Douglasville names first African-American police chief

The City of Douglasville has its first African-American police chief after promoting a longtime officer to the job.

Gary Sparks, a 29-year veteran of the department, has served as acting chief since former chief Chris Womack resigned last month. Sparks, 59, previously served more than six years as deputy police chief and holds a B.S. degree from Fort Valley State College, an M.S. degree from Columbus College and is a graduate of the FBI Academy, Mayor Harvey Persons said.

“He’s a fine man, a good Christian, and he’ll serve our community well,” Persons told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution late Thursday.

Persons nominated Sparks for the position at a Thursday night city council meeting, and he was a unanimous choice for the seven-member panel. A Douglas County native, Sparks will oversee 95 police officers and 30 additional employees.

Womack, 48, was suspended with pay earlier this year during an independent investigation by the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office into allegations that he used excessive force against a driver during a high-speed pursuit in March. Womack was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to work in June. Womack later qualified for early retirement, and Aug. 21 was his final day at work.