This has been a difficult summer for community-police relations in many other parts of our nation.
That’s why I’m thankful every day for the professionalism of our own Gwinnett County Police Department and for the outstanding support they get from residents all across the county.
It’s not easy to become a Gwinnett police officer. The training is rigorous and far surpasses the minimum statewide requirements. I have long believed that if we provide better training and better equipment, we will get better policing and fewer complaints.
The latest statistics bear that out. Of more than half a million dispatched calls last year, we got complaints on just 124. That’s 0.023 percent. And our officers used force of any type only 260 times.
The department’s mission statement says, “We are committed to serving the community through the delivery of professional law enforcement services in a compassionate manner in order to protect the lives and property of the citizens and improve the quality of life in our community.”
One way our police officers live out this mission is by engaging the community through programs like citizens academies for residents, youth and clergy, Law Enforcement Explorer Post 552, and Citizens Corps and CERT emergency preparedness groups. They sponsor annual Multicultural and Public Safety Festivals, organize the C.O.P.S. neighborhood watch and the Crime Free Multi-Housing programs, and offer drop-in Coffee with a Cop at local restaurants. And in the last year alone, our own Police Chief Butch Ayers has personally attended dozens of community events.
After five police officers were killed by a sniper in Dallas on July 7 followed by three more in Baton Rouge later the same month, scores of Gwinnett residents stopped by their local precincts, some bringing pizza and cookies, while others sent emails and social media messages of support.
Dozens more attended a peace vigil at the Gwinnett Fallen Heroes Memorial organized by retired Gwinnett Police Maj. Jonathan “Keybo” Taylor, which featured speeches from police, pastors, and community leaders. At that event, I confessed that I don’t really understand either side of the conflict because I’ve never been a police officer or a mother of black sons. Yet all of us there that night agreed that violence is not the answer.
Gwinnett is a very diverse county with countless opportunities for misunderstandings, racial or ethnic prejudice, and just plain old miscommunication. But when we take the time to listen and learn from each other, diversity becomes our greatest strength.
I deeply appreciate all expressions of support for law enforcement personnel. They work for all of us, and it’s a nerve-wracking job—for them and for their families. From moment-to-moment, officers never know when the next radio call may put them in a life-threatening situation. Their great courage deserves our deep respect.