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Bedgood completes police academy, returns to duties as jail administrator

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

When Sheriff Jeffrey Brewer decided to run for office, he knew early in his campaign who he would have running the Emanuel County Jail. West Bedgood, now a captain with Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office, was already learning the ropes at the detention center. Even better, the future eventual sheriff saw the now 29-year-old had the right demeanor for the job.

While on the campaign trail, Brewer proposed the idea to Bedgood, who agreed he would like to move up in that way. Immediately, he began taking his learning experiences even more seriously than he already was at the time. Brewer won the sheriff’s race in November and sure enough, Bedgood was promoted to jail administrator shortly afterward. Now, less than a year later, Bedgood has another feather in his cap. As of two weeks ago, he completed the police academy at Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Columbia County. Still, he and the sheriff expect him to continue to evolve in his career and become a well-rounded law enforcement officer.

Bedgood’s journey to where he is in his career began shortly after high school. A Swainsboro native, he graduated from Swainsboro High in 2010, then worked at Shop Rite Pharmacy for a year. Sometime in 2011, Bedgood heard about a job at the sheriff’s office that struck his interest.

He explained about his start, “I came in as a tower operator, and I was filling in as an ISO, which is the floor person who has immediate contact with inmates. ISOs oversee the inmates, make sure everything’s under control, check the cell blocks, and mainly keep the safety for officers and the inmates who are incarcerated.”

Next, in 2013, Bedgood was moved to central control, where he was responsible for running criminal record histories and checking probationers for outstanding warrants. By the end of that year, he was promoted to supervisor. In that capacity, Bedgood managed three other employees on his shift, ensured tower control operators and ISOs were on track, booked inmates, filed bonds, and, as a general statement, oversaw all daily operations.

His next promotion came in 2020; at that time, he was named jail administrator. Looking back, he says the career advance was somewhat surprising.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to be promoted to jail administrator. Before Sheriff Brewer announced his campaign, when he was over the jail, he started filling my plate. I took the leadership, made sure things were done, went above and beyond as a shift supervisor. It was a job I never really thought I would want at the time, but I’ve grown to love it. The last two or three years, I knew where I was probably going to end up. Still, the conversation we had during his campaign, because I never really expected to be promoted to jail administrator, it was a little bit of a surprise.”

Today, he realizes the heavy burden of responsibility that comes with being administrator of the county jail and accepts it fully. The logistics of his role are widespread. For instance, he is tasked with the maintenance of the facility entirely, inside and out, from chores as simple as having the grounds manicured to detail-oriented to-do items such as keeping the jail safe, clean, and secure for inmates and personnel. That list of responsibilities also extends to include hiring and managing approximately 30 part-time and full-time staffers as well as transporting inmates to and from court.

Most important, Bedgood says, is his duty to treating the 130-something inmates (at full capacity) fairly.

“I take my responsibility, my relationship, with the inmates, very seriously. They’re people. They’re no different than anyone else. They made bad choices and got caught,” Bedgood explained. “I’d say 95 percent of them are good people, and we have to remember that. They have rights, too. It’s my job, our job here at the jail, to treat them with dignity and respect and make sure they’re satisfied to the best of my abilities within the law.”

Sheriff Brewer says that attitude precisely is what made Bedgood the best candidate in his eyes to become the jail’s next administrator when he took office.

“West... I saw a lot of myself in him,” the sheriff commented. “His approach makes a world of difference. When we have an irate inmate, your attitude and demeanor can de-escalate the situation very quickly. Not everybody has that character about them, but West does. In addition to that, West has that authority, that walk about him. When he comes into a room, everything goes normal. They quit acting out and showing out because the inmates know ‘the man’ is in the building. The inmates respond to him when they won’t with anyone else. I know that because the inmates did the same with me when I ran the jail. I chose West specifically. Most importantly, everybody knows that when West speaks, he says it with the full authority of me.”

Yet, Sheriff Brewer required one specific ask of Bedgood upon his promotion: become certified. Emanuel 1 took with him into inauguration a strong belief in training, and he would expect his new jail administrator to become certified in basic mandate. As soon as GPSTC in Columbia County had its first opening in the police academy, Bedgood was on the list to attend. The rigorous 12-week course started April 2 and culminated with his graduation on June 18.

“It was a great experience for sure,” Bedgood said. “Was it tiring? Demanding? Absolutely. But it was worth it because I can take my own warrants and move across the department now.”

On the day of his graduation two weeks ago, Sheriff Brewer promoted Bedgood to the rank of captain, which will allow him to work in any capacity with ECSO. The sheriff explained in an interview Friday he expects Bedgood to get some experience in the uniform patrol division at some point to make him a multi-faceted administrative leader.

Beyond that, Bedgood will stay in his role as jail administrator for the foreseeable future, and citizens can rest assured, according to Sheriff Brewer, that their county detention center is being led by the best man for the job.

“West is carrying a large burden for me and the community. The jail, outside hospital, is probably the county’s biggest liability, and believe West is the person here to keep that liability to a minimum,” Sheriff Brewer commented. “He’ll go to the jail administrators’ conference every year. He is scheduled to complete active shooter training in August, and we’ve got some managerial classes on the books for him, too. West has a bright future with us, and I look forward to watching him grow with Emanuel County Sheriff’s Office.”

On that note, Bedgood offered he most looks forward to seeing the GED program, an initiative between the S.O. and Southeastern Technical College, grow and prosper.

When asked about some of the individuals who have helped get him to where he is in his career today, Bedgood was quick to name a few people. Marty Mercer, for starters, showed him the ropes and helped train him. Sheriff Brewer, Bedgood added, cultivated him into a leader early on by increasing that which was expected of him as well as giving him more and more responsibilities.

Bedgood would also like to thank his parents, David and Angie Bedgood; his brother and fellow law enforcement officer, Josh Bedgood; and his wife, Lauren Hendley Bedgood, for believing in him and supporting him every step of the way. In his spare time, he unwinds by hunting, fishing, and spending time with his close friends and family, especially his two sons, 5-year-old Ethan and 1-year-old Timothy.

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