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A SPECIAL PUBLICATION BY THE NEWNAN TIMES-HERALD

Heroes Among Us Celebrating Coweta County’s Public Service

2019


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Yeager leaves a legacy of law BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

‘‘ PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

In the last days spent inside his office, Sheriff Mike Yeager smiles as he prepares for his next journey as a U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Georgia.

I

n the final weeks as Coweta County Sheriff, Mike Yeager has been clearing out his office – sorting through over 25 years worth of personal items since assuming the role on Jan. 1, 1993 On his desk sits a binder filled with photos, press clippings and other artifacts of his tenure as sheriff. In a few days, he’ll be leaving the sheriff’s office for a new one in Atlanta as a

U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Georgia. For Yeager, the opportunity to serve as Marshal is a welcome transition – full-on retirement wasn’t in the cards just yet, he said. It’s been a long journey for Yeager who never had any aspirations for seeking the office of sheriff. "Back in the day, my goal was to be a

teacher and coach,” he recalled. "When I saw it wasn’t for me, I got in with the city with the police department. It was interesting to me and I’ve never regretted it.” For Yeager, law enforcement was a good fit and allowed him the ability to continue improving. "Any class that I could take to learn something new, I’d jump on it,” he said.

“I was never satisfied with status quo and I think most officers these days are like that, too.” A Gentleman's Race In 1991, Yeager was working as an investigator when people began approaching him to run for sheriff. “Folks kept telling me there’s going to

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Blessed by heroes “YOUR DEALER FOR LIFE” NOW GIVES YOU

ation Committee will honor each one of these deserving heroes with a luncheon at the Coweta County Fairgrounds. There is no program, just good food, wonderful desserts, fellowship and laughter. And, to further show our deep appreciation, we established the Newnan Coweta Public Safety Foundation. This foundation uses every dime donated (tax exempt) to provide assistance with our public safety folks who suffer medical and financial hardships, scholarships for their graduating high school children, much needed equipment to help them, which is not provided in their budgets and to show them they are never alone; they are truly our heroes. Our foundation has no paid employees; we are all happy volunteers because we know that we are blessed to have the care that these heroes provide us. If you would like to show your appreciation to them, please donate (any amount is welcome and needed) to NCPS Foundation, P.O. Box 1113, Newnan, GA 30264. You can recognize them further by displaying a “Loyal Blue” Ribbon at your home or at your business. May God bless each and every one of these Heroes Among Us who serve and protect us, and may God bless America.

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You only have to open your newspaper or turn on your television to see what is happening every single day to our brave men and women who faithfully serve in all areas of our public safety and our military. And, sadly you will see the needless lives that are lost, the tragic injuries that occur and the abuse that these brave souls endure. They, not pro ball players or TV personalities or other overpaid people, are the Heroes Among Us. Coweta County is truly blessed to have the care that we are given through the efforts of our law enforcement, fire departments, 911 operators and all others who contribute to keeping us safe. We are so fortunate to have outstanding guidance from the chiefs of these agencies and have been blessed to have had Sheriff Mike Yeager who has served us so honorably for many years. I can’t say enough about the quality of people who every day go out of their way to make sure that we citizens are safe. Too often we take for granted their time given at night, on holidays, in terrible weather conditions. We have come to expect this. Let’s join forces and let these heroes know that we appreciate them, that they are not working in vain. They are never paid enough for the risks they take, but acknowledging their work by making them our heroes will go a long way in helping them through tough times. On April 25, for the 21st time, the Newnan Coweta Public Safety Appreci-

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I knew if I won, I wanted him on my team.

— Coweta County Sheriff, Mike Yeager

NTH FILE PHOTO

Seen on Election Night 1992, Sheriff Mike Yeager raises his fist in the air after the total results are announced. Yeager narrowly edged out his opponent, Rodney Riggs, by 307 votes in what many recalled as the cleanest race conducted in Coweta County.

YEAGER From page 2 be a new sheriff, and I needed to run.” Almost a year later, he finally made the decision to do it. For a man who never ran for anything in his life, it was a leap of faith entering the world of politics and campaigning – especially against an incumbent. In April 1992, he handed in his resignation to his boss, Sheriff Larry Hammett.

With no day job to speak of, Yeager got work campaigning immediately. “Each day, this county became my office,” he said. After announcing his candidacy in The Newnan Times-Herald, Yeager said things began to snowball almost immediately. His calendar from 1992 paints a vivid picture of what life was like for a former investigator seeking the office of sheriff. Each day had something going on and by the end of the year, Yeager said he literally had holes in his shoes from so much walking.

With no campaign experience to speak of, he threw himself into the race with full force. "I just turned it over to God,” he said. "I just reached out to people and talked to every person I came in contact with.” One of those people was Mike Smith – then owner of the Redneck Gourmet who sat and talked to Yeager for hours. At the end of one discussion, Smith told Yeager he’d vote for him – under one condition. “He wanted me to come and eat with him every once in a while,” Yeager said. “I said, ‘You got it,’ and that’s why I’ve been

there on a weekly basis ever since.” According to Yeager, Smith was one of many he encountered who wanted a sheriff that was accessible, willing to listen and not pander. His dinners, routinely held at the Moreland Mill, were filled with supporters covering all demographics. “It wasn’t just one class of people, it was everyone,” Yeager said. In July, Yeager beat Hammett by 72 percent. He now faced his old friend and colleague Rodney Riggs, then a detective

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YEAGER From page 4 at The Newnan Police Department. For many, it was considered one of the cleanest races ever run in the county. “He’s a wonderful friend then and now, and I refused to say anything bad about him,” Yeager said. “I knew if I won, I wanted him on my team. He’s a very experienced lawman who would have been a tremendous asset to the sheriff’s office. I don’t think it’s possible to run a campaign like that now.” Yeager recalled the Election Night in November 1992. The results came in nearly dead even. If Riggs went up, Yeager would follow and vice versa. Eventually, it came down to the east side of the county – Sharpsburg and Moreland, who both turned out decidedly for Yeager. In the end, the race was decided by 307 votes and was one of the closest races in history. The two remained close friends and Yeager invited Riggs to work at the sheriff’s office. “He declined and said he wanted to stay

at the police department,” Yeager said. Nine months after leaving his job, Yeager returned to the sheriff’s office and never looked back. However, things at the sheriff’s office needed some attention - and fast. When Yeager assumed the role of sheriff on January 1, 1993, he entered the office just after midnight and quickly discovered things weren’t quite right. Files were missing, and quite a few of them. Case files, personnel files – all seemed to have vanished. Perplexed, he called around and eventually learned the former sheriff had liberated them from the office and transported to them to his barn for “safekeeping.” “That always seemed strange to me,” Yeager said. “A sheriff’s office isn’t secure, but a barn is?” The files were ultimately returned, but eight days into his new role, Yeager got a second shock. A letter from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) revealed 48 of his officers had let their training lapse and no longer had arresting power. “We began searching for certificates

and dates to confirm training for several, but around 40 had to travel to Lake Lanier to POST Council where I threw myself at their mercy,” Yeager said. “I said if you can give me 6 months to get this corrected, you’ll never see me again. They gave me until the end of the year.” An emergency waiver was granted and the sheriff’s office began keeping up with vital records and never had an issue since. "I was fortunate enough to be appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue to POST Council where I've served as chairman for 15 years, and we’ve never been in that kind of predicament again,” Yeager said. Another Murder In Coweta County On January 24, 1990, Yeager was still working as an investigator when his neighbors Joe and George Rainwater were found shot to death execution-style by a .380 semi-automatic pistol only a few hundred yards from Yeager’s home in Moreland. Oddly enough, the Rainwaters were the second set of murders in Coweta County that day. Earlier, two other men had been discovered shot to death in Sharpsburg. “I was in shock - we all were,” Yeager

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recalled. “In less than 12 hours we’d had two double homicides, and this one was right next to my house. All I could think about was my family.” Yeager recalled Joe Rainwater as the neighbor you spoke with when you checked your mail, and knew every car that came down the road that day. “He was a hard-working man who loved the land and always knew what was going on,” Yeager said. George's pregnant wife and 5-year-old daughter had found the bodies. A distinctive AR-15 rifle had been stolen along with a .22 pistol, a shotgun, a bottle of liquor, and other items. Evidence collected at the scene included .380 shell casings and a cigarette butt – a piece of evidence Yeager insisted be taken from the scene, so he asked the GBI agent to secure the butt for evidence. “He didn’t see any reason to do that,” Yeager said. “He said he photographed it and logged it, but I just kept on him about bagging it until he finally did it.” DNA evidence wasn’t happening in

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YEAGER From page 5 1990, but Yeager felt the cigarette butt could be the best lead from a case with no witnesses and very little leads. After his election in 1992, Yeager prioritized the case and began reviewing the evidence again. “It was a series of rabbit holes and it felt like a roller coaster ride,” he said. “Leads came through and then disappeared. It was exhausting.” In 1998, an investigator was able to trace a stolen AR-15 rifle from the Rainwater home. The investigator also resubmitted the cigarette butt to the State Crime Lab for testing. In October 1998, the lab was able to extract and analyze DNA from saliva on the cigarette. The DNA information was periodically run through a GBI database of known samples until December 2001, when a match with the DNA occurred. Investigators obtained a search warrant for a blood sample from an inmate named Michael Denny. Just one week after the Rainwater murders, three men were arrested following a burglary in Spalding County. Michael Denny, his brother, Ricky, and Russell Brown. Initially, the case was determined to be a case of mistaken identity, but Yeager said he never bought into that theory. At the GBI, a report was created based on the evidence collected at the scene, which determined it was a burglary by someone who had been caught before and wasn’t going to take any chances with witnesses this time. It also indicated there was at least one other person involved. “They said to find the weakest one of the three, and you’ll solve the case,” Yeager said. “It couldn’t have been truer to form and we found that weak link.” Twelve years later, investigators turned their attention to Brown, who was now working in a tire shop. Since the burglary charge in Spalding County, he had cleaned up his life and fallen off the radar of law enforcement, Yeager said. “We told his boss we needed to talk to him,” Yeager said. "He came in the office, dropped his head and said, ‘I knew this day would come.’ He tried to stay out of sight and clean up his life. It followed the GBI’s profile to a T." Brown explained how the murders went

NTH FILE PHOTO

While cleaning out his office in preparation for his new role as Marshal, Sheriff Mike Yeager shows off a piece of evidence found at a local moonshine still many years ago.

down. He and the Denny brothers were conducting burglaries on a daily basis out of Atlanta. “He talked about finding the house on Martin Mill Road and how they were leaving when the Rainwaters showed up,” Yeager said. When Joe and George arrived, Ricky forced the Rainwaters inside and onto the floor. Ricky then gave the pistol to Michael and ordered him to shoot the men, which he did. Brown turned state's evidence against the brothers, and on January 24, 2002, a Coweta County grand jury indicted Ricky Lee and Michael Denny for the malice murder of Joe and George Rainwater. On February 13, 2004, the brothers were found guilty of all charges and sentenced to consecutive terms of life in prison. Ahead Of The Curve Arguably, the proactive use of technology has been one of the hallmarks of the sheriff’s office under Yeager. From being one of the first agencies to

utilize body-worn cameras, to the use of TruNarc handheld narcotics analyzers, which can identify 415 suspected illicit substances in a single, definitive test, the sheriff’s office has embraced the tools available to give investigators a leg up. In 1989, Yeager was promoted to “captain of things no one else wanted to do” and that included the utilization of computers in dispatch, along with logging citations and other information. “I kept learning about computers and thought I was in high cotton,” Yeager recalled. “I remember having a micro-cassette recorder and after leaving a call, recording what happened. I thought I was prime time.” Flash forward to 2019 and deputies are equipped with body cameras, tag readers, navigation and computers inside patrol cars, and the ability to track the location of every car. “I don’t look at us as being cutting-edge, I just feel if there is a product that can better help our officers and our community, it’s worth taking a look at,” Yeager said.

“But we’re not the only ones who utilize technology. “The bad guys are too, so you have to stay on top of those things. It’s a different world than it used to be. Technology is fantastic, but nothing takes the place of shoe leather police work. Officers have to talk to people and listen to them. You get more information from canvassing your neighborhoods than anything.” In the end, Yeager said it all comes down to surrounding yourself with good people. While he was never the technology guru, he knew he was surrounded by those who were and avoided micromanaging. “It’s easy to say ‘no,’ but that leads back to keeping good people around,” he said. “Let them work and 99 percent of the time, they’ll make you shine. If you make a mistake, own it, but when your people shine, give them credit.” As he prepares to leave the role as sheriff, his advice for his successor is simple. "Leadership is not about being the best,” he said. “Leadership is about making everyone else better."


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 7

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PHOTOS BY CLAY NEELY


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Not just safe: Senoia safe

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Members from Affinis Hospice and an anonymous citizen recently treated Senoia Police officers and staff with Subway and Pizzas for lunch as part of Law Enforcement Appreciation Day

BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

T

he city of Senoia was recently named G eorgia’s S a f e s t Cit y i n t h e f i f t h a n nua l Sa fe st Citie s repor t by SafeWise. Senoia jumped f rom No. 4 in 2 018 to No. 1 for 2 019. Senoia pulled the top spot thanks to its low property crime numbers—just 3 9 tota l compa red to Sum merville’s 48. For Senoia Police Chief Jason Edens, it's a direct result of the hard work of dedicated officers, coupled with the great community of Senoia and the continued support of the city manager, mayor and council. “We are very proud of that designation,” Edens said. "The challenge moving forward will be to maintain our level of ser vice as our community continues to grow and, as always, growth can bring new challenges but I’m confident that our officers will rise to the occasion.”

Community policing is at the core of keeping a great relationship between the public and its citizens, according to City Manager Harold Simmons. B ecause S enoia ha s a un ique downtown, having police visible allows the public to have the lines of communication open, Simmons said. As a result, he feels people see police as friends – and that makes a difference. "When you can sit on the corner and talk to business owners and they know you by name, it changes how you operate,” Simmons said. Simmons said it all goes back to being living examples of community players. “Folks don’t just put on a unifor m a nd come to work behind tinted windows,” he said. "We are out in the community and the biggest thing we have going for us is people k now ing our of f icer's names. It's a mutual respect that has grown."

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GSP post welcomes new commander BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

F

or more than 20 years, Georgia State Patrol Sergeant First Class Mike Searcy has spent his career keeping vigil on the roads of Georgia. But for a Coweta resident who has logged hundreds of thousands of miles in his lifetime, it’s good to work closer to home. In August, Searcy took the helm as commander of the Newnan GSP post, following the retirement of Sgt. Mike Adcock. For Searcy, it’s been a long journey – figuratively and literally. Growing up on a small farm in Plainville in Gordon County, Searcy’s childhood dream was to become a game warden. However, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources was in the middle of a hiring freeze by the time he graduated from high school, and the job required at least a two-year college degree. On the advice of a game warden, Searcy headed to Floyd College and earned an associate degree in criminal justice. But the DNR was still not hiring, so he went back to college. At the University of West Georgia, Searcy earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice – and met his future wife Jacelyn, a native of Manchester. “Once I was out of West Georgia, it was the same result as before at the DNR – not hiring,” Searcy said. “They suggested I get my foot in the door by joining the Georgia State Patrol and then possibly transferring to the DNR.” So in 1995, Searcy began his GSP career as a typist in Marietta before heading to Dalton to become a radio operator two years later. A ride-along with a trooper inspired Searcy to tackle Trooper School, and he finally put his DNR dreams to bed. “That was it for me,” he recalled. “I knew this was the career I was meant to pursue.” After graduation, he was sent to Cartersville – at that time, the second-busiest post in Georgia. He eventually married Jacelyn, and the couple relocated to Coweta County.

PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

Georgia State Patrol Sergeant First Class Mike Searcy is now overseeing the Newnan GSP post.

Searcy transferred to LaGrange to be closer to home. Over the next several years, he pingponged through the state. He was a corporal of internal affairs in Atlanta and Manchester, then a buck sergeant in Villa Rica. In 2014, he briefly served in Newnan before being promoted to post commander in Tifton. After a two-year stint in Cuthbert, he returned to Newnan following Adcock’s retirement in early August. Searcy currently oversees a staff of nine. When he left Newnan in 2014, there were 15 troopers working out of the post. Like many other post commanders, he says he’d

love to have more troopers on the road. “We don’t see much help in sight either,” Searcy said. “But I think most posts are doing more with less.” As commander, Searcy says he’s committed to taking an aggressive stance on DUI enforcement. Last year, troopers from his post locked up 196 suspected drunk drivers. Over the course of his career, the sad duty of informing family members of the deaths of relatives in car crashes never has gotten any easier, he said. “There are still so many who drive under the influence and put people in danger,” he said. “This is where our families

live and work, and we have to make it as safe out there as we can.” The Searcy family attends First Baptist Senoia, and when time permits, Searcy remains an avid outdoorsman who loves nothing more than college football in the fall and turkey hunting in the spring. “When turkey season rolls around, I’m pretty indisposed,” he said with a laugh. “I duck hunt with friends when I can, too.” Searcy said someday he’d like to get back to the farm life he left behind in Gordon County, with cattle and a garden. In the meantime, he said he’s content to finally work close to his home of more than 15 years.


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PHOTO BY CLAY NEELY

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Prison provides animal services, public works crews BY SARAH FAY CAMPBELL sarah@newnan.com

W

hen heavy storms drop trees across Coweta roadways, or wash out culverts and bridges, it’s public works crews from the Coweta County Prison that head into action, clearing debris and repairing roadways. Certified peace officers in the Coweta Public Works Department oversee prison inmate crews who respond to road emergencies. It’s just one facet of the Coweta County Prison, which works to rehabilitate offenders while supplying a workforce for county projects. When a storm touched down early on a Sunday morning in late February, trees covered Gordon and Tabby Linch Roads and on-call public works crews were called in to clear roads as soon as possible. Bringing in crews after normal working hours entails a specific process. The call comes from Coweta 911 to the prison, and the on-call person for public works is notified. Then Warden Bill McKenzie is contacted with the request. “Once I approve it, my office has to contact the Georgia Department of Corrections Communications Center and let them know,” said McKenzie. The inmates on the on-call crews are woken up and fed, then everybody heads out to get the work done. It takes longer to mobilize a public works crew than it takes for law enforcement or fire to get on a scene, because so much is involved. “There is a lot that goes into getting it done, but when our crews get on the scene, they go at it,” McKenzie said. That Sunday morning, the prison sent out five crews, McKenzie said. When it’s just a small tree or two across the road, Coweta County Fire Rescue crews can often handle it. But when it’s bigger than that, “they call us and we can get a crew,” McKenzie said. “You don’t want to tie up an engine crew that may get a call to go to a house when they’re out there trying to cut and pull trees,” he said. In emergency situations, during the night or when there are a lot of trees down, the trees are cut to clear the road at least four feet off the pavement, and then crews

PHOTO BY BETH NEELY

Warden Bill McKenzie. Deputy Warden Larry Clifton, and Troy Allen examine the bee boxes, built by hand at the prison. The prison currently has a garden, a rooster and 14 chickens that provide fresh eggs.

go back to do a complete clearing. “We’ll be going back for a week cleaning that mess up,” McKenzie said of the recent tornado. McKenzie also oversees Coweta Animal Services, which includes the shelter and animal services officers. Officers “answer calls of complaints from citizens on everything from barking dogs to animals running at large to animals being abused,” McKenzie said. Animal Services also handles rabid animals, though other wildlife calls go to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the fire department deals with calls for snakes in homes, McKenzie said. Public works, construction and lawn care crews are the most visible jobs that inmates do at the prison, but they’re not the only ones. All inmates at the prison are required to work, full time. Some work inside, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry. They also work in the county body shop, doing vehi-

cle repairs, and do heavy equipment repair. Inmates staff the animal shelter, taking care of animals and keeping the facility clean. The work provides valuable job experience for inmates, who can often get jobs on road crews or in body shops after they are released. The prison has just started an “on the job training” certificate program in partnership with Central Georgia Technical College. The first program is animal care, and it started in mid February. The program includes a little bit more training than just the every-day running of the shelter, and a lot of the work has to be inspected by the vets that contract with animal services, McKenzie said. After 280 hours of training, the inmates will get a certificate from the technical college. “We have been working with the Department of Corrections through their programs division and there are several

classes,” McKenzie said. “They decided to start off slow with that class and we will begin to bring more on the job training programs online once we see how it goes with this one. I’d like to see us doing something with auto body, with diesel mechanic and those types of things.” Through the programs, inmates get certificates that they can use to get jobs once released. Last year, the prison started a welding program with West Georgia Technical College, and welding classes are held twice a week. They've proven quite popular. “The guys are really excited about getting into that program,” McKenzie said. He’s had inmates at other prisons ask to be transferred to Coweta so they can get into the welding program. Right now, there is a waiting list. A federal program pays for welding helmets, boots and protective equipment for

PRISON • 13


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PHOTO BY SARAH CAMPBELL

Public works crews staffed by Coweta County Prison inmates clear roads and right-ofway after a recent tornado.

PHOTO BY BETH NEELY

The prison currently has a rooster and 14 chickens that provide fresh eggs, and before too much longer, a beekeeping program will start.

PRISON From page 12 the inmate students, and they get to keep that equipment when they are released. “It saves them a lot of money, and they can go to work almost instantly,” McKenzie said. Students must have a high school diploma or GED to get into the welding program. The prison has offered GED classes for many years, but the program is more structured now, McKenzie said. Inmates nearing release take reentry classes, and one of the prison’s counselors is going to training to start a new program called “Corrective Thinking,” McKenzie said. “It is a class to help them make better decisions,”McKenzie said. “We are looking forward to it."

Another popular program is the prison’s vegetable garden. The year-round garden keeps the prison kitchen stocked with fresh vegetables, and inmates volunteer to work in the garden on their time off. The prison currently has a rooster and 14 chickens that provide fresh eggs, and before too much longer, a beekeeping program will start. Inmates have been building the bee boxes, and the bees themselves should arrive in April, McKenzie said. The plan is to eventually produce and package honey. Having the bees will also help the prison’s garden be more bounteous, McKenzie said. The beekeeping program got its start when a new inmate arrived at the Coweta County Prison. “He did beekeeping at a state facility. He brought that expertise there and is sharing it with us,” McKenzie said.


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Grantville PD keeps focus on small-town connections

NTH FILE PHOTO

Happy after a successful first Independence Day celebration in Grantville are organizers, from left, Police Chief Steve Whitlock; T.J. Boyd, pastor of Change Church; Eddie Markward; and Assistant Police Chief Cliff Schriefer.

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Officer Terri Moultrie stands in front of her cruiser and is currently the school resource officer at Glanton Elementary School.

NTH STAFF REPORTS

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“We’re just trying to get in the community and see what the citizens want to see in the department,” Grantville Police Chief Steve Whitlock said.

he Grantville Police Department has remained dedicated to not only the safety of its residents, but the continued improvement of community and police department relations, including spearheading some of the city’s community activities. “We’re just trying to get in the community and see what the citizens want to see in the department,” Grantville Police Chief Steve Whitlock said. Whitlock said he’s seen a big change in Grantville, mainly because of the open line of communication between the community and police department. “We get out and work with people and try to get the problem solved,” Whitlock said. “It’s not me. It’s the whole department working together along with working with the community.” Lt. Cliff Schriefer agrees. “ We strive to be approachable,” Schriefer said. “We’re human just like everyone else. Our job title is just differ-

ent. We’re willing to sit down and communicate with the citizens.” Over the last several years, the Grantville PD has even spearheaded community events such as the Christmas tree lighting, Christmas parade, Easter egg hunt and Fall Festival. In 2018, the GPD worked with a citizens committee to organize the first ever Independence Day celebration, which turned out to be a great success. The event began with a festival featuring vendors and music and concluded with a “rocket’s red glare, bombs bursting in air” display of pyrotechnics. By fireworks time at 10 p.m., there were several hundred people in the downtown area and another 200 or so at the ballfields were the fireworks were lighted and sent aloft. Whitlock and Schriefer said events like these help the community bond even more. Whitlock said the turnover of police

officers has also improved. The department’s patrol division consists of 8 officers who work 12-hour shifts. “We have two patrol officers who are on duty at all times,” Schriefer said. “We have one officer currently deployed to Afghanistan and are utilizing part-time employees to fill the vacant shift.” The department responds to an average of 1 to 2 calls every day on I-85. Calls range from accidents, speeding, reckless driving, suspected DUI and lookouts. Grantville is divided into 13 small zones and each officer is required to check and log with e-911 each zone at a minimum of twice per shift in an effort to make our officers as visible as possible. “Our officers have computers in their vehicles that allow them to check license and tags, as well as, write incident reports and accident reports while being out in the public,” Schriefer said. “An officer's

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GRANTVILLE From page 14 car is indeed their office.” GPD has a full-time traffic enforcement unit that is also partnered with a K-9, which has assisted in making numerous arrests and seizures of illegal narcotics, money, and vehicles. With over a quarter of a million dollars seized, GPD has provided their department with new technology, vehicles and equipment that would be otherwise impossible to purchase with the current budget, according to Schriefer. Some of the items purchased without exceeding their budget included tag readers, a new K-9 vehicle, weapons, flashlights, AR-15’s, computers, body cameras and body armor. To further enhance their ability to solve crimes, GPD recently partnered with Crime Stoppers. “This partnership also allows our community a way to anonymously provide information about crimes occur-

ring in our city,” Schriefer said. With the safety of school children at risk across the country, the GPD focused on making school as safe as possible. In 2018, the department partnered with Coweta County to provide a full-time officer at Glanton Elementary School. City Manager Al Grieshaber said he “believes the Grantville Police Department has evolved from community policing to community building. “While GPD has served as the eyes and ears of our community, they’ve immersed themselves into the culture and fabric of our community by listening to the concerns of our residents, assisting and educating when necessary and appropriate while continuing to enforce the law,” Grieshaber said. “Their organizational skills, combined with their community involvement, has increased civic participation tenfold. Their ability to involve our residents in positive community-oriented activities has helped the city of Grantville to remain a safe and affordable community.”

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NTH FILE PHOTO

Lt. Cliff Schriefer and Chief Steve Whitlock pose with the Easter Bunny during a recent Easter egg hunt event.

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16 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2019

Future bright and busy for NFD

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Last December, the Newnan Fire Department and Coweta County Fire Rescue Department partnered up with the American Red Cross, Keep Newnan Beautiful, the Public Safety Foundation, Yamaha and Home Depot during the annual Twelve Days of Christmas campaign. Firefighters went door to door and installing new smoke detectors for homeowners who need them.

BY CLAY NEELY

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he Newnan Fire Department had a busy year in 2018, and 2019 looks to be no different. Chief Stephen Brown said the recently renovated Station 1, located downtown on Jefferson Street, continues to run a high number of calls. With the constriction of Station 4 well underway, he’s hopeful the additional station will help reduce the number of calls to Station 1. Currently, Newnan Station 1 handles 54 percent of all calls inside the city limits and accounts for 16 percent of calls to all fire stations, including city and county. Coweta County’s Station 1 is second with 11 percent. The new fire station is being built in a

central location with easy access to Millard Farmer Industrial Blvd. “The new location will help to bring faster response times for neighborhoods while increasing the level of services that we provide to the citizens of Newnan,” said NFD Chief Stephen Brown. The 7,347-square-foot station will house 24-hour staffing for one engine. New equipment will soon be in the hands of Newnan firefighters on the front lines, thanks to several grants awarded to NFD. A grant from Coweta-Fayette EMC will allow for the purchase of three new AEDs. Last summer, Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation awarded grant money

to the Newnan Fire Department, which will allow the purchase of four thermal imaging cameras and four combustible gas monitors. The equipment cost $24,850.64. The grants cover the entire amount. Thermal imaging cameras allow firefighters to determine where a potential victim is trapped inside a burning building. Combustible gas monitors allow firefighters to measure air quality and determine if the atmosphere contains any hazardous gases. “Having this new equipment will allow the department to provide a higher and more efficient level of service to the community, as well as provide a higher level of

safety for our firefighters,” Brown said. Personnel from NFD also were able to help provide relief for those outside the Newnan city limits Last year, First Baptist Church of Newnan and the Newnan Fire Department have partnered to collect muchneeded supplies to victims hardest hit by Hurricane Michael. Newnan Fire Battalion Chief Denise Burks, firefighter Chris Calhoun and firefighter Brad Haralson helped victims at what is now known as “Ground Zero.” The trio has been stationed in the Mexico

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Coweta County Fire Rescue Chief recognized by governor BY JEFFREY CULLEN-DEAN jeffrey@newnan.com

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PHOTO BY JEFFREY CULLEN-DEAN

Seen in his office, Chief Deron “Pat” Wilson sits in front of his firefighter-themed memorabilia. His Tommy O. Morgan Chief of the Year award sits on the top shelf.

oweta County Fire Rescue Chief Deron “Pat” Wilson was recently recognized by Gov. Brian Kemp during the 47th annual Firefighters Recognition Day in Atlanta. Wilson was named the Tommy O. Morgan Chief of the Year in August last year. “Through a commendation from the governor’s office, beautiful words were presented to me from the governor,” Wilson said. “Getting the chance to shake his hand and speak with him was quite an honor to me.” Each year during the conference the governor recognizes the Fire Chief and Firefighter of The Year. “I’m not one for accolades. I just like to come out here and do what I do,” Wilson said. “To me, it’s about the other people who serve, and it's about the members of this department.” In 2018, The Coweta County Fire

Rescue Department received the highest honor bestowed by the Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Services – the 2017 State of Georgia Emergency Medical Service of the Year. Assistant Chief Jeff Denney, who oversees medical services for the department, said it’s an incredible honor to be recognized for the incredible work done by CCFR, but said the accolades would be meaningless without the assistance of the men and women who show up every single day and put the lives of others before their own. “I’m so proud of the men and women who ride our apparatus, having a great medical director like Dr. (Van) Baker, our county for setting us up with best equipment and employing a service delivery system that is conducive to doing a good job,” Denney said. “Without these things, it could have never happened.”

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18 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

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PHOTOS BY CLAY NEELY


Heroes Among Us — The Newnan Times-Herald — 19

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NFD From page 16 Beach/Panama City, Fla., area since the day after Hurricane Michael roared onshore as a Category 4 storm. According to Burks, Calhoun set up a makeshift incident command center inside a damaged condominium complex. He went through the area making sure no people or pets were left behind, cleared debris and started generators. Haralson brought a trailer filled with saws, a tractor and pallets of water to help with the relief effort, Burks added. The firefighters on Burks’ shift cooked a large hot meal and packed it in coolers. One of the firefighters drove it down, was able to reheat the food and fed residents. According to Burks, people told NFD firefighters this was their first hot meal in days. Both Florida cities were ground zero when Hurricane Michael roared on shore Oct. 10 as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm packed winds of 145 mph and left a trail of destruction along the Gulf Coast and into south Georgia. In December, more than 540 smoke detectors and batteries were donated by the American

Thank You For Serving Our Community!

Red Cross to the Newnan Fire headquarters on Jefferson Street. The delivery is part of the annual “Twelve Days of Christmas” campaign where firefighters from NFD and Coweta County Fire Rescue went door to door in neighborhoods throughout Coweta County giving out smoke alarms to residents who need them. The firefighters installed the equipment and checked existing smoke detectors, free of charge. This was the fifth year the local American Red Cross chapter has participated in the campaign. According to Page Beckwith, executive director of Keep Newnan Beautiful, her agency donated 36,000 9-volt batteries to the “Twelve Days of Christmas” campaign. Both fire departments received 18,000 batteries, Beckwith added. The Newnan Fire Department and Coweta County Fire Rescue were also given funds to help more people in the future. The Public Safety Foundation, headed by Norma Haynes, donated $2,750 toward the purchase of 250 fire alarms. “We just hope it will help you all take care of our citizens. We appreciate everything you do for the community,” Haynes told Chief Brown and Chief Wilson.

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20 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2019

Crews prepare to expand 911 call center Project will eventually lead to more job openings for dispatchers

NTH FILE PHOTO

Tiffany Abernathy-Meetre concentrates on records information during a call into the Coweta County Emergency 911 Center. When the remodel of the 911 center is complete, dispatchers will sit three to a row instead of being in pods, said Coweta County 911 Director Jay Jones. The construction will also open up positions for more 911 dispatchers, he added.

NTH STAFF REPORTS news@newnan.com

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he Coweta County 911 call center will soon be busier and noisier than normal. Construction crews will be tearing down walls, building new rooms and refurbishing old ones as they expand the 911 call center and create new office space and an emergency operation center (EOC).

Crews will be remodeling the building that now houses the 911 call center and the EOC on the east side of the county. Dispatchers and EOC staff have worked in the facility since 2008. “When the county started growing, county leaders moved us out here,” said Coweta County 911 Direc-

tor Jay Jones. “Fast forward 10 years and again there’s a need for more dispatchers in the county. The expansion project isn’t something we ‘want,’ it’s something we need … the population is growing. We need to meet the needs of the citizens, plus law enforcement officers and first responders.” The big gest cha n ge w ill be the

ex pa n sion of the 911 c a l l center. Crews will knock down a wall and take out private offices to create an open space. Instead of being crammed into cubicles or “pods,” dispatchers will sit in rows of three and four, facing a new

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911 CALL CENTER From page 20 “resource wall,” Jones said. The wall will be filled with 8 to 10 large monitors that will track incoming weather, GPS locations of a ll county first responders, 911 calls, traffic cameras set up around Newnan and power outages, according to Jones. The expansion will also add 25 more dispatcher stations to the call center. Jones said they won’t fill all 25 positions right away, but may potentially hire four to six new dispatchers by next summer. The project plans also factor in new technology and equipment for 911 dispatcher and staff. The expansion of the 911 call center was a “community effort,” according to Coweta County 911 Assistant Director Arlene Whisenhunt. “ We a ske d for the d i spat cher s' input, what they’d like to see and how they’d want things built,” she said. “The 911 center has always done

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‘more’ with ‘less.’ Now it’s their turn to experience a new work environment and technology,” Jones added. “Our main goal is to provide better services to our citizens and first responders and to provide resources in a timely fashion and dispatch it out. This project is a ‘win – win’ for ever yone.” The construction plan also outlines a new emergency operation center, within the building that will be able to house 40 personnel from different county agencies during a crisis or weather emergency. The space will include a “resource wall” with multiple monitors, plus several conference rooms. A new locker room will be built for employees to store personal items while on duty. New private offices will be built for 911 and Coweta County Emergency Management A gency staff as well, Jones said. S ome of the c on s t r uc t ion h ap pened earlier this year when crews discovered the 911 building was not grounded properly, making it prone to lightning strikes.

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Some of those strikes temporarily brought down the entire 911 system, according to Jones. Crews shored up the facility, including the Coweta County morgue that sits next to the 911 center, by placing rods that would attract lightning bolts – and effectively keep them from hitting either building. The remodeling project costs more than $1 million and will be paid for with funds from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST, according to Jones. Whisenhunt said this is the first time Coweta County 911 has used SPLOST funds. “The project is going to give dispatchers all the tools they need,” she said. “I’m excited about it,” Jones added. “The number of 911 calls coming into the center has steadily gone up, and the county is supporting that growth and our needs.” The remodeling project should be completed by summer 2 019, Jones said.

NTH FILE PHOTO

Coweta County 911 Director Jay Jones, left, and Assistant 911 Director Arlene Whisenhunt look over the remodeling plans for the county 911 call center. Construction will begin in January 2019.

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22 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2019

Outreach remains NPD’s key to public safety BY CLAY NEELY

clay@newnan.com

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roactivity and prevention are two hallmarks of the Newnan Police Department’s commitment to public safety. The NPD strives to ensure the safety of all residents and visitors of Newnan, and part of that commitment is helping with situations that are not criminal. The police department has three different outreach programs – Guitars Not Guns, Tennis for Success and the Law Enforcement Explorer Program – headed by Corporal Edward Lee and Officer Adam Griffin, who are both community resource officers. For the past four years, the Newnan Police Department has kept the mission of hope through music directed toward foster children and at-risk youth. Guitars Not Guns is an eight-week program where kids ages 8 through 18 can take guitar lessons with instructors. After the eight weeks are completed, the students are allowed to keep the guitars. Last fall, NPD’s training room was filled with a song of peace and hope from eight local kids during their final recital for the Guitars Not Guns program. The Guitars Not Guns program was founded in the San Francisco Bay area 18 years ago by Louise and Ray Nelson, who now reside in Peachtree City. The Nelsons developed a passion for being foster parents to children, which led them to care for five long-term foster children over the years. Instruments were always found in their home. Louise said foster and at-risk children are often the "invisible kids" in society, so the program aims to help kids cope with negative emotions through positive reinforcement through teaching through peers and volunteers. “Music is a coping mechanism – negativity in, positivity out. As you strum and sing, the endorphins begin working,” she said. “We’re blessed we can give of ourselves to keep them going and becoming productive adults.” The program has come a long way since its inception 18 years ago – now spanning 22 chapters in 14 states. The

NTH FILE PHOTO

Eleven-year-old Damien Hall, left and Darreal Obie, 8, show off their new bikes while shopping with Newnan Police Officer Daniel Godfrey. The boys were shopping for presents during NPD’s annual “Christmas with a Cop” campaign.

Newnan Police Department is the only participating precinct in Georgia. The event was professionally filmed as a way of showcasing the power of the program to other potential police departments. “We love to show that police are human beings who love music and even play guitars,” Louise said. “It’s a wonderful community outreach to affirm their status as caring people. They’re the heroes, not the bad guys." “We want to reach these kids before

they get in trouble,” said Newnan Police Chief Buster Meadows. “Give them something to do, showing them that there are different outlets and other ways to handle anger management.” Tennis for Success provides tennis equipment and lessons with instructors, for children 6 through 18. Students who participate in this program practice on the weekends. The students also compete in tournaments and participate in self-esteem programs and trash pickups.

Lee explained the tennis program helps to teach youth about hard work and teamwork, which could help with schoolwork. “We just want to teach the kids about other things and how to be active in the community,” said Lee. The third program is geared toward career exploration, the Law Enforcement Explorer Program. “It’s teaching them things about law

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We love to show that police are human beings who love music and even play guitars. It’s a wonderful community outreach to affirm their status as caring people. They’re the heroes, not the bad guys.

—Louise

OUTREACH From page 22 enforcement, and hopefully one day they’ll decide to go into law enforcement,” said Meadows. The program allows high school and college-aged students to get hands-on experience where they can ask questions and do various activities. Some of the activities include: traffic stops, simulators and courtroom experiences. The students also get to explore the possibility of a judge of lawyer career path. An important point of the career path program is to show youth the other side of the criminal justice system– to teach the law, to show why it is important to look out for other people and to show why law enforcement jobs are so important. All three programs are free of charge and are funded through budget money, donations and fundraisers. In December, officers turn into Santa’s helpers for a number of children in the community. After a big breakfast at O’Charley’s restaurant, members from the NPD escorted 48 children to Walmart on Highway 34 for a holiday shopping spree. Arriving at Walmart in a patrol car motorcade complete with lights and sirens, the officers and their unofficial police partners participated in NPD’s third annual “Christmas with a Cop” campaign. The children weren’t the only ones enjoying the moment. “Just to see the smiles on their faces and the hugs that they give us is worth

it,” Deputy Chief Mark Cooper said. “We look forward to this day every year.” According to Cooper, officers work with the Coweta County School System to identify children whose families may have fallen on hard times. The police department holds fundraisers and uses monetary donations to fund the annual event. They then equally divide the money and give officers a prepaid gift card to take the kids Christmas shopping. Nothing is off limits. Children can shop for toys – and clothes and shoes. This year, the Newnan Walmart partnered up with the NPD and set up a “Toy Shop” that included rows of toys. The two organizations also flew in Santa Claus for the day to visit with the children. “This is awesome,” said Walmart store manager Tanner Kramer. “It makes my day knowing these kids will have a great Christmas.” The children’s relatives were overwhelmed by the show of support. Shannon Beasley walked around the store with her younger brother Charles Turner, 11, and Inv. Vic McPhie. “I think it’s great that all these police officers come together and host events like this for the children and the community. You don’t see that very often, but this has been great. I love it,” Beasley said. “This reminds us that it’s better to give than receive,” Meadows added. “A lot of children would not get anything at all or very little on Christmas. We want to make sure they have something waiting for them under the tree.”

NTH FILE PHOTO

Adreanna Cooks smiles after receiving her graduation certificate for completing the summer session of Guitars Not Guns.

Caring, Teaching, Reaching A very special

to our public service HEROES For their dedication to our community.


24 — The Newnan Times-Herald — Heroes Among Us

PUBLIC SAFETY 2019

u o Y k n a h T

FIRST ERS D N O P S RE

s r e d n o p s e R t s r i F e v a . br e e f h a t s f y o t i l l n a u m To m o c r u o who keep yofnewnan.org w w w. c i t

PHOTOS BY CLAY NEELY

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