GBI furloughs worry the agencies they serve -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

GBI furloughs worry the agencies they serve

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Georgia's budget crisis is causing GBI agents to be sent home from crime scenes.

It happened last week in Crisp County when three bodies were discovered in three days, all homicides. Agents had to be pulled in from across the state to arrest three men, but local agencies fear what will happen if GBI resources aren't available because of state furloughs.

The furloughs started last week, between now and the end of December, each GBI agent will be furloughed three days and overtime it being watched closely. Agents say it will make handling investigations challenging, but their mission won't change.

Three murders in three days in Crisp County kept GBI agents busy last week. And when two people were shot in Americus, GBI agents were pressed into action.  For local law enforcement they're a valuable resource.

"I've never called them that they haven't responded," said Sumter County Sheriff Pete Smith.

How they respond may change as the state agency struggles furloughs and restrictions on overtime. In Americus agents say, it's not a matter of responding they will, but it may be through more creative means.

"We were able to pull resources from different areas of the state, which is something we will have to do, continue to do in the future," said GBI-Americus Special Agent in Charge Trebor Randle.

Last week that meant using the state medical examiner's investigators at the scene when agents were furloughed.

"That investigators was out with us as opposed to waiting until the body goes to headquarters for autopsy. That investigator was able to come out and ascertain certain information at the scene to actually help," said Randle.

"That's one reason why we fought so hard to keep the crime labs open in Columbus and trying to keep the crime labs open in Moultrie because we've already got a backlog of cases," said Smith.

Twenty-three agencies that rely on the GBI Americus office worry arrests could take longer, but agents have pledged to get the job done.

"We will not slow down. That's the message to the community especially is that although we are having to deal with the issue of furloughs we're not going to slow down we're just requiring all hands on deck," said Randle.

All hands on deck means, everyone who's a GBI agent has the same badge, the same gun and now supervisors as well as agents are likely to respond when a crime happens.

The the past the GBI has frozen positions and canceled pay increase to help the state's budget.

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