VERONA — The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office, and its deputies’ lack of body cameras, was once again a big topic of discussion at Wednesday night’s Augusta County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Several people attending the meeting, some of whom marched outside the Augusta County Government Center before it began, want body cameras for deputies and more transparency in response to two deputy-involved shootings in May. People have also been protesting outside the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office in Verona the past few weeks.
The shootings, one of which resulted in the death of a man, are being investigated by Virginia State Police.
Some of the people speaking at the meeting told supervisors they feared for Black people in the community because of the recent shootings and accused Sheriff Donald Smith of lying to the public.
T-Ann Johnson, of Waynesboro, said the Augusta County Sheriff’s Office has created a culture of fear.
“I’m here because I’m a Black mother, and Black men are getting beat,” Johnson said. “They’re getting shot. This is not protecting us. We fear Augusta County instead of calling them to protect us. We need to sit down at the table and discuss this because this is not right.”
Sgt. Josh Graves spoke up at the meeting in defense of Smith.
“If I thought the sheriff, or Augusta County, was racist, I wouldn’t be here,” Graves said. “The sheriff has a lot on his plate, and he does a lot for us. I won’t speak on what I don’t know, but what I will tell the board and this community is that the sheriff is a good man. He’s done a lot for my family, and he’s done a lot for this community. I am not going to sit by and watch people call him a liar.”
Deputies never know what they are walking into when responding to a call and are constantly putting their lives on the line to ensure everyone in the community is safe, Graves said.
“There’s nothing more a cop hates than a bad cop,” he said. “We will make sure if we have any that they’re gone.”
At the May 26 meeting, Pastures Supervisor Pam Carter took issue with a Facebook post by Smith where he said the board had denied funding for body cameras. Carter said the statement was misleading as the board had never voted on the subject since her election.
Smith responded with a public post showcasing the budget requests, in which body cameras were included every year since 2018.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald Garber said the board could not address the issue until next year’s budget.