(From left) Clayton County police Chief Greg Porter, Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough and Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Chief Jeff Hood address Thursday morning’s early breakfast sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce at Clayton State University.
Clayton County’s top three public safety leaders led a panel discussion about their departments during a Chamber of Commerce early bird breakfast Thursday at Clayton State University.
Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Jeff Hood, Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough and Clayton County police Chief Greg Porter discussed their departments’ roles in the community.
Forest Park City Council Mayor Pro Tem Sparkle Adams and Ward 3 Representative Maudie McCord were among the dozens attending the breakfast. Adams said she was proud to see the obvious partnership among the agencies.
“I am really proud to see the camaraderie and cohesive working relationship our public safety officers have,” said Adams. “It’s good to know they’re working in concert with each other.”
McCord agreed, adding that she also recognized a mutual respect.
“We respect them and they give us respect,” she said. “That’s a great accomplishment. And the agencies not only work with each other but with the community and cities as well.”
The three officials shared facts and figures with the group, statistics that show public safety’s impact on Clayton County. When Clayton County began offering fire services, firefighters were pretty much that, said Hood. But last year, the department handled more than 22,000 emergency medical calls, compared to 1,019 fires.
“In the old days, we ran fire calls but now, 80 percent are emergency medical calls,” said Hood, a firefighter since 1978. “We have 111 officers assigned to the emergency medical services division and they are cross-trained as firefighters. I’m a big proponent of cross-training.”
Hood said he doesn’t see the need for emergency medical officers lessening any time soon.
“As this trend continues, we as emergency services providers will continue to be a proactive presence in our community assisting businesses with life safety and fire prevention programs, code enforcement inspections and with preparedness initiatives under the auspice of emergency management,” said Hood.
Hood also reminded the group to be prepared in case of a natural disaster.
“The best way to be prepared is to prepare ahead of time,” he said, referring the audience to www.readyclayton.com for information.
Kimbrough said his department performs constitutional duties such as serving warrants, maintaining the jail and providing security for the county courthouses but has pledged since taking over to do “whatever it takes” to make a safer Clayton County.
“We do any other thing necessary for the health and welfare of the county,” he said. “My interpretation of that is ‘whatever it takes’ to make a safer Clayton County. That’s what I’m committed to. Our partnerships with the community and other law enforcement agencies magnify the positive effects in this community.”
In fact, Kimbrough opined that the law enforcement partnership is the strongest the county has ever experienced.
“I think this is the most effective public safety partnership team we’ve ever had in this county,” he said. “I think we have greater interaction within the agencies than any other metro counties.”
While Hood smoothly worked up through the ranks within the fire department to become chief, Kimbrough is in his first term as sheriff, elected in 2008. He beat incumbent Victor Hill, who was seeking his second term. When he took office in 2009, Kimbrough said he inherited a pile of unserved warrants collecting dust on a shelf. Over the past few years, his staff has whittled down 20,000 warrants to a more manageable 2,000 a week.
“We pretty much serve all the warrants we get every week,” he said. “We’re bringing a lot of folks to jail.”
Of the roughly 30,000 people booked into the jail every year, about one-third are fugitives picked up by the Clayton County Fugitive Unit on active warrants.
Porter started out as a uniformed officer in April 1987 and held various positions before being named chief about 18 months ago. He said his department approaches law enforcement using a three-prong strategy.
“First, we use Community-Oriented Policing, working with faith-based ministries, HOAs, businesses, schools,” he said. “That’s very important. Next, we have a problem-oriented policy where we look at the problems in the different parts of the county and use the appropriate approach to find a solution.”
Finally, Porter said, the department is intelligence-driven, referring to information gleaned from suspects and known criminals in solving crimes.
“Criminals are more innovative and the technology is wonderful,” said Porter. “So we use that to our advantage. You know, we’re the first responders, we’re there to protect you, your family and property.”