When first meeting Deputy Keith Amos, his infectious smile and bright blue eyes are a warm and welcoming sight.
Behind that sunny appearance, however, is a man who has investigated some of the most gruesome crimes the region has seen and, as of the first week of August, Amos will say goodbye to the job he has dedicated himself to for over three decades.
It is a career that started in July of 1980, when Amos’ neighbor Deputy “Hilbert” Headley made a surprising phone call.
“It was a Sunday morning and my mother answered the phone,” Amos said.
“She came back and said that [Headley] wanted to talk to me. Well he said the sheriff wanted to talk to me and I was thinking, ‘I wonder why because I hadn’t done anything.’”
What Amos did not know was that then Sheriff A.R. “Rockwell” Bryant had an opening in his department.
At 19-years-old, after a life-long admiration and respect for local law enforcement, Amos jumped at the opportunity.
“When I started we had a six regular and two isolation cell jails and we didn’t have dispatchers,” Amos said. “We dispatched and worked the jail and sometimes it would get hectic between talking to the fire department, state police and deputies all the while we processing people to be incarcerated.”
Although much has changed in local law enforcement, 33-years later, Amos looks back on his career with pride and a sense of accomplishment.
“I have served under five sheriffs since I got here, all with different personalities, but I can honestly say that hey have all had the welfare and safety of the citizens of this county as their priority,” Amos said. “They really care.”
After successfully completing requirements, Amos, who had been on the road since 1987, was one of a select few in the state chosen to attend the Fall 1993 Forensic Academy.
During his career, he has investigated multiple homicides, accidental fatalities, bomb threats, burglaries and every other crime imaginable.
I have seen and worked just about everything and have worn many hats,” Amos said. “Even in a small county we have a lot of bad stuff. But, I have always said that we have the best people in the world in this county right here and they have been good to me. They have shown me respect and I have shown it back.”
While his success rate for closing cases is stellar, it is his work with students at the Tech Center, where he currently serves as the county’s only designated School Resource Officer, which has been the most rewarding.
Amos first started at the school through a state grant program in 2005.
Since then, Amos said that he and former Principal Randy Long worked together to build a safe and friendly environment at the school.
“I’d known [Long] for many years. We talked things over and I knew we were on the same page from the day I started. He wanted to run a safe an orderly school,” Amos said. “The first two years were challenging, but I saw a big reduction in crimes and referrals and it has been coming down ever since. We are proactive here. It is about common sense and communication skills.”
Amos added that during his tenure at the school, they have implemented many new procedures and systems, student handbooks and crisis management plans.
“I have seen a big change and I feel confident than I am leaving it better than I found it,” Amos said. “The staff here is really good and I know that the teachers and students feel better knowing there is an officer here.
“I tell these kids what I expect from them and that if they choose to do otherwise that is the route they are going to take, but I explain that there are plenty of people here at his school to help them, as long as they open up and talk,” Amos said.
He noted that his position at the school has been a tremendous experience.
“I don’t claim to be an expert on anything but eating,” Amos said laughing. “But I believe the techniques that Long and I have worked on here together could be effective in any school in the United States. Everybody has to get onboard the same train to go forward.”
Amos, who recently suffered the loss of a parent and has been battling health issues, said that he plans to take his time off to clean a plate that in recent years has been full.
He looks forward to fishing, renewing his passion for hunting and spending time with his loving wife, Joyce.
“I love the people of this county. I can’t stress that enough,” Amos said. “They have been good to me. Anybody in the county that knows me, even though I won’t be in law enforcement, I will still be here to lend a hand. I will always try to be professional, honest and compassionate. I have had a lot of fun working at the sheriff’s office. I am just grateful for having served the people of Richmond County.”
Current Sheriff Dougie Bryant said that he and his department are thankful for Amos’ dedication to the county and wish him well in his retirement.