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Police chiefs to increase crime-fighting cooperation

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Police chiefs from six departments met Tuesday to discuss increased cooperation among Clayton County's law enforcement agencies.

Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner called the mid-week meeting, he said, to put the word out that he wants to be more involved and work more closely with the city departments.

"We have worked closely together," said Turner, who was appointed last year, "but we want to work more closely together."

Sitting in a law library, upstairs at Clayton County Police Headquarters, the chiefs said they have been working together, but that they were renewing their cooperative efforts.

"Criminals don't know jurisdiction lines," said Gary Yandura, chief of the College Park Police Department. "We shouldn't either."

That sentiment has been repeated often by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, in recent years. Cross-jurisdictional cooperation is normally cited, along with citizen cooperation, as the major reason for successful operations, especially drug busts and robbery arrests.

The repeated statement is meant to signal the professional nature of modern law enforcement, as opposed to the Hollywood image of bickering jurisdictions and territorial fights.

Turner said his municipal counterparts need to know he is not trying to take over the smaller agencies, and is not trying to infringe on their territories, but they also need to know that the county department is looking for ways to work with the city law enforcement agencies.

Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson said the departments owe it to the residents they protect to cooperate across jurisdictions.

"I think the citizens expect it," he said. "I think they're surprised when we're not working together."

Turner, and Forest Park Police Chief Dwayne Hobbs, cited the recent bust of a robbery ring as an example of the cooperation that already exists between city and county law enforcement agencies in Clayton. A ring of burglars was hitting rent-to-own stores in Forest Park and in the county. Detectives from both agencies worked together to identify when the burglaries were happening, stake out probable targets and, eventually, arrest a number of suspects and recover stolen property.

The arrests, made by Forest Park and county officers, cleared up a number of burglary cases in both jurisdictions and a number throughout the metro area.

In the last two years, the county police department has also regularly worked with city agencies on drug busts, road checks, and specialized operations.

The six chiefs agreed, during the meeting, to institute a monthly meeting for detectives from all of the agencies, so they can compare cases and incidents.

Lake City Police Chief David Colwell -- citing examples of successful cooperation with the Riverdale and Morrow police departments -- said the major obstacle to cross-jurisdictional cooperation is not a lack of willingness, or territorial defensiveness. The obstacle, he said, is resources.

"I'd love to have someone assigned to every task force every one of the chief's has got," he said, "but I just don't have the bodies."

Turner said a lack of resources and available officers is exactly where the county police can step in to help city departments. The county police department is offering its resources to the city chiefs.

"We have resources," Turner said. "A lot of the agencies really don't have a lot of manpower to do special details ... I want to work with them, and hopefully, the lines of communication will be open."