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Jonesboro police chief approaches first 100 days

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

Jonesboro Police Chief Brad Johnson pulled up to the police station in a golf cart Wednesday morning after making a short trip to Jonesboro City Hall. "It's a lot more economical than that white Chevy pickup," he said, referring to the vehicle he usually drives.

"Just about every trip I make to city hall is in the golf cart," said Johnson, who is approaching his first 100 days as the city's new police chief.

Facing a city-wide budget cut, Johnson said it's important to him to make budget adjustments without cutting staff. "So far my proudest accomplishment is I didn't lose anybody," he said.

The department's 24 sworn officers patrol the Jonesboro city limits which is "two miles long and one wide," according to Johnson. He said the city has a population of 3,900. "Our average response time is a minute 48 seconds," he said.

"The plan for the department is to keep Jonesboro, Jonesboro as long as we can. It's a sort of Mayberry. Everybody knows everybody and that's what we're trying to maintain," he said.

A native son of Clayton County, the 47-year-old said he was born in Clayton County's Lake City, and has lived in the county all of his life.

He maintains a Jonesboro residence, but recently moved into his mother's Lake City home to assist her after the passing of his father in August 2008.

Johnson is the son of the late former state Rep. Rudolph Johnson and Ellen Callaway Johnson, a homemaker.

He has eight children, ages 14 to 30, and six grandchildren. He said he's twice divorced and now single, but added, "I have a great relationship with both of my ex-wives."

A 1979 graduate of Forest Park Senior High School, Johnson said he never attended college, but did attend the "school of hard knocks."

After high school, he worked briefly for the Clayton County Water Authority, then went to work for Georgia Power as a boiler operator. "I worked there 11 years and they offered me a buyout. They were closing the plant," he said.

He then got into law enforcement as a Georgia State Trooper, a job he said he held for 6 1/2 years before joining his brother, Mike, in the construction business.

"I wasn't making enough money to make ends meet," Johnson said.

In construction, "business was booming at the time. I did a lot of framing," he said.

Eventually, Johnson decided to return to law enforcement. "After you've been a police officer it's hard to get it off your mind ... because you feel like you're contributing something," he said.

Johnson has been with the Jonesboro Police Department approximately five years. After two years as a road officer, he was promoted to sergeant and later picked by former Chief T.W. Rowland to be assistant chief.

Johnson became chief after Rowland retired in December 2008. He took over on Jan. 1.

"Our crime rate is very low. We've had one murder in 11 years. Our citizenry is not committing the crime. We have an influx from outside of the county," Johnson said.

Since he took office, "We had a bank robbery, which is a big rarity in Jonesboro, but we locked him up," Johnson said.

To improve the department's efficiency, Johnson said he hopes to put computers in all of the city's police vehicles by this summer. He said currently, officers have to come back to the station file paperwork.

"With the new computer system all that will be done in the car. That gives them [officers] more road time," he said.

The computers would be purchased with money seized in drugs arrests, according to Johnson.

While Johnson said he loves the job, and serving the community, he said he would like to travel and doesn't intend to stay chief indefinitely.

"I would entertain retirement in about five years which would put me out at [age] 52. I've always wanted to go to Alaska and Australia," he said.