By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Sheriff-elect Kem Kimbrough and Police Chief Jeff Turner marked the beginning of a new era of cooperation Friday by exchanging badges at Kimbrough's swearing-in ceremony in the V.I.P. Complex at Clayton County International Park.
Kimbrough gave a deputy's badge to Turner, who presented him with a police badge.
The symbolic exchange between the county's top law enforcement officers stood in stark contrast to the years of turmoil between Sheriff Victor Hill and the police department. Even though Kimbrough has been sworn in, he does not officially take office until Jan. 1.
However, Kimbrough and Turner proclaimed the arrival of new era of cooperation between their departments. "Kem Kimbrough, my friend, my brother, my partner in fighting crime, do you know how long I've been waiting for this day to come? " asked Turner, after the ceremony.
"There will just be a different tone," Kimbrough said later. "I would like for every police officer, who walks the halls of my sheriff's office, to feel at home. And likewise, I would like my sheriff's deputies to feel at home when they travel to the various police departments throughout the county. If we have that sort of atmosphere -- if we have that tone, then, everything is going to be great," he added.
"And, of course, we're going to have leadership from the top that's going to enforce that point, meaning myself and Chief Turner," said Kimbrough, who added that Hill has allegedly ordered deputies not to work with his replacement.
The incoming sheriff said he and Turner have talked about working together to support each other in fighting gang violence, drug trafficking, and tracking the movements of suspects in various crimes.
"I'm sure, as different challenges arise, we'll always sit down around the table and think it through and do what's best for the people," said Kimbrough.
Turner said his officers will be free to catch more criminals, if the police and sheriff's departments focus on the "specific duties" of each department, and then supplement each other as needed. The chief said a spirit of cooperation was missing during the four years Hill was in office.
"We were bumping heads a lot," said Turner. "His department was duplicating some of the services my department was doing, and he was neglecting some of the things he was supposed to be doing.
"I didn't particularly care for the direction his administration appeared to be headed, and my suspicions were confirmed as time went on," Turner said.
Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell said he was confident in Kimbrough's ability to lead the sheriff's department in a new era of cooperation.
"I am looking forward to the kind of cooperation that will take this county forward in law enforcement ... No, in the judicial system," said Bell.