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Interim Hogansville police chief making changes after investigation

Over the course of the past few weeks, Hogansville Interim Police Chief Jeff Sheppard has been actively changing the inner workings of the Hogansville Police Department. He updated the Hogansville City Council Monday evening on all the changes that are being made.

“We have completely torn down and restructured our entire command system,” Sheppard said. “We have a whole new command staff. The directives are issued to the officers through the staff process. We have created a better, more uniform communication of directives and supervision to the line officers and the staff.”

Sheppard said HPD also changed the shift structure to have more consistency between command staff and officers. The new change will allow for sergeants to be on-call for one-week on, then off for two weeks. Sheppard said it helps not only not overwork officers but also gives staff someone they can call 24-7.

The department’s background policy has also changed for the hiring process.

“We have sent our primary hiring coordinators to training sessions to carry out this task correctly and more thoroughly,” Sheppard said. “This policy requires performing a much more thorough background check before a final hiring decision can be made. The new process also requires all officers and staff being vested in this process. This will result in current officers and staff already knowing who’s going to be hired before they are hired.”

Sheppard added that this helps with the training environment of the new officers as well. A police advisory committee has been created that is made up of Hogansville residents from various fields of work and different backgrounds.

“This committee meets with me weekly to discuss changes in our departmental policy as we move forward,” Sheppard said. “We discuss citizen complaints, discuss officer reviews, community events and a number of other areas in the city. The committee helps me to keep that promise that I have transparency to the citizens of the city.”

Sheppard said the committee helps be a liaison between him, the police department and the city.

“Some people have noticed we have taken officers out of the patrol cars and put them back on a foot beat,” Sheppard said. “For lack of a better words, officers are getting out of their cars. They’re going into businesses and meeting with business owners. They’re going out to meet with citizens.”

Sheppard said the police department has received several compliments and a good response to this change.

“I am getting out and talking with these business owners and getting out all across the city and making sure these officers are doing what they are supposed to be doing,” Sheppard said. “The officers are not doing this because they’re being made to. They were told it was a new directive and the officers wanted to get out and do this. The officers are embracing this. The business owners and the citizens are really appreciative of this.”

Sheppard said he saw a need where citizens wanted to know who their officers were and that they wanted to know the officers by name. Although night shift officers don’t have as many businesses they can go into, Sheppard said that the officers are going into the ones that are open late.

“They are checking doors, going to vacant houses and getting out on foot,” Sheppard said. “Since we started doing this, my officers found seven businesses that were not secured and were left unlocked,” Sheppard said.

The police department was able to re-secure the businesses and get in touch with business owners to make sure they lock their doors and/or fix any locks.

“What this is, is their educating the business owners, they’re educating the homeowner to keep your doors locked,” Sheppard said. “By the officers getting out of their cars and going into these dark corners and alleys, they have located people parking in cul-de-sacs, they have located people parking behind the schools and doing things. Every time that they catch somebody doing this at these late hours, they are writing citations. This requires them to go to court and explain to the judge why they were there and what they were doing.”

Since the new directives have been put into place, the police department has seen a drastic drop in burglaries and entering auto crimes. The police department is also adding a senior assistance and youth program that will kick off in 2021. These will include senior in-home checks, to make sure the senior citizen is okay, their needs are being met and that they are safe at home. Within that program, the police department will also be educating senior citizens on scammers. The Hogansville Police Department will also plans to fofer free CPR and first aid classes to citizens.

“We are working on several youth education and adventure projects,” Sheppard said. “Officer Hollis, who is over youth services, is talking to many of the business volunteers and some of the other services around here to come up with something better for our youth.”

Sheppard said he was thankful for the city’s support during all the changes and is excited to see the city and police staff have better relationships and lower crime rates.