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Bulloch Local Government

Register citizens not sold on reinstating police department

The Register City Council heard from citizens last week on whether or not the council should reinstate the police department.

The tiny town hall hosted upwards of 40 people who attended to hear the plans the council had for funding and to evaluate the policing efforts of the Brooklet police force, set to be the interim plan should the plan be put into place.

Brooklet Police Chief Doug Meyer explained that the part-time police department would operate on a staggered, unpublicized 48-hour week. Officers would be set at $13/hour while the chief would make $15/hour. No Brooklet PD resources would not be utilized as the town still has their police vehicles and equipment from 2015.  Meyer expressed his concerns about making the schedule known to the public, “You don’t want those who plan to come here to do harm to know when we will and won’t be present.” Instead, four officers would offer 10 hour staggered shifts and the chief would spread 8 hours out across the week.

As Meyer concluded his presentation, questions and comments from the public flooded the room. Register resident Jay Clarke asked if crime in Register was really that high that a police department was necessary. Mayor Barbara Rushing said it’s more about response time and that the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office is low on resources before they have to cover the town. Rushing also said the elderly in Register enjoy seeing the officers and having the police presence. To quell fears of abuse, Rushing said she has worked with the Brooklet city council and the police department to best safeguard the taxpayers. In doing such, the PD would operate under the following rules:

  • No Register police vehicles would leave Register
  • The town would not be responsible for costs associated with officers riding back and forth from Brooklet.
  • Court would be every two months, instead of every month, to reduce costs
  • No employees would be salaried
  • The goal is to avoid having the town be dependent on the PD for revenue

The statements from Rushing came as residents expressed concern over repeating errors from the previous police department administration. Robin Brannen, a near-lifelong resident of Register said it was “just embarrassing” to have so much police presence for 4 blocks of paved road. Her husband, John Emery Brannen, said Register residents already pay taxes for the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia State Patrol. He emphasized that Highway 46 is a state highway and Register is a low crime area. “We’re paying for a service that we don’t need with money that we don’t have. There’s no budget for it.”

Former Register Mayor John Williams wanted to know if revenue would come from the people in town or just on Highway 46, noting that the people of Register had grown accustomed to a police department ‘out to get everyone.’

Councilwoman Karin Stenborg interrupted to say, “The Kiles we had working here weren’t worth a frickin’ toot.” She said there is a stark contrast between who the council is looking to hire and who has previously been employed by the town.

register3Resident Jay Clarke also said the reputation of Register is damaged because of the former speed traps. He doesn’t want to see another police department operating “without integrity.” His biggest concern, he said, is a police department that has to write enough citation to operate.

Owners at the Store at Register and Green Leaf Nursery both said they lost business because of the former police department operations.

Meyer said his plan is to have the Register Police Department up and running on its own and ready for a permanent, long-term force in 2-10 months, depending on decisions of the council. If approved, Rushing said the PD will be re-evaluated after 6-9 months.

That didn’t cut it for several residents gravely concerned about the town’s financial status. While much of the police department debt, excluding the license plate scanner, has been paid off, the town has an outstanding $10,000 in debt. Additionally, the town was over $4,000 in the hole for the month of June alone.

Supporting the idea most vocally was longtime resident Mr. Swicord, who said he would like to see signs placed along Hwy 46 coming into Register that say “Police presence ahead.” He also said people drive too fast at all hours of the day and there is a growing problem with litter on the roadside.

Also of concern was the issue of alternating court months. If revenue from court fees won’t be received for at least two months, the town will have to front roughly $10,000 to get the police department up and running. $10,000 councilwoman Brittany Brannen says they just don’t have.  Rushing said that if the police department begins costing the town money, it will be shut down – but opposition says that’s the reason the police department was indefinitely suspended last year.

The town has no formal proposal or expected operating costs for the police department at the time of the meeting, though Rushing said a regiser2road map to reinstatement will be prepared so residents can understand exactly how much the new PD will cost. The money was set aside in an alternative budget previously prepared, however, not in the budget as approved at the last meeting. Former Councilman Kevin Boyd asked that the council prepare something for people to see before a decision is made by the council.

No meeting has been scheduled as of yet to determine whether or not Register will move forward with a police department. The town plans to issue an informal, non-binding poll in the monthly water bills to gauge the public opinion and discuss the issue again in August. As the meeting adjourned, Councilwoman Elaine Lee said “It’s ultimately up to the council to make the decision regardless of what the poll says.”

Register’s town council meetings are the Second Thursday of every month.

Jessica Szilagyi is a former Statewide Contributor for

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