Interim DeKalb County sheriff terminates
four, not all, at county jail on first day
[DeKalb County, GA]

Ben Smith, Staff
January 3, 2001, Wednesday, Home Edition
Copyright 2001 The Atlanta Constitution
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
January 3, 2001, Wednesday, Home Edition

(DE KALB COUNTY, Ga.) -- DeKalb County's new interim sheriff said Tuesday he isn't planning to fire all of the dozens of deputies targeted for dismissal by the murdered man he replaced. Interim Sheriff Thomas Brown fired four jailers moments after accepting the keys to the jail at midnight Monday. He refused Tuesday to name the four --- one supervisor and three deputies --- but said they were on a list of 38 officers that slain Sheriff-elect Derwin Brown planned to fire.

On Tuesday, his first full day on the job, Thomas Brown also said that he does not plan to hire all the people Derwin Brown had promised jobs in his administration. The new sheriff said he was taking very seriously the reforms promised by Derwin Brown, "but that doesn't mean I'm supposed to bring in all of his people."

"I have to do it my way," Thomas Brown said.

So he'll keep some of the people Derwin Brown planned to replace. "There were some individuals slated for dismissal who in my view held some very key positions in terms of the operation of this facility and shouldn't be fired," said Thomas Brown, who's not related to Derwin Brown.

Derwin Brown was gunned down in his front yard Dec. 15 as he returned home from a party celebrating his completion of sheriffs' training. He was shot 11 times with a large-caliber weapon. Authorities have called the shooting an assassination that may have been related to the sheriff-elect's plans to reform the department.

Derwin Brown had written 38 deputies that they would not have jobs in his administration. He had reconsidered in some cases, however, his advisers have said.

Thomas Brown, director of DeKalb County's Public Safety Department for a decade before his appointment as interim sheriff, was named to fill the sheriff's job until a special election March 20. The new sheriff also said that of all the phone calls, letters and face-to-face discussions he's had with constituents about running for the office, only one person has said he shouldn't run, and that was out of concern for his safety.

Geraldine Champion, who ran against Derwin Brown for sheriff, then later agreed to work for him at the jail, deferred judgment on Thomas Brown's first moves as sheriff. "Everybody makes their own calls. If I was in there I'd be making my own calls," said Champion. "But I definitely would keep (Derwin Brown's) vision in mind."

Thomas Brown spent Tuesday meeting with top aides and shaking hands with new subordinates. "I've got to get used to hearing them saying 'sir' around here," he said. "They don't say that at (the department of) Public Safety."

The first serious issue the new sheriff said he would address involved the jail's federally funded Life Skills program, which has been running out of money and had been slated to be terminated by Derwin Brown. The program, created in 1997, is intended to keep inmates from returning to jail by providing them vocational training and counseling on substance abuse and domestic violence.

Meanwhile, investigators, including the interim sheriff, have said little about what, if any, progress they have made in finding Derwin Brown's killers.

Thomas Brown said Tuesday that search warrants had been issued in the investigation. Police officials also said the reward offered for information leading to an arrest had risen above the $ 60,000 posted during the weekend.

The interim sheriff also said that by shifting from the Public Safety Department to the jail, he will be able to make sure the doors are open to investigators looking into the administration of former Sheriff Sidney Dorsey or the murder of Derwin Brown.

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