Concerns over spending on law enforcement prompted councilmen Joe Money and Earl Parris to invite a consultant to speak to local officials regarding the possibilities of creating a county-wide “metro-police” force that could offset costs.
The brainstorming session was held at the Summerville Depot and the keynote speaker was Terrell Jacobs, a Municipal Operations Consultant with a diverse background of experience in law enforcement mergers. A former city manager from Douglas, Georgia, Jacobs presented a “white paper” from a 2007 New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police study titled, “Police Department Regionalization, Consolidation, Merger & Shared Services.”
Meeting to discuss future of Summerville Police Department AllOnGeorgia
Posted by All On Georgia – Chattooga on Monday, July 23, 2018
Attending the meeting were local officials from Chattooga County, the City of Summerville, Trion and Menlo. While several invited officials were unable to attend, sufficient representatives from governing bodies and law enforcement were on hand to take in Jacobs’ presentation on what a merger of policing authority can mean to a community.
After a break for refreshments, Chattooga County Sheriff Mark Schrader took a moment to press the “reset button” and pose the question of why this matter had become an issue rather than how it could be implemented. “I feel like we need to, kind of, put it in reverse and back up…” said Schrader. “Are we looking at this for cost savings or are we looking at this to be more effective or… a combination of both?” Schrader went on to emphasize that residents pay taxes in order to receive services and that “all facets of government aren’t meant to make money.” Councilman Money responded that his reasoning behind the concept was due to the fact that “…to patrol a four mile radius, we are spending $1.1 million dollars.”
Part 2 AllOnGeorgia
Posted by All On Georgia – Chattooga on Monday, July 23, 2018
Mayor Harvey voiced his concerns that a consolidation or merger simply wasn’t necessary at this time. After listening to Mr. Jacobs, and reviewing the white paper study, Summerville Mayor Harvey said, “I don’t see any savings or anything that will be beneficial to us.” In fact, Mr. Jacobs himself was the first to point out that there would not be any initial savings with the consolidation, and he emphasized that a county police force, “… isn’t for every county.” Jacobs pointed out Chatham County (population 286,596), which is now in the process of dissolving their metro police department.
After hearing Sheriff Schrader, Mayor Harry Harvey and Magistrate Judge, Tracy Maddux, it did not take Jacobs very long to come to the conclusion that the group before him had other areas of concern than merging police forces or creating new bureaucracies. According to the expert consultant, “…we need to address the overcrowding and age of the jail.”
Summerville Police Chief, Stan Mosley, has 30 years of law enforcement experience. His police force has consistently improved services and maintained a philosophy of community policing. The city police department budget is widely considered to be the key component behind the push for a new system but Mosley emphasized the importance of delivering security for the residents of Summerville and the evolution of the police budget.
“When I started in law enforcement I took a pay cut,” said Mosley, pointing to a two dollar per hour reduction from his previous job. The work of a police officer is not motivated by wages, explained Mosley, “Most police don’t do this for the money.”
The Police Chief is one of the most well-respected members of the Summerville community with roots that run as deep as any Chattooga County resident. “I want what’s best for the city. That’s my job . To do what’s right for the city of Summerville,” said a passionate Chief Mosley. “I feel combining the Dept is not the best for the businesses and the residents of Summerville. I know Summerville, and I feel that with a county-wide police department, the city of Summerville will not get the same coverage and protection they receive now.”
Amidst the words of concern from the local officials, none seemed more relevant than those of Magistrate Judge Tracy Maddux. The judge offered some legal insight to the matter, “The problem with creating a metropolitan police is there is no statutory authority. You’re either going to have a sheriff’s department taking care of all law enforcement, or a county police department answerable, in this case, to a sole commissioner.” Maddux voiced his own concern over the possible further consolidation of powers within the office of commissioner. “I wish Jason was here for this part.” Maddux referenced the current sole commissioner, Jason Winters, who had left the meeting early. “In our case, being a sole commissioner, in a county police force, you would be answering to one person. That would be the most politically motivated job in Chattooga County. We could have a new police chief every four years or every four months.”
“We have a good law enforcement agency. If we go to trying to cut back and consolidate, something is going to be missed,” Judge Maddux continued. Summerville has been selected as the safest city in Georgia for the last two years.
Maddux also steered the conversation back to the most pressing need Chattooga County has faced for the past four decades. “We need a jail… and it needs to be a joint effort between municipalities and County,” Judge Maddux said.
Currently, the Chattooga County Jail operates under a court order issued by Judge Murphy, which says the Chattooga County Jail is only allowed to house 47 inmates, and no more than 57 in case of an emergency and, that the 57-inmate cap cannot exceed 20 days per year. The average inmate population for Chattooga County over the last year has been 100 daily.
In 2015 alone, the taxpayers of Chattooga County paid $707,735.50 to other counties to house inmates. In 2016 the taxpayers of Chattooga County paid $598,850.00 to other counties to house inmates. In 2017 the taxpayers of Chattooga County paid $593,687.00 to other counties to house inmates.
Chattooga County’s commissioner writes checks to Gordon, Bartow, Murray, Polk, Dade Floyd and Walker Counties for the housing of Chattooga County inmates. The jail is an issue that impacts every resident of Chattooga County, and obviously, every tax payer.
Sheriff Schrader said that in the first five month of this year (data going through June 1st) the Sheriff’s Office had responded to 7,507 calls. The Summerville Police Department had responded to 3,448 calls and the Trion Police Department had responded to 883 calls.
Where do the Law Enforcement Officials stand on the idea of consolidation:
Chattooga County Sheriff Mark Schrader is openly against the idea.
Summerville Police Chief Stan Mosley is openly against the idea.
Trion Police Chief Jason Kellett, who was not at the meeting, told AllOnGeorgia, “…it is a no for me at this time.”