COVINGTON -- Newton County native Philip Bradford is living out his boyhood dream. He resolved in second grade in a Porterdale Elementary School classroom that he would grow up to be a policeman like his daddy who'd come to his class that day to tell the students about working in law enforcement. He's never wavered from that commitment. Now, he's hoping to be elected the county's chief law enforcement officer as he seeks the office of sheriff of Newton County.
A seasoned law enforcement officer with 26 years of experience with the Covington Police Department, Bradford said wearing the sheriff's badge is not something that came up overnight.
"It's been a long time coming. I can recall years ago talking to Sheriff Joe Nichols, sitting in his office and telling him, 'I want to sit in that chair one day. What does it take to sit there?'" he said. "He was always very open and talked to me and gave me advice. ... He'd say, 'All right, if you want to come in this office, this is what you need to do ... "
Bradford went to work at 18 with the CPD as a jailer. By the time he turned 20, he was a patrol deputy. In high school, he had worked at Wood Office Supply and he said his boss, Jan Curtis, saw potential in him.
"Ms. Jan Curtis said I had good people skills and she wanted me to be a salesman. She couldn't wait until I graduated and she immediately put me into sales, but I didn't want to do that," he recalled. "I knew what I was going to do. I wanted to be a police officer. I loved Ms. Curtis to death, but I knew I wasn't going to be there. We're good friends to this day. She wants a big (campaign) sign in her yard."
Bradford, now captain of CPD's Criminal Investigation Division, has climbed the ladder at the Police Department and said he has always sought to do the best job possible.
"In everything I've done at the Police Department, I've always excelled. I don't just do a job to just get by. It's always the best," he said, adding that that type of commitment is what he will bring to the Sheriff's Office.
In 1995 as a sergeant Bradford was assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration's Task Force in Atlanta and it was soon discovered that he had a knack for working drug cases. In 1998, working again in the city of Covington, he implemented the VIPER Unit, a street-level response unit to drug use and trafficking in the city. In 2005 he was named commander of the East Metro Drug Enforcement Team, a tri-county drug unit. Due to the federal grants diminishing that kept EMDET going, the unit disbanded in 2007 and Bradford was named commander of the Special Investigations Unit, a combined effort of the CPD and NCSO.
Bradford said if he's elected sheriff he pledges to wage what he calls a "tough, true war on drugs" in this community based on his experience, but also wants to enforce the law against all crime.
"I want to take a tough stand on all crime. I'm not going to be selective on what laws I enforce. If you're breaking the law or violating the law, then with that comes consequences. I want to reduce the crime rate in Newton County. I want to be more proactive in working and being out in the streets, and I want to allow the deputies to be more proactive in their daily activities," he said.
Bradford said he would like to put more emphasis on working to keep young people safe and out of trouble.
"I want to enhance the training of our school resource officers and work with the Juvenile Court services and the Newton County Board of Education to better educate the deputies, myself and my management staff as to how we can more effectively work in our schools to have a safer learning environment for our kids," he said.
He said as he's talked with people in the community, he's heard concern about the crime rate in the county as well as the Sheriff's Department's budget.
"I know as sheriff I'm responsible for managing that budget and I will treat it like it's my responsibility," he said. "And, on top of that, I'll even be accountable for the money and tax dollars that my agency spends. I want to run a transparent agency. You want to see what we're doing, you come ask. There's nothing to hide. In the culture I came up in at the Covington Police Department, it's very easy to be transparent. Because when you always do the right thing, there's nothing to hide. I'll be accountable and I'll be responsible for what we spend."
Bradford said he is confident he can run the department within the budget set forth by the Board of Commissioners because he learned during his days with EMDET how to do more with less.
"We ran off a grant and over time, that budget got smaller and smaller. We had to keep going with the same manpower and that work load did not ease up a bit. We constantly did more with less and our stats did not decrease during that time," he said. "The commissioners can only allocate what the tax digest will allow. We can't spend money we don't have and the money we do have, we have to spend it wisely which requires doing more with less. My goal is to do that with as little, if any, impact on the services provided to the citizens."
He pointed out that because he's worked at the CPD, which meets the high standards of the national Commission on Accreditation in Law Enforcement Agencies, it is second nature to him to do work that meets those standards.
"I came up in a culture totally different than the other two candidates came up in. It's that type of training and culture I want to bring to the Sheriff's Office. I want to move that agency forward," he said. "Those are good people who work for the Sheriff's Office and they know their job and they know what to do. I'm going to need those people to continue working just like they have been, but we may need to refocus on how we work."
Bradford said he would ask voters when choosing a candidate to look at the experience and the resume of each candidate.
"You'll see I am the best candidate to run that agency, and I will do the best job if given the opportunity to be sheriff of Newton County. Tenure is not experience; working is experience and I have always been a working officer," he said.
Bradford is married to Dalleen and they have three children. He is a deacon at Newton Baptist Church and works with the youth ministry. His parents are Herman and Maggie Bradford and both were dedicated employees of Newton County before retirement. His father was a deputy for many years and retired as an investigator in 2001 from the Newton County District Attorney's Office. His mother retired in 2005 having served as a secretary for Superior Court Judges Greeley Ellis and John Ott.