FORSYTH COUNTY — Months ahead of the May 24 Republican primary, a former Forsyth County Sheriff’s captain has announced his candidacy for the position.
Ron Freeman, who spent 26 years with the agency, said Thursday he promises “better resource management and increased public safety” if elected over incumbent Duane Piper.
“I want to make Forsyth a safe place where you can raise a family, raise your child,” Freeman said. “I’ve spent most of my adult like making Forsyth a safe place to raise a family, but there are a lot of challenges facing Forsyth as far as law enforcement is concerned.”
Qualifying for the primary will be in March. Freeman, a longtime county resident has a four-pronged campaign platform that includes school safety, traffic, national accreditation and transparency.
“We are one of the most affluent counties in the state of Georgia, yet we don’t have a deputy protecting our children in every school. That is not an area we can be complacent in,” he said.
“I will put an officer in every school to ensure the safety of our children. Because what is more important than our children?”
While school safety is what Freeman described as his primary focus, he said traffic and increased congestion is a “quality of life issue for folks here.”
He added that he does not want to imply “the sheriff can solve the problem of traffic in Forsyth County. But we can make a big impact on congestion and traffic flow” by deploying officers and specialized programs to “manage traffic incidents faster and dramatically minimize any delays caused by traffic accidents.”
“Our traffic for the next three or so years is going to be horrendous, so you better have a plan in place to address that, or all we’re going to do is make it that much worse,” he said.
Freeman also pledged to restore national accreditation to the sheriff’s office.
In August, the agency announced its withdrawal from the program with which it had been in the process of reapplying, the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
The agency first received accreditation from the private organization, which awards levels of standards to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, in 2002-03.
“Recently they lost that national accreditation, which really is an embarrassment to the people of Forsyth County … it’s like a blue ribbon seal of professionalism,” Freeman said. “For the taxpayers to pay the amount of money that they do, there is no reason they should expect to not be accredited.”
Piper, who was elected to the position in 2012, has said the agency dropped the national accreditation to save money and erase conflicts with certain state laws.
“My whole career … I’ve always used the quote that, ‘It’s not our money, it’s our taxpayers’ money,’” Freeman said of his final platform note. “We’ll publish online every month our expenditures and where we are at the sheriff’s office. We will be so transparent that all it takes is a click.”
Freeman, a Forsyth County High School graduate, was hired as a sheriff’s deputy in 1987 and worked his way up the ranks to become a commander of the south precinct and chief of detectives.
Freeman was among 11 employees who filed a federal lawsuit after they were laid off in 2013, shortly after Piper took office, as part of what was billed as a “restructuring” of middle management positions.
According to court documents, the employees maintained their termination was political retaliation and age discrimination. A U.S District Court dismissed the case in February.
After leaving the sheriff’s office in 2013, Freeman spent two years helping build the Brookhaven Police Department as its deputy chief of police.
“It convinced me, after seeing what is there and the crime in DeKalb County, that I want to serve my home in Forsyth County,” he said. “I know what’s headed our way, and I know what it takes to fight that level of crime.”
He said building a police force taught him the ability to change.
“When you’re building a brand-new place from the ground up, the old answer of we’ve always done it this way doesn’t work,” he said. “Sometimes you have to make a shift in the way you do things because it is the right thing. It’s not how do you do this, but how do you best do this?”
By the time he left Brookhaven last December, the agency employed about 68 people. Freeman currently teaches criminal justice to aspiring police officers at a local college.
He holds a master’s in public administration; a bachelor’s in organizational leadership; an associate’s in criminal justice; and is currently pursuing a doctorate in public policy administration at Walden University.
Freeman is a graduate of some of several elite law enforcement leadership schools, including the FBI National Academy, the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College, the FBI Executive Development School and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute Government Management Certification.
He is the past president of the FBI National Academy, Police Benevolent Association of Georgia and serves on the board of directors for the FBI Executive Development Association of Georgia.
Freeman and his wife, Dana, grew up in Forsyth County and have been married for 24 years.
They have two children, Lexi and Hunter, and are active in the First Baptist Church in Cumming.
“I’m looking forward to a very informative campaign and letting the people know how we can serve them even better,” he said, “and letting them make their choice in the May election.”