“The truth is if it can happen in any community, it can happen in our community,” Paul said.
Paul and Zgonc said the department focuses on quality hiring, continuous training on crisis negotiation, and recognizing biases. Zgonc said that officers calmed a woman and stopped her from jumping off a bridge onto I-285 in November.
The deputy chief also said extensive background checks are done before hiring new officers. Before the recent hire of an officer from New Jersey, personnel visited the recruit’s town to talk with neighbors, their employer and to a review work files, he added.
According to the Sandy Springs police, nearly 70% of the north Fulton city’s 173 officers are white. There are 36 Black officers in the department, 14 Hispanics and four Asians. Thirty-two women are sworn officers. All will be outfitted with new tasers in the coming weeks.
Higher ranking Sandy Springs police personnel who seldom go on patrol don’t usually wear body cameras. But during a City Council meeting last week, Zgonc said that nationwide calls for increased transparency after a summer of social unrest over police violence moved the department to ask for 40 new body cameras.
During the Leadership Sandy Springs forum, Paul commented that there is no guarantee violent and tragic incidents won’t arise. “I think we can guarantee that a Georgia Floyd incident wouldn’t happen,” he said. “But I think there could be situations that arise where mistakes are made and then that creates problems. But we do everything that we can do from a training and technology point of view to make sure that we minimize the risk for that sort of thing.”