By Ed Brock
The city of Morrow is a real "Trendsetter" according to the Georgia Municipal Association.
On Monday during its 47th annual Mayor's Day luncheon the GMA recognized six cities, including Morrow, as the first to win in the association's "Trendsetter" Award program for leadership in public safety and economic development. Morrow won in the public safety category for a city with a population between 2,000 and 25,000 for its computer system that connects laptops in every police patrol car with the city's municipal court and fire department.
"I think it's great when a group of your peers recognizes that you're working diligently to improve services for the citizens," said Morrow City Manager John Lampl.
Planning for the system began 18 months ago and it went into active use one year ago, Lampl said.
While the cars had laptops before, the new system uses Nextel cellphones to connect the laptops to the city's 911 dispatch, the department's records computer and the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicle Safety.
A few taps on the keypad after the officer has entered a traffic offender's driver's license number gives the officer a complete citation with all the entries "populated" with information by the computer, said Anou Sothsavath, Morrow's director of information technology.
"From there they can print up their citation from their car," Sothsavath said.
And the information from the citation is forwarded onto the city's court system automatically so they no longer have to spend hours at a time in the station house filling out paperwork.
"They're all out visible in the community," Sothsavath said. "The good thing about being visible is it reduces crime."
The officers can also use the laptops to connect to the Georgia Criminal Information Center and check license plate numbers to determine information on a car, such as whether or not it is stolen.
The computers also allow dispatchers to know where every officer is at a given moment, allowing them to send the closest officer to a call.
Morrow Police Chief Charlie Sewell said the system is "cutting edge."
"It certainly makes our job easier," Sewell said.
Marietta also won "Trendsetter" recognition in its size category for public safety while Braselton, Savannah and Suwanee won economic development accolades and Elberton was honored for its telecommunications system.
"The winners demonstrate the many ways in which Georgia's cities are leading the way in local government," said GMA Executive Director Jim Higdon. "These six cities show how cities can use their resources to improve the quality of life for their residents and provide services in a better, more efficient manner."
The Trendsetter award is also sponsored by Georgia Trend magazine and the winners are also profiled in the magazine.
GMA is an Atlanta-based, voluntary non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, research, training, employee benefit and technical consulting services to its 500 member cities.
While the Morrow Police Department was receiving accolades it was also giving them to members of the community and department.
At Tuesday night's Morrow City Council meeting Sewell named Angelia Lewis, community involvement coordinator for the Wal-Mart store in Morrow, as the city's first Business Liaison of the Year.
Sewell said Lewis is a constant sponsor of department activities, especially those to help children in the community, and she doesn't wait to be approached for help, such as when she provided donations for the department's Under Privileged Children's Christmas Party.
On another occasion the department asked her for some space in the store's parking lot where they could hold a child car safety seat inspection program.
"She said sure, we'll give you a space," Sewell said. "And the next thing we knew she also gave us a check for $1,500."
The money went to buy car seats to distribute during the program to those who needed them and could not afford to buy one.
Lewis said the award was great.
"I was totally surprised," Lewis said. "I try to do anything I can for the community and it was nice to get that recognition."
And at a brief ceremony Wednesday, following a breakfast provided by Waffle House, the department named Jack Kirksey as its Law Enforcement Citizen of the Year and Detective Jovee Mosely as its employee of the year. Kirksey was honored for his work helping to prepare the city's Citizen's Corps vehicle.
"He's there every time we have some kind of program, it doesn't matter how the weather is," Sewell said.
Sewell praised Mosely for her work in running the department's Special Services after he left that office to become interim chief and then chief.
"I get compliments on her for just about everything she does," Sewell said.