.
I’m all about community programs. I believe them. I support them.
But there’s a bigger picture at play here. This is Law Enforcement that affects the entire County as a whole.
Candidates for Sheriff of Dawson County were asked during a debate in Dawsonville, Georgia on July 12, 2016 the following by:
BILL MINOR: Could you give a good summary of your qualifications for the office that you’re trying to obtain, including education, experience, that type of thing.
JEFF JOHNSON: Yes. I’ve lived in Dawson County for 32 years. And you ask me what kind of qualification is that. One, I know the beat — I know the heartbeat of Dawson County. I know the people in Dawson County. I have the — I see the needs. I see what — what Dawson County is growing. I see where it’s been from. I also pride myself in being from, although living here, cutting my teeth so-to-speak in Gainesville and in Hall County. A lot of things I see similar in Gainesville and Hall County we’re experiencing right now.
Thirty-two years resident. I’ve policed for over 23 years. I’m working on my 24th year in law enforcement. I’ve — every bit of that has been in enforcement capacity, either detention, patrol, investigations, specialized assignments.
I’ve worked for awhile in a multi-agency organization. Pros and cons of multi-agency organizations, I can tell you that from first-hand experience.
My education is Dawson County High School, University of North Georgia, Northeast Georgia Police Academy. I have over 3,000 hours specialized law enforcement training. That is law enforcement training — training that’s dedicated to specific job needs, things of that nature.
Aside from personal experience — from the actual hands-on application — that is what I bring to the table. That is my qualifications. That’s my experience.
For the last 7 years I have commanded your detention center. Your detention center — if you’ll notice — we have no lawsuits pending while I’ve run the detention center during those seven years. If you’ll ask any sheriff abroad, they will tell you that their jail is their number one liability. If a lawsuit is going to arise, it’s probably going to arise out of the detention center. So, I’m very, very proud of the men and women who serve in our detention center and I attribute that to their success.
We’ve got our jail — we’ve got our detention center medical certified. That’s something that only one in just a handful of agencies in the State of Georgia can boast to. We’ve been able to accomplish that under our tenure as well. Thank you.
TONY WOOTEN: Could you read it again for me, please?
BILL MINOR: Basically, we just want to know the qualifications you want to tell us about that enable you to take this office, including experience and education, etc., whatever you want to put in.
TONY WOOTEN: Well, I mean, when you start talking about experience, for the most part, you’re looking at a race that had four candidates in it that all had experience. You’re looking at four candidates that may have different experiences here and there, but all had experiences.
To me, I think it comes down to what experience you do have. Now we’ve got officers up there that have worked there longer than I have. We’ve got officers there that — that they aspire to be just a deputy and slick sleeve and that’s fine — I’m not, I’m not belittling that at all.
I’m just saying — just because the number of years of service — because you breathed longer — doesn’t necessarily make you a leader.
The opportunities I’ve had in the sheriff’s office is to lead four, uh, five out of six divisions — and worked on the other one. Nobody in this race — that’s ever been in this race — has been a commander of the patrol division except me.
No one has ever been in this race has ever been a commander of investigations except me. Those are two important situations that we have out there.
Look at the news — and I’m not taking anything away from the jail — the fact that they haven’t had any lawsuits. I think that’s amazing, but I simply want to say — look around the country.
It’s not just the jail that gets us lawsuits and I don’t think — the sheriff’s association has gotta quit saying the only liability — the biggest liability — is the jail.
There’s liability in everything we do in law enforcement. Don’t believe me? Talk to Baltimore. Talk to all these other places that are having issues.
Liability lies everywhere. We need to make sure we reduce the liability in every division we can — not just be happy that we’ve got in one.
We’ve got to make sure it’s across the board that we’re doing as much as we can to reduce the liability all across Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.