HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Daren “Bear” Osborn, a challenger in the Towns County sheriff’s race, took to social media Oct. 16, sharing his logic for seeking office in the 2020 election. Osborn listed multiple goals and objectives, including advanced training within the law enforcement agency, the importance of cooperation between the sheriff’s office and local emergency departments, school safety improvements, and developing a community oriented anti-drug coalition for people suffering from substance abuse.
“Towns County deserves a working sheriff, one who will actively serve the community in uniform, and I hope to fulfill that position,” Osborn told FYN. The Republican candidate added that he intends to be a “visible” sheriff, and plans to continue his involvement in the community if elected.
While Osborn did not mention incumbent Sheriff Chris Clinton, the sheriff’s candidate expressed platform-related concerns in the past. Osborn gained publicity earlier this year in connection to a highly-controversial fatal accident that many, including Osborn, believe could have been prevented by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office through proper training.
FYN later reported that Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputies declined participation in two training seminars held within the county: ARIDE training – an acronym for Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement – which was offered in Hiawassee, and school security training held in Young Harris. Sheriff Clinton was extended an invitation to speak at the security event, hosted by Habersham County Sheriff’s Office, yet did not make an appearance at the state course. Osborn previously labeled the “missed opportunities” as such.
Furthermore, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton drew negative publicity in 2018, following what many in the community considered a botched Towns County Schools active shooter drill. Dozens of first responders from Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County Fire and Rescue, Towns County Emergency Medical Services, and Towns County Emergency Management Agency expressed disapproval – based on exclusion from participation in the campus drill – describing Clinton’s approach as a habitual, “lone ranger” tactic. “This is not the way training should be done,” Osborn remarked last year on social media. “You have to work together as a team or the mission will not be accomplished.” Towns County first responders, including department heads, continue to note a general lack of communication and poor cooperation from Sheriff Clinton with local emergency agencies, an issue that Osborn promised to remedy if elected.
Osborn listed the following goals and objectives as his campaign platform:
– Be a full-time “Working Sheriff” in a Class A uniform.
– Drive a marked patrol vehicle to be highly visible to the public.
– Develop a community oriented anti-drug coalition for people suffering from substance abuse. Good people can get addicted. We want to save these people.
– Establish a strong relationship with our Homeowner Associations, encouraging neighborhood watch programs. Provide security check lists for homeowners and security checks.
– Re-establish strong working relationships with all surrounding law enforcement agencies, as well as the fire department, EMS, and 911 center.
– Establish regularly scheduled training with outside law enforcement agencies and public safety, such as SWAT training, active shooter, and felony warrant service.
– Provide additional training for all deputies for job specific assignments, patrol investigations, courthouse, and school resource officers.
– Implement a minimum annual training level which exceeds the current Georgia mandated training of 20 hours per year.
– Deputies will receive training from POST (Peace Officer Standards & Training) certified instructors, NOT online webinars!
– Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for all deputies – to help those suffering from mental health issues which law enforcement commonly encounters.
– Host regional law enforcement training for all agencies.
– Work with school officials to ensure the safety of our children and staff, as well as visitors to our schools.
– Work with commissioner to establish and fund an animal control deputy.
A second challenger, Kenneth “Ode” Henderson, entered the Towns County sheriff’s race Oct. 15.
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HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection Enforcement (ARIDE) training was cancelled this week due to a lack of law enforcement officers who enrolled in the two-day course, scheduled to take place in downtown Hiawassee. A total of 13 participants from surrounding areas, including four Hiawassee Police Department officers, planned to take part in the drug detection training. The Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) required a minimum of 15 enrolled officers, however, to hold the course.
According to information received from GPSTC, no Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputies signed up for the class.
In late March, Hiawassee Police Department announced their intention to host the training, May 23 – 24, held at Hiawassee City Hall. The 16-hour course was designed to enhance law enforcement officers’ ability to recognize psychophysical and clinical indicators of impairment consistent with a subject who is under the influence of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, while taking appropriate action.
“A training officer with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, GA contacted Sgt. Travis Gibson with the Clayton Police Department, seeking a location in North Georgia to host the class” Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith told FYN in March. “Sgt. Gibson, a part time officer with Hiawassee Police Department, requested the use of the Training Room at the Hiawassee City Hall for the two day course. The class is open to all law enforcement officers who wish to attend. Sgt. Gibson, a Drug Recognition Expert, will be one of the two instructors.”
The course was intended to build upon skills learned in Standard Field Sobriety Testing training in which law enforcement officers would have focused on identifying and assessing motorists suspected of driving under the influence, Smith explained. The purpose was to reduce the amount of impaired drivers, and in turn, lessen impaired driving collisions.
The two-day ARIDE course was free of charge for qualified law enforcement officers. Prior DUI – Standard Field Sobriety Testing training was required.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) opened an investigation into the death of Terry Samuel Silvers, a father of six known to suffer from substance abuse, shortly after an accident claimed the Hiawassee resident’s life Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. The fatal collision left two victims injured, an eyewitness traumatized, and the community questioning whether Towns County Sheriff’s Office should have done more to prevent the tragedy.
Towns County Deputy Corporal Gregory Joseph responded to two prior accidents involving Silvers, releasing the now-deceased on both occassions without charges, despite widespread knowledge of Silvers’ drug use, and testimonies from several witnesses who claimed Silvers was obviously under the influence of intoxicants at the time of both incidents.
New information recently updated by Georgia’s Peace Officer’s Standards and Training (POST) reveals that the deputy in question attended six hours of drug-impared detection training through the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia (PAC) a week prior to a late-November, 2018, roll-over accident involving Silvers. As in the case of a subsequent incident in which Deputy Joseph responded, occurring on the evening before Silvers’ death, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) was conducted, a test which does not properly indicate drug impairment.
A two-day Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection Enforcement (ARIDE) course for law enforcement is scheduled in Hiawassee next week. According to a document obtained by FYN on May 16 from the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC), there is no record of Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputies listed as upcoming participants. Of note, four Hiawassee police officers plan to attend the training, two of whom trained in the past.
During the course of our investigation, FYN conducted numerous interviews with former deputies of the Towns County Sheriff’s Office who unanimously cited lack of training and leadership as reasons for their resignations.
As seen in Corporal Joseph’s body camera footage from Nov. 27, witness Belinda Munger is heard telling the deputy that Silvers had a habit of driving under the influence of intoxicants, posing a danger to innocent citizens. Also in question is a telephone call answered by the responding deputy during the incident.
“I was woken up to the sound of shattering glass,” Munger told FYN, shortly after Silvers’ death. “I jumped out of bed, ran to my kitchen to see what was going on. I looked out my window and saw Terry’s truck hanging off my bank, almost going through my mother’s house. I called 911 while putting my shoes on to head out the door. Terry had gotten off in the ditch, taken out the neighbor’s mailbox, continuing down the ditch, hitting tree stumps which caused his truck to flip. He was so heavily medicated, he did not realize that he had even flipped his truck.
“He asked if someone could pull his truck out so he could go home. Officer Joseph arrives on scene. I explained what had happened and let them know that it was obvious; he was under the influence of pills. The officer asked Terry for his ID. Terry stumbles to get to his vehicle, where he searched for a long while for his ID and insurance. I asked the officer if he saw Terry stumbling as he walked to his vehicle, but the officer did not even acknowledge what I said. Another officer arrived on scene and I advised him of what was going on, also that they needed to test him. I was very open with letting them know how ridiculous it was that they did not think anything was wrong with Terry. It was very obvious, he couldn’t even hardly keep his eyes open and was slurring his speech.
“The ambulance arrived, and Terry refused to let him transport or check him,” Munger continued. “They as well could tell he was medicated and nothing would be done. The other officer advised Officer Joseph that I was upset, and that I wanted him tested. Officer Joseph came back to tell me he had checked out fine, but I knew different. Then, I asked both officers, ‘Will it take him killing someone for you all to do something with him?’ I told them how ridiculous it was that, once again, they were letting him go free knowing how he was under the influence of pills… Later that day, I reached out to Sheriff Clinton one last time, and left a message with his secretary. But like usual, there was no attempt of a return phone call from the sheriff.” Munger can be heard in the video, telling the deputy that Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton should be contacted before Silvers’ “kills someone.”
Approximately three months later, the evening prior to the fatal crash, Silvers was involved in an additional accident on Bugscuffle Road in which Deputy Joseph responded. Again, Silvers was released by Towns County Sheriff’s Office. The property damaged in the Feb. 22, belongs to neighboring Union County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Daren “Bear” Osborn. “Based on my training and experience, 32 years, I recognized (Terry) was in no shape to drive due to his condition,” the off-duty deputy explained in March. “What strikes me as odd is that an alco sensor and HGN was done which does not indicate drug use.” Osborn described Silvers as exhibiting confused behavior while showing evident signs of impaired judgment.
An “alco sensor” is commonly known as breathalizer. Family members and friends of Silvers stated that Terry was not a drinker, but recognized in the community and to law enforcement as an opioid user. North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office did not perform a post-mortem screen on Silvers for narcotics, however, opting to only conduct ethanol testing for alcohol.
John Bagley, a witness who spoke with FYN shortly after the tragedy agreed with Lt. Osborn, stating that Silvers was clearly unfit to drive on the night prior to his death. “(Terry) wrecked right across from my house,” Bagley said. “He was in no shape to be driving. I think there should have been additional tests done. It could have saved his life.”
WXIA – 11 (11Alive News) will broadcast a televised investigation into Terry Silvers’ death, beginning Tuesday, May 21, at 11 pm. An in-depth segment will follow Sunday, May 26.
Below is the disturbing 911 audio previously released by FYN from the night of the fatal crash…
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Department recently scheduled Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection Enforcement (ARIDE) training for May 23 – 24 at Hiawassee City Hall, The 16-hour course is designed to enhance law enforcement officers’ ability to recognize psychophysical and clinical indicators of impairment consistent with a subject who is under the influence of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, while taking appropriate action.
“A training officer with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, GA contacted Sgt. Travis Gibson with the Clayton Police Department, seeking a location in North Georgia to host the class” Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith told FYN “Sgt. Gibson, a part time officer with Hiawassee Police Department, requested the use of the Training Room at the Hiawassee City Hall for the two day course. The class is open to all law enforcement officers who wish to attend. Sgt. Gibson, a Drug Recognition Expert, will be one of the two instructors.”
The course builds upon skills learned in Standard Field Sobriety Testing training in which law enforcement officers focus on identifying and assessing motorists suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, Smith said. The purpose is to reduce the amount of impaired drivers, and in turn, lessen impaired driving collisions.
The two-day ARIDE course is free of charge for qualified law enforcement officers. Prior DUI – Standard Field Sobriety Testing training is required.