Published on August 18th, 2016 |0
APD chief: ‘We have to get smarter about how we deal with fighting crime’
Signature Luncheon audience Thursday, during a program focused on public safety in Buckhead and the city.
The panel discussion on “The State of Public Safety” featured Turner and J. Britt Johnson, director of the FBI’s Atlanta Division and was moderated by Atlanta Police Foundation President Dave Wilkinson.
Prior to the panel discussion, the BBA honored individual members of each of the three public safety departments that primarily serve Buckhead—the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 2 Precinct, Atlanta Fire Rescue Department and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office—for bravery in the line of duty.
The three officers honored were Atlanta Fire and Rescue Captain Arthur Atkins, Zone 2 APD officer J. Nuttall and Fulton Sheriff’s detention officer Kourtney King.
Also briefly speaking were Fulton Commission Chairman John Eaves, who told a story about his son being robbed at gunpoint years ago on his first day at Morehouse College, and Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who praised Turner and his leadership of the police force, stating, “George Turner really loves being police chief.”
Introducing the panel topic and speakers, Wilkinson told the audience, “We are at a critical and pivotal time in our city regarding crime,” while at the same time stating that crime in Atlanta is at its lowest rate since the 1960s.
Turner followed that up by telling the audience of a few hundred business executives and public officials, “There has been a 30 percent reduction in crime since I took over as chief” 10 years ago.
Just like police forces across the country, Turner said Atlanta is having trouble recruiting and training new officers. He said it is not because of a lack of interest in the job among young people.
“There is a changing narrative around the work we are doing,” he said.
“We have to find a way to deal with weapons on the street,” Turner explained. He added that police sometimes find as many as 50 rounds of bullets at a shooting scene. He pointed to the number of weapons being used by people on the street in committing these crimes.
“We are smarter than we have ever been in public safety,” said Turner, who joined the Atlanta Police Department in 1981. He referenced the blue lights that indicate where cameras are located on the street (about 7,500 now) that can be monitored to show the crime in process and to help identify the perpetrators.
Turner also explained that Atlanta has one of the most trained police forces.
Asked by Wilkinson to discuss how the city’s police handled the demonstrations last month in Buckhead and in front of the governor’s mansion, Turner said the decision was made to allow the demonstrators to exercise their First Amendment rights and the force would cut them some slack as long as it did not get out of hand.
Turner said everyone showed restraint and no damage was done. He said even the Georgia State Patrol—which would not have asked to help 10 years ago—showed great leadership and control.
Along that line of discussion, Johnson said the FBI’s national dialogue now is on policing the targeting of officers across the country and the controversies over victims from police involved shootings.
“The FBI has to remain neutral,” Johnson said, because if something goes wrong with police enforcement situations, “we will be called in to act as neutral and fair investigators.” He indicated that Twitter and the social media are major problems because reports are instant and not always correct.
Johnson also said that in dealing with assessing terrorism threats, the threats “have been shifting from going after those who are trained and armed to soft targets, such as a nightclub.”
Johnson said that, while the FBI does a tremendous amount of work in the area of violent crimes, another large area of concern is cyber crimes, where small businesses can be totally wiped out almost instantly.
Turning to a non-crime element of the luncheon program, former BBA President Doug Eidson was presented with the association’s annual Karl A. Bevins Service Award, named for a long-time active BBA member who was the city of Atlanta’s first traffic engineer.
The BBA Signature Luncheon, an annual affair, was held Aug. 18 at the 103 West special events facility, located at 103 West Paces Ferry Road. It attracted more than 200 guests.