The Hogansville City Council hosted a public forum at its Senior Center Thursday evening to introduce the four candidates in the running to succeed Moses Ector as Chief of Police. Many citizens came out to ask candidates questions regarding their history and vision as the potential chief.
The final candidates are James Perry of the Carrollton Police Department, John Pearson, Sr. of the Hogansville Police Department, Brian Harr of the Norcross Police Department and James Callaway of the Morrow Police Department.
For the obvious question, the candidates were asked how they would reduce and control crime. Perry responded that education is key to keeping crime controlled and said he would focus on educating citizens and ensuring officers are well-trained.
Callaway was in favor of data analysis and crime mapping to locate high-risks crimes and area and use resources to prevent crime based on the data.
Both Harr and Pearson stressed communication among citizens, officers and other agencies in nearby jurisdictions.
In a tense moment, Sgt. Raymond Gates with the Hogansville Police Department walked up to the microphone and questioned the sincerity of each candidate, specifically calling out Pearson as being hard-headed until the last several months when he has been “soft-headed” and even went on to point out past tension between the two. Other citizens felt Raymond’s concerns were valid and asked similar questions.
“Raymond, you asked a question, would I continue to be nice or what would I revert back to? Be very clear, I am always going to demand that every officer in this police department follow policy and procedure always and forever,” Pearson responded. “I understood my role as the assistant chief, I was the enforcer, I was the disciplinary.”
One citizen questioned the presence of corruption among council members and how candidates would respond to pressure from council members to do something they didn’t agree with.
Pearson responded saying his integrity was not for sale and added that he was almost offended with the question saying it suggests the local government is full of potentially corrupt people.
Perry, who said he has been in situations like this before, took the chance to address the council and saying, “If you expect me to do something like that, don’t offer me the job.”
Each candidate presented their five year plan if chosen as chief.
Callaway stated he intends to create a citizen advisory council for members of the community to meet with command staff on quarterly basis and discuss current issues and concerns. He also added that he intends to advance the departments use of technology and increase social media presence to reach out to the community.
Harr said he will increase the department’s impact and focus on senior citizens and the youth. He suggested a senior call-in program to check daily on seniors living alone.
Another popular question of the night is why these candidates chose Hogansville and would they move if appointed Chief.
Though Harr did not specifically say he would move to Hogansville, he did state that having a chief live and be present in the community is critical and it was something he would look into.
The remaining candidates said, though they did not plan to live in Hogansville, they all currently live close enough to where they can be readily available and present.
All the candidates identified the small and close-knit community as a reason for wanting to come to Hogansville.
Candidates responded to most of the questions in favor of community involvement with the department’s day-to-day operations.
“There are three things that are very important: transparency, accountability and approachability,” Harr said.
Perry said he will establish an open-door policy for members of the community to bring complaints and concerns.
When one citizen came up with complaints of unprofessional behavior among police officers, candidates shared how they would deal with disciplinary matters inside the agency.
“I’m going to be pretty hardcore, these guys are going to shape up or ship out,” Perry said.
Callaway cited examples of when he had to take a Lieutenants badge and also when he was involved in the arrest of his own chief.
“That is one of the most critical issues,” Callaway said. “I want to give officers their due process obviously, but when we’re out here, we’re held to a higher standard.”
Harr and Pearson both said that the community awareness and accountability will be essential in stopping unprofessional behavior in the department.
“I can’t manage this police department without the help of this community because you are going to see things that we’re not going to see,” Pearson said, also adding that community members need to be willing to share that information.
Other issues addressed were accreditation, the new gun law and training. The candidates answered similarly saying both accreditation and training are key and need to be sustained and built upon. They also responded the gun law will be carried out according to policy dictated by the bill regardless how they feel about it.
At the end of the meeting, citizens were asked to show which candidates impressed them by a show of hands. Each candidates were evenly matched in their answers and among citizen favor.
City Manager James Wood said he hopes to have chosen a candidate by Monday.