Mark Scott: Police chief reflects on first year here

Published 1:45 pm Monday, May 1, 2017

It’s hard to believe, but it has been a little over a year since I was hired as chief of police. It has been a tumultuous year, marked with both tragedy and success. During the first couple of months in Americus, I made the speaking rounds and talked about four main goals that we were setting for the Americus Police Department during the first year. We wanted to build community trust by building community relationships, fill the vacancies in the department, enhance our training program for both sworn and civilian employees, and become certified by the Georgia Law Enforcement Certification Program.
The first and most important goal was, and continues to be, building trust through relationships. We have encouraged our officers to be involved in the community in as many ways as possible. Our officers and employees have attended community meetings, been asked to serve on boards and committees, participated in focus groups, spent time in the schools eating lunch with kids and making presentations, sponsored and co-sponsored community events, and participated in community forums. Most of the meetings we attended were very positive, but some of them were tough. We have tried to be as open and transparent as a department as we possibly can. On Dec. 7, 2016, we lost two of our own. Nick Smarr and Jody Smith were killed responding to a domestic violence call. In the weeks and months following that tragedy this community has gone above and beyond to show support for our law enforcement personnel across the county. You have also shown tremendous love and support for the grieving families of both officers and also for the family of the man who took their lives and then took his own. Thank you.
Filling our vacancies has proven to be a real challenge. We started out a year ago with 15 vacancies for police officers. Over the past 12 months, we have hired 12 people to fill the vacancies. Unfortunately, with attrition and some of the cadets washing out of the police academy we have had a net gain of only three, and as of this article we still have 12 vacancies to fill. The minimum qualifications for police officer are, you must be at least 21 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, have a valid driver’s license, have a good driving record, no felony arrests and no history of felony drug use. If you know someone with a heart for service who is looking for a great career, send them our way!
We have had better success in revamping our training programs. We have changed the way we do field training of new officers. We have also made an effort to send our personnel to training courses outside of the department as often as manpower shortages will allow. Our training calendar for 2017 has been published and we will be offering a variety of courses this year designed to meet new state guidelines for mandatory annual training.
Our final goal is to be state certified by the Georgia Law Enforcement Certification Program. This is a voluntary program sponsored by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP) which involves updating our policies and procedures to meet certification standards in eight different categories of law enforcement operations. We have been hard at work rewriting our policy manual and assessing our practices to make sure we are in compliance with the best practices contained in the state standards. If all goes well, we should have a team of assessors come to the department in late summer and receive our certification at the winter GACP training conference.
In closing, I would like to say thank you once again to this community for welcoming me and my family to Americus and Sumter County. It’s only been a year, but Julie and I truly feel like we are at home.

Mark Scott is chief, Americus Police Department.