By Linda Looney-Bond
The Clayton County Bar Association has awarded the 2009 Liberty Bell Award to Clayton County Police Chief Jeff Turner, for outstanding community service.
"He walks the walk," said Clayton County Bar Association President James Dalton.
Dalton said Turner was recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty in service to the Clayton County community.
"Chief Turner has been in the police department a long time, and he worked his way up the ranks. He has been, I think, a blessing to this community, and he lives the work," said Dalton.
The award was presented to Turner Friday during a National Law Day observance at the Harold R. Banke Justice Center.
"It's a great honor to be chosen as the recipient of the award, and I appreciate even being considered," said Turner.
"However ... it's not just me out there, it's the men and women of the Clayton County Police Department as well, and I appreciate everyone's effort," Turner added.
Turner's work with programs such as Meals on Wheels was cited by the Clayton County Bar Association as a part of his outstanding service.
Meals on Wheels serves meals to senior citizens, ages 60 and older, who are homebound and unable to prepare meals themselves, according to Mary Byrd, director of the Clayton County Senior Services Department. The program also serves disabled residents who are not seniors on a case-by-case basis.
When the Clayton County Meals on Wheels program experienced a shortage of volunteers to deliver meals due to the economy and high gas prices, Clayton County Police stepped in, according to Byrd.
"I met with Chief Turner to discuss a partnership and he jumped right on it," Byrd said in April. "He felt this was another way to serve the community, and also to check on our seniors."
In February, Clayton County police officers, led by Turner, began delivering meals to seniors on a regular basis, according to Byrd.
Dalton said Turner also received the Liberty Bell Award for reforms instituted within the police department.
"He is attempting to develop a system of policing which includes many of his officers becoming familiar with the community where they work," Dalton said.
Under Turner's direction, the Clayton County Police Department has returned to a form of community policing, according to Officer Tim Owens, Clayton County Police spokesman. Owens said Turner has brought back the beat system, putting officers in smaller zones so they can get to know the citizens they serve and bring a personal touch to the community.
Dalton said Turner was also recognized for his involvement in Clayton County neighborhoods.
"He has gone to every homeowner's association that has ever invited him to come," said Dalton. "He is a very accessible chief of police and attempts to ingrain in his officers the idea of serving the community."
"We've always had neighborhood watch programs, but I made sure that it was brought back to the forefront," said Turner.
"As a department head, and a leader of the community, there comes a time when you have to roll up your sleeves and get involved. I participate in homeowner's association meetings, and I take my command staff with me," he said.
The Clayton County Bar Association has presented the Liberty Bell Award annually for more than two decades, according to Dalton.
Dalton said the recipient is always a "non-lawyer."
Last year's recipient was Cathy Roark, chief clerk of the Clayton County Probate Court.
Also during the Law Day ceremony Friday, Clayton County Chief Magistrate Court Judge Daphne Walker received a community service award, and Clayton County attorney Emmett "Jerry" Arnold was recognized for outstanding service to the Clayton County Bar Association, according to Dalton.
In addition, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society recognized Clayton County attorneys Fred Zimmerman and Shonterria Martin for taking on numerous pro bono cases, Dalton said.