Understanding the Challenges & Rewards of Protecting and Serving

Get to Know Patrick Cillo, Captain of the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office
Understanding the Challenges and Rewards of Protecting and Serving

Leading a team of officers to protect and serve the residents of Elbert County isn’t easy, but Patrick Cillo is up to the task.
Captain Cillo began his law enforcement career in 1980 after an injury prevented him from flying jets in the Air Force. This month marks his 41st year of service. Last summer, Cillo was promoted to Captain after serving as a Lieutenant. He reports to the Undersheriff and manages four departments: patrol, investigations, detentions, and administration. He’s also the commander of the regional SWAT team, sharing leadership duties with a Sheriff’s Sergeant.
Recruitment and retention of qualified and experienced officers is a constant challenge. The Sheriff’s Office competes for talent with surrounding cities and counties, and Captain Cillo loses some of his deputies to other agencies every year. Considering that his team of twelve patrol officers must cover Elbert County’s 1,851 square miles, it’s a tall task for new hires. “We really work hard to keep these guys. It’s a tough job,” he said. Deferred maintenance in Elbert County’s jail sometimes means that detention officers work in
less than optimal conditions. The County Commissioners are working with the sheriff to remedy the issue.
“In our profession, we have seconds to make a decision that will last forever,” Captain Cillo explained. It’s important to help deputies overcome sometimes-negative perceptions of law enforcement, and to give them the proper training and experience to help them intervene effectively in dangerous situations. Captain Cillo says he’s proud of his deputies’ ability to act quickly and do the right thing. “It might seem easy to make judgment calls in hindsight or through a video, but in the moment, it’s not so easy,” he says.
Captain Cillo may face challenges, but there’s an immensely rewarding aspect to his job that keeps him going. At the Sheriff’s recent annual Christmas Party and Awards Ceremony, three Sergeants and three Deputies were recognized with Medals of Life Saving. “For me, personally, it comes down to the hard work that’s put in by all the deputies,” he said. “I know for a fact that we save lives. That’s why I get up in the morning.”