Special Units

Joint Special Operations Group

The Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) was formed in 2008 by combining the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and Gadsden Police Department SWAT Teams. The Unit is under the command of Woody Johnson.

JSOG responds to situations that are beyond the capabilities of normally equipped and trained law enforcement personnel dealing with tactical response, hostage negotiations, hazardous materials, and explosive ordinance disposal.

Since its inception, JSOG members have affected the safe rescue of several hostages, arrested numerous violent suspects and earned multiple commendations and citations.


Members of the Joint Special Operations Group are required to maintain the highest standard of physical fitness and firearms. The team consists of tactical operators, crisis negotiators and bomb disposal technicians.

The Joint Special Operations Group is a support resource within the Sheriff’s Office. It is responsive to the needs of the entire Sheriff’s Office, and is available to any local, regional, state or federal law enforcement agency upon request and approval of the Sheriff.

Joint Special Operations Group

The services of the JSOG Unit are specifically directed towards situations of demonstrated violence and force, or potential violence and force recognized as necessitating a disciplined team effort utilizing specialized training, tactics and equipment.  The team trains together twice a month.

The primary objective of the Joint Special Operations Group is to solve the problem as quick as possible, using whatever means are available, whatever force is reasonable and necessary, with minimal risk to all involved.

Joint Special Operations Group

The following are examples of situations that, by their potentially violent and/or specialized nature, indicate the recommendation of JSOG mobilization.

    • Armed suspect(s) with hostages
    • Rescue of hostages(s), trapped or isolated officers
    • Sniper or suspected sniper
    • Barricaded gunman or suspected barricaded gunman
    • Use of chemical agents
    • Service of search warrants on violent or potentially violent suspect(s)
    • Arrest of violent or potentially violent suspect(s)
    • Man tracking (Escapees)
    • Rioting
    • Civil disorder.
    • VIP security.

Marine Division

The Marine Unit was created in 2008 to provide law enforcement services to the waterways of Etowah County. The unit patrols more than 50 miles of navigable waterways, including the Coosa River, as well as enforcing the Alabama Water Safety Act.

Marine Division

Utilizing a response patrol boat the unit responds to boating accidents, missing boaters, drowning investigations, and search and recovery operations.

Marine Division

The Marine Unit also uses a MK2S vessel to pull trees and large debris from the river.  The boat is used to better Etowah County by maintaining the Coosa shoreline, dive team operations and special events such as Renew Our Rivers. This vessel is not used for regular patrol functions.

Dive Team

The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team responds to water related emergencies and evidence recovery on the Coosa River. ECSO divers also respond throughout the State to assist and facilitate the recovery of various objects/items/persons in a law enforcement capacity.

Dive Team

This specialized unit maintains its own training instructors and prepares for all types of missions on a regular basis.

Aviation Unit

The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office aviation unit consists of a Cessna C-172 fixed wing plane and a Bell OH-58C helicopter. Certified deputies and reserve officers are employed to fly both aircraft. The unit utilizes tactical flight officers (TFO’s) to assist pilots on certain missions.

Aviation Unit

The primary function of the unit is in support of law enforcement officers on the ground.  Used as a force multiplier the unit can help in securing and observing ground operations. The unit also does routine patrols and search missions.

Aviation Unit

The Aviation Unit has mutual aid agreements and routinely flies in surrounding counties as well as other parts of Alabama.

Aviation Unit

Project Lifesaver

What is Project Lifesaver

Etowah County Sheriff’s Office partners with the Pilot Club of Gadsden to provide a system for tracking clients with Alzheimer’s, dementia or persons with autism in the event they wander away from their caregiver.  Project Lifesaver provides special armbands to assist in locating them if they become lost. The armbands emit radio signals that can be tracked using special equipment. When sheriff’s deputies are alerted that a client is missing, the devices are tuned into that person’s assigned signal. Most clients are found within a few minutes.

There are currently more than 25 individuals in Etowah County who participate in Project Lifesaver.

Project Lifesaver

There are currently more than 25 individuals in Etowah County who participate in Project Lifesaver.

How it works

Armbands may be purchased through Etowah County Sheriff’s Office. Some armbands are available at little or no cost for families facing financial hardship, thanks to donations from citizens and support from local foundations. Etowah County Sheriff’s Office investigators interview prospective clients and their families. Based on information collected, trained personnel receive authorization to meet with families and place the armband on the individual. Once a month a visit to the home will be made to check on the armband, replace the battery and insure the device is working properly. Personnel is available should a client remove or damage their armband.

How can you receive an armband for someone you care for?

Contact: Lt. Robin Grant or Investigator Brian Smith
Etowah County Sheriff’s Office
827 Forrest Avenue
Gadsden, Alabama 35901

Phone: (256) 546-2825

E-mail:  rgrant@etowahcounty.org or brian.smith@etowahcounty.org

Who do I call if my loved one wanders away?

Call 911 immediately. Be sure to tell dispatchers that the individual has an armband. Dispatchers will notify the appropriate deputies to assist in finding the person as quickly as possible.

How do I donate so that more patients may have armbands?

Donations may be made to the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office. 

Contact: Lt. Robin Grant, ECSO

                 Investigator Brian Smith, ECSO

Community Crisis Chaplain Team


The purpose of the Community Crisis Chaplaincy Team (CCCT) is to assist the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office by offering physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual stability to people in crisis.


The mission of the Community Crisis Chaplaincy Team is to:

  1. Operate as a support team of dedicated and trained professional volunteers to serve people in crisis.
  2. Function in connection with The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and other public safety agencies to provide physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual stabilizing assistance to people in crisis.
  3. Provide chaplaincy services for the employees of the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office and other public safety agencies.    
  4. Provide chaplaincy services to public and private schools, business, industry, and the community as called upon.

Why Chaplains are Needed

Chaplains provide a recognized benefit to law enforcement, other public safety professionals, and to the public.  The primary work of the Community Crisis Chaplain Team is not long term care, but to help in providing physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual “first aid” quickly after an event occurs.


Due to the various stressors associated with law enforcement and public safely, first responders need to have someone who is available for guidance and assistance in a number of ways.   First Responders often need to express their concerns to someone who understands the circumstances surrounding their duties and responsibilities.  Etowah County Community Crisis Chaplain Team members are available to Sheriff’s employees and other first responders to listen, empathize, encourage and offer private, confidential counsel. 


Victims in a crisis often need someone who can bring calmness and a sense of control to a hectic and often confusion situation.  Community Crisis Chaplain Team members are trained to minister to people in unsettled events.  Every day, unexpecting people become victim in crimes, tragedies, disasters, fires, motor vehicle wrecks, school incidents, business and industrial accidents.  Those affected often need immediate support from trained professionals.

Response and Service

Sheriff’s Community Crisis Chaplain Team members maintain a constant state of readiness to respond on a 24-hour basis as called upon.  Members are frequently called upon by the Sheriff’s Office for various needs.   Some of the regular responsibilities Community Crisis Chaplain Team members perform include: 

    1. Serve as a visible pastoral presence at crisis scenes.
    2. Serve as a pastoral presence in general to law enforcement and public safety personnel
    3. Assist in making notification of death, injury, or other special situation when requested
    4. Being available to counsel department personnel and their families
    5. Assist in contacting appropriate community agencies for special needs
    6. Respond with other law enforcement and public safety agencies upon request
    7. Conduct religious and ceremonial services within the guidelines and regulations of their endorsing denomination when called upon
    8. Visit employees or their family members
    9. Attend and/or participate in funerals or other events as requested    

To contact a member of the CCCT please call the Sheriff’s Office at 256-546-2825

Qualifications of Community Crisis Chaplain Team Members

All Etowah County Community Crisis Chaplain Team members are highly qualified in the area of crisis chaplaincy.  Each of our Chaplains are or have:

    1. Trained in Community Crisis Chaplaincy
    2. Trained in Critical Incident Stress Management
    3. Trained in Disaster Relief Chaplaincy (optional)
    4. Endorsed by a recognized religious body
    5. Ordained by a recognized church (preferred)
    6. Served a minimum of at least three years of experience in ministry
    7. Display familiarity with local community medical, psychiatric, and other related resources
    8. Demonstrate a personal interest in the CCCT through training, work experience, interest in the community, law enforcement and emergency agencies
    9. Passed a law enforcement background check
    10. Possess a valid Alabama driver license or be eligible to obtain one
    11. Met the physical, emotional, and mental demands necessary to function as an effective law enforcement chaplain.

Yellow Dot

In an effort to better serve and protect citizens in Etowah County, Sheriff Jonathon W. Horton partners with the Northeast Alabama Traffic Safety Office to provide the Yellow Dot Program. The Yellow Dot Program is designed to assist citizens and first responders in the event of an automobile accident.  The program can help save lives by improving communication at a time when accident victims may not be able to communicate for themselves.

Etowah County was chosen to pilot the Yellow Dot Program in Alabama, in 2009, due in part to the higher than state average of citizens age 65 and older.  Currently, 36 counties in Alabama are participating in the program.

The Yellow Dot Program is a cooperative effort between local Sheriff’s Deputies, Fire Departments, Emergency Medical Services, Police Officers, State Troopers, Non-Profits, Civic and Religious Organizations.

How Does the Program Work?

Participants of the program will have their picture taken, complete a personal information form and will be given a Yellow Dot folder and decal.  All of the essential information will be placed into the folder and then into the glove box of their car.  The Yellow Dot decal will be placed in the lower left corner of the rear window of the participant’s car.  The decal alerts first responders that medical information can be found in the glove compartment.

This information helps first responders get in touch with emergency contacts and ensures that a person’s current medication and conditions are considered when treatments are administered for injuries.


How Much Does It Cost to Sign-Up?

It is a FREE service provided to individuals of all ages, with an emphasis on senior citizens. 

Where Can I Sign-Up?

Individuals wanting to participate in the Yellow Dot Program can sign-up at one of the permanent enrollment locations:

  • Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, 827 Forrest Avenue, Gadsden, 256-546-2825
  • Gadsden Fire Department, Main Office, 322 Walnut Street, Gadsden, 256-549-4580
  • Family Success Center, A United Way Agency, 821 Broad Street, Gadsden, 256-547-6888
  • Rural/Metro Ambulance, 1516 West Grand Avenue, Gadsden, 256-442-1611
  • 12th Street Baptist Church, 800 West Grand Avenue, Rainbow City, 256-546-0471
  • Southside Baptist Church, 3975 Highway 77, Southside, 256-442-8602

Special enrollment events will be held at various locations in the county throughout the year.

Resource Links

Facebook – Yellow Dot Program

ADECA – Yellow Dot Program

Special Olympics – Etowah County Schools

Special education students and those from day programs and group homes met at Gadsden City High School’s Titan Stadium to participate in Special Olympics.

Employees of Etowah County Sheriff’s Department participate in the Special Olympics Torch Run during the opening ceremony.

The Flame of Hope torch will be carried on a one-mile run from the James D. Martin Wildlife Sanctuary, South 11th Street, to the opening ceremony at Gadsden City High School. Special Olympic athletes will join sheriff’s office runners at the high school to officially begin the event.

For additional information about the Special Olympics, visit: www.specialolympics.org

Message From the Sheriff

Sheriff Jonathon W HortonWelcome to the Etowah County Sheriff's Office official website. I am pleased you have visited our site and hope you find it informative. It is my Honor to Serve as Your Sheriff. The Sheriff's Office provides law enforcement services to the people of Etowah County through...

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