We are living in a country where the violent crime rate is at an all-time high. The FBI released statistics for 2020 and the homicide rate is up 30 percent nationwide—the largest increase since statistics were first compiled in the 1960s. 2021 is looking even worse.
The anti-police, defund the police rhetoric has caused law enforcement agencies to lose employees at an unprecedented rate to early retirements and to officers leaving the profession altogether. Young people are not interested in the job. Law enforcement officers have the responsibility to investigate murders, rapes, child abuse, frauds, traffic fatalities and narcotics violations or simply check on the bump someone hears in the middle of the night. So how is a leader to manage a law enforcement organization tasked with such enormous responsibility under the current adverse environment? How can it be done while keeping officers safe, making sure they go home to their families at the end of their shift? It can at times seem overwhelming.
The Sandy Springs Police Department has consistently driven down crime in all categories since being established in 2006. What is the secret to keeping a city of over 100,000 residents safe, while located in the 9th largest metropolitan statistical area in the U.S.? Why is it that when a murder occurs in Sandy Springs, there is almost a 100 percent probability that it will be solved? (Currently there is only one unsolved homicide in the city going back to when the department started operations.)
It starts with investment in training and officers. Our officers and detectives far exceed the state standard minimum for hours per year trained. We are constantly training and spare no expense to have the best trained officers. All of our commanders are afforded the opportunity to attend the best in-resident law enforcement executive courses throughout the U.S. Some cities are calling for defunding their police, which almost always starts with a reduction in training. They demand better officers, but don’t want them to be trained. It’s ridiculous. The path to a better officer is through their training.
Technology is also very important, whether that be the latest crime analysis software or the newest, most advanced fi rearm. Give your officers the best tools so that they can do the best job. We have partnered with emerging public safety technology companies to build better mousetraps. Recently on the night shift, I talked with the CEO of a multi-million dollar nationwide technology company who was riding with our special operations officers on patrol. We discussed how his company could help us with our needs and in turn enable his company to build a better product. That’s the type of relationship we build with our business partners that makes them feel comfortable to put on a ballistic vest and hit the streets in the dark of night.
To be successful, you need the support of the citizens who live here. You hear police executives talk about community policing, but in Sandy Springs we don’t have to talk about it because our community is actively involved in policing. We have a robust Citizens Academy that produces citizen crime fighters who not only support their police department, but know what to look for to help prevent crime. Taking it even further, we have a citizens’ patrol function that goes out on the streets and assists officers with various duties. These duties can be traffic control, working minor private property wrecks, standing by for a tow truck while the officer takes an offender to jail, reducing that officer’s time out of service, or simply doing house checks in neighborhoods. While this may not be new to some police agencies, the scope and magnitude of our program is impressive.
We have over 50 volunteers working seven days a week in a variety of programs to include clerical positions. Some are even trained and authorized to work certain specialized positions and respond to emergency calls for service with sworn officers. We have an emergency room physician who is a fully qualified S.W.A.T team member. That’s what real community policing is, not just a slogan on a patrol car bumper. We also use industry best policies and practices. We critique all of our operations, investigations and arrests, not to be critical, but to enable us to do things safely and in the most efficient manner. We constantly learn and adapt to the changing landscape.
Probably the most important point is to have leaders, both police command and politicians, that support their officers and allow them to do the job they are trained for. The elected officials must give the police department their complete support. No one wants to work where they are not wanted; in today’s environment, fewer police officers will.
Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone has over 30 years of law enforcement experience and has been with the department since 2009. An Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran, he retired from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as a colonel in 2014.
A digital copy to this issue of James Magazine can be found by visiting: Final Issue of James Magazine for 2021