McDonough Police to begin community interaction strategy

By James Saxton
Times Correspondent

If a police officer can spend time chatting with citizens at a park, or help someone mend a broken fence, or read books to children, the time that officers spend with those whom they protect builds a bridge of trust that can prove valuable.

That’s the aim of a new program, Officers in the Community, disclosed by McDonough Police Chief Preston Dorsey at a City Council workshop meeting Thursday evening.

McDonough Police Sgt. Ricky Jewell, left, was voted by his command staff as Sergeant of the Year 2016, while Lt. Douglas Vaughn, second from right, earned the Lieutenant of the Year award in honors received Thursday before the McDonough City Council. Presenting the awards were Mayor Billy Copeland, second from left, and at right, Police Chief Preston Dorsey. Photo by James Saxton

The feedback that Dorsey said he kept hearing from citizens is that they not only want to hear from the top brass of the department, but want to personally meet all the officers and get to know them.

“So what we’ll do is require every officer in the department to go out in the community and give us six to eight hours of community service every year,” he said. “I think this is going to be a great program, and I’m very excited to get this started at the beginning of the year.”

The goal is simple, said the staffer who is helping the chief create the program, Maj. Paul Honcharik, commander of the McDonough Police Office of Professional Standards. “The main focus is to just make sure that the community knows us, and knows that we’re more than just police officers. We’re human beings, too.”

“We just started putting this together a couple weeks ago,” Honcharik said, “so we’re still writing the details of the policy, but we plan to just get officers more involved in the community. Each officer can do things like speak to groups, or go meet people where they are and just get to know the citizens. Or maybe they’ll choose to go to a sporting event and shake some hands, or play ball with some kids, or do community work like cutting grass. It’s just about police officers making a positive interaction with the citizens of McDonough.”

“We’ll get great value out of it,” he said. “It’ll build a rapport between citizens and officers. We’ll all get to know each other more on a personal level, other than their just seeing us when we’re responding to a call. So many only know us in that capacity. They’ll get to see that we’re not just robots, enforcing the law – we have heart.”

Also before the city council, Chief Dorsey awarded two honors: Lt. Douglas Vaughn was voted by his command staff as Lieutenant of the Year 2016, while Sgt. Ricky Jewell earned the Sergeant of the Year award.

A new employee, Officer Holden Childress, was recognized by Dorsey for attending and winning awards at the Georgia Public Safety Police Academy, the second on the McDonough Police force to do so. Childress won three awards: The Iron Man award, the Leadership Award, and the Top Gun Award with a score of 97.78 percent, “which is almost as close to perfect as you can earn,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey updated city council members on an accreditation program mock assessment that the Georgia Police Chiefs Association conducted last month. “We moved into the new building in 2014, and the whole goal was to establish and become state certified through this assessment program. Out of 525 law enforcement agencies in the state, about only 100 hold the state certification. It’s a long and tedious process,” Dorsey said.

“Last month when the four assessors came to the McDonough Police Department, they reviewed our policies, they went through our building, and met with our staff members. They said they needed to inspect our evidence room, which seems to be a problem area for many agencies in obtaining certification.

“After inspecting it,” he said, “they told us that they were very impressed with what they saw, and asked if they could bring other agencies to our evidence room to show it as a model of organization and good maintenance. They were supposed to stay until 5 p.m., but at 3 p.m. they declared us prepared for the full assessment in January. We’re ready.”

McDonough Police also announced last week that its own Maj. Chad Rosborough, commander of the city’s Flint Circuit Drug Task Force, graduated in September from the FBI National Academy program at Quantico, Virginia. Rosborough was among the 265th Session of the FBI National Academy, which graduated 230 men and women from 47 states.