Cobb commissioners took three steps aimed at improving the county police department Tuesday — approving financing for new public safety vehicles; buying new body cameras; and allowing the public safety director to seek an independent departmental review.
Each of the measures is considered important for restoring trust with citizens, improving morale in the department and making the community safer for citizens and officers. Collectively, Bob Corn considers them movement in the right direction.
Corn, a South Cobb resident who has been instrumental in the formation of Commissioner Lisa Cupid’s Citizen Review Panel for police complaints, said he’s seen a political shift over the past three months in favor of an outside review of the police department — and that gives him confidence that it will be thorough and complete.
“I have more confidence in the review now because I’ve seen the momentum behind it — the bridging of police, commission and community getting behind it,” Corn said. “All of this means we’re making positive progress toward a better Cobb.”
Specifically, here are the actions commissioners unanimously approved:
- A Request For Proposal soliciting outside agencies to submit proposals for a top-to-bottom review of departmental policies and procedures. Public Safety Director Sam Heaton said he expects the study to cost about $95,000 and take several months to complete. He said it would likely be late this year before he brings recommended changes to the commission. "We're at a point where we've got to be an open book," Heaton said.
- Approved an $8.8 million funding agreement for the purchase of about 190 new police vehicles, which will be purchased gradually over the next several months. The new vehicles, some of which will go to the Cobb County Sheriff's Office, will help the department further implement its' take-home-car program — a program that allows officers to take marked police vehicles home. The program is considered a perk for officers that also helps create a safer community because there are more police cars on the streets.
- Purchase of 100 body cameras, which will cost about $106,000 and add to the 50 already in use by the department. Heaton said the additional cameras will create the need for additional technology personnel and server storage space, and he plans to request that funding from the commission next year.
Heaton called for the police review in January, after a pair of high-profile incidents involving a patrol officer who has since resigned from the force.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who was aggressively followed over the summer by the patrol officer and started her citizen review panel after that incident, said the review moves the county forward "toward establishing trust," which will make the Cobb safer "for the community and the police department."
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