Sheriff Dennis swears in corrections officers after vote on center

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Sumter County Sheriff Anthony Dennis swore in the first group of Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center personnel during a briefing and swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday morning.

The swearing-in ceremony was held about 14 hours after Sumter County Council approved final reading of an ordinance to transfer custody of the detention center to Dennis, who in June requested the authority to manage the facility.

In total, Dennis will welcome 62 employees to the sheriff's office.

"Whatever happened yesterday or last week is dead and gone," Dennis said. "This is a new time."

The goal is not to tear down one agency to build another but to have everyone work together, he said.

Dennis told the corrections officers that he will go to the table for them just as he does for the deputies. But in order to go to the table, you must bring something to the table, he said.

"Job performance is what I will bring," he said.

Dennis said all corrections officers will receive the same training as deputies such as defensive tactics, firing and driving.

"I can't ask you to do a job that you're not trained for," he said.

Safety is the No. 1 priority here, he said, not just on the street, but also in the detention center, he said.

He said the sheriff's office's training center will be renovated to include state-of-the-art equipment in the coming months.

And there will be opportunities for everyone to advance, Dennis said.

The corrections officers were also introduced to the sheriff's office's administration staff, who welcomed the new employees to the agency.

The sheriff's office's general counsel Kathy Ward said the corrections officers are no longer employees of Sumter County government. The sheriff is an elected official, meaning he will set policies and procedures for the agency, not county council, she said.

The policies and procedures of the detention center will be reviewed and merged with the sheriff's office's policies, she said.

And all the sheriff's office's employees are entitled to receive the same benefits as county employees, Ward said.

Dennis said the merge will be beneficial to the county because the sheriff's office can bring its experience in law enforcement to manage the detention center.

"There is no doubt in my mind that this is a win-win situation," he said.

Dennis said he also plans to increase the retention rate at the detention center. The detention center needs 86 employees to be fully staffed, and it is missing 24 employees, he said.

The sheriff's office's new employees also received keys to the building on Wednesday.

Dennis said the corrections officers will receive new patches, modeled after the deputies' patch, and will trade in their blue uniforms for black-and-gold uniforms. Blue is for the city, he said.