Official Opinion 96-14
Acting Executive Director
Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council
To hold the office of sheriff, even as an interim appointment, an appointee must seek certification as a peace officer as required under O.C.G.A. ¿ 15-16-1(c)(1)(J) or get a waiver as prescribed under the same Code Section.
You have asked about training which is necessary when the office of sheriff is held by an interim, appointed sheriff. There are two applicable statutory provisions which directly address the issue of training and the office of sheriff.
The first statutory provision is found at O.C.G.A. § 15-16-1(d) and provides, in pertinent part, that "[f]rom and after January 1, 1980, every newly elected sheriff in his or her first term shall be required to complete a training session of no less than four weeks . . . . This training shall be completed during the first calendar year of the first term of the newly elected sheriff's term of office." (Emphasis added.) Under the plain language of O.C.G.A. § 15-16-1(d), an interim, appointed sheriff is not required to obtain any training because this statute requires training specifically for elected sheriffs.
The more difficult issue is the training for peace officer certification that is a requirement under O.C.G.A. § 15-16-1(c)(1)(J). This statutory provision is under the Section entitled "Qualifications" and requires that:
(1) No person shall be eligible to hold the office of sheriff unless such person:
. . . .
(J) Is a registered peace officer as provided in O.C.G.A. § 35-8-10 or is a certified peace officer as defined in Chapter 8 of Title 35. Any person who is not a registered or certified peace officer at the time such person assumes the office of sheriff shall be required to complete satisfactorily the requirements for certification as a peace officer . . . at the first training course available after such person takes office; provided, however, that an extension of the time to complete such requirements may be granted by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council . . . .
As noted in O.C.G.A. § 15-16-8(a), the sheriff is appointed in the same manner as the clerk of the superior court. Under O.C.G.A. § 15-6-54(a), which discusses appointments for vacancy of the clerk of the superior court, the probate judge must appoint the person to discharge the duties of sheriff. While the probate judge does not have to appoint an individual to the office of sheriff who is already registered or certified as a peace officer, the appointee must complete the requirements for certification in a timely manner pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 15-16-1(c)(1)(J) in order to be qualified to hold the office of sheriff. Being a registered or certified peace officer is also required in order to uphold the duties of the office as is sworn to in the oath of office. See O.C.G.A. § 15-16-10(a)(9); O.C.G.A. § 15-16-4.
Therefore, to hold the office of sheriff, even for an interim period, the appointed sheriff must be qualified to execute his or her duties and must enroll in the first certified peace officer training available after taking office. However, as provided in O.C.G.A. § 15-16-1(c)(1)(J), "an extension of time
to complete such requirements may be granted by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council upon the presentation of evidence . . . deemed sufficient by such council."
CAROL A. CALLAWAY
Senior Assistant Attorney General