New Roswell police chief anticipates seamless transition

Back in the early 1990s, the police chiefs in the south Georgia towns of Americus and Cordele occasionally worked together on drug-sting operations and other criminal cases.

The men weren't friends, but they were friendly. They shared a lot of the same interests and responsibilities as the lead law men in their respective towns, which are separated by about 40 miles on State Highway 27.

Eventually, Ed Williams left small-town Americus for the chance to serve in the same role in Roswell. And Cordele's William Dwayne Orrick admittedly was a little jealous.

"I was so envious of him," Orrick said. "Roswell is one of those plum jobs."

When Roswell started its search for a replacement late last summer for Williams, who had decided to retire, Orrick quickly submitted his name for consideration. He was selected for the job in early January, emerging from a crowd of nearly 70 applicants.

Orrick's first day of work was last Monday, kicking off a long week of introductions, meetings and figuring out how to work the thermostat in his new office, which he notes is about twice as large as his old one in Cordele.

"It's mostly been a seamless transition for me," the 49-year-old Orrick said on Friday. "Chief Williams left me a well-run organization. I'm walking into here with a high-comfort zone ... something that I couldn't do in Cordele. "

When Orrick moved into Cordele as police chief in 1990, he was 28 and inherited a department in disarray. If not worse, according to some city officials.

Orrick and others tell stories of officers who sold drugs from their patrol cars. One officer earned the nickname "Glassman" because he allegedly wielded a glass-cutter during more than 100 on-duty burglaries. Stories of officers using excessive force during arrests were commonplace.

"It was really that bad," said David Wade, Cordele's longtime director of human resources. "There was a rumor that someone [in the department] put out a hit on Dwayne. It was maybe a good 10 years before he got that department turned around."

In the midst of that turnaround, Orrick also made a name for himself around the state as a writer and instructor. He is a member of the Georgia State Board of Public Safety, a National Institute of Ethics instructor and a monthly columnist for Law and Order Magazine, among other things.

"He's a man that I admire very much," Ed Williams said. "I've been to some of his classes and I learned a lot."

In Roswell, Orrick's challenges are much different: he must replace a popular predecessor, assume control of a much  larger department and maintain the kind of police service that contributed to the city's  lowest crime rate of the decade in 2010.

Orrick said he'll continue to assess the department before making any changes, but has little doubt that he can handle the job.

"Everything in my career has prepared me for this position," he said.

City officials remain confident that Orrick is up to the task.

"We couldn’t find anybody to say anything negative about him," said Roswell councilwoman Nancy Diamond, the council's public safety liaison. "Change is always a little unsettling, but I think it's going to be a good adventure for all of us."