Cobb police deserve our support, trust

On July 14, Commissioner Lisa Cupid had an encounter with an undercover unit of the Cobb Police Department. This experience was distressing to the Commissioner. On behalf of Cobb County, I am deeply sorry for how this incident has impacted Commissioner Cupid and her family.

The past few weeks have been difficult for the men and women who protect and serve Cobb County. Director Sam Heaton and his leadership team have been working around the clock to respond to Commissioner Cupid’s questions and concerns. They have produced two very detailed reports and a third document responding to questions posed by Commissioner Cupid at the Board of Commissioners meeting last Tuesday. The thorough internal investigation, led by Director Sam Heaton concluded that protocol was followed and no policy violation or intimidation took place.

During the past few weeks, Cobb County public safety leadership and the men and women who risk their lives daily while serving the residents of Cobb County have been subject to unfair criticism and attacks on their integrity.

The brave men and women who serve Cobb County interact millions of times with the public. “Our public safety officers are exposed to some of the worst things humans can do to one another, and those are often images that stick with them forever.” Contrary to what has been written and said during the past weeks, we do not have a police force out of control or fraught with misconduct. Rather, we are privileged to have good, solid, honorable men and women who take pride in their jobs protecting our community every single day.

Does that mean that we should not take seriously any allegations of misconduct? Of course not. When this occurs we should investigate it thoroughly, punish those who commit any wrong doing and work to change policies when appropriate.

“It is wrong to consider someone a potential criminal just because of the color of their skin. It is also wrong to criticize, blame and question one’s integrity because of the uniform he or she wears.” We are not going to ever be able to effectively address perceptions and circumstances that may arise without acknowledging all sides of the issue.

Commissioner Cupid has recommended the creation of a citizen review board. Traditionally, in Cobb County, in order for this type of citizen advisory committee to be formed, Commissioner Cupid must offer a resolution for consideration by the Board of Commissioners. On behalf of the Board, I have encouraged Commissioner Cupid to offer her plan and vision for a citizen review board so that the board can consider her proposal. Additionally, I have invited Commissioner Cupid to communicate directly with the Board of Commissioners and the County Manager. I think we can all agree that a recommendation of this magnitude will warrant significant research, and community and board discussion before a final decision can be made.

Public safety is the paramount duty of local government and I am proud of and have the highest confidence in Cobb County’s public safety department and leadership. “Please remember not only the good works done by police in our community but that for every badge there is a person, family and friends behind it who care.” When our officers go in harm’s way they need to know that they have the support of their leaders at all levels.

I want to make it clear today that I stand by Sam Heaton and the Cobb County Police and Public Safety Departments he leads. I am proud of their work, respect their integrity and have confidence in every

single man and woman who serve and protect the residents of Cobb County every day. I look forward to working with the Public safety team, Commissioner Cupid and the entire Board of Commissioners to continue to strengthen relationships between the community and the Police Department.

(In writing this column, the quoted phrases are repeated from a May 11 letter printed in the Lexington Herald-Leader.)

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Tim Lee is Cobb County Commision chairman.