As the year comes to a close, I find myself looking back at the accomplishments we have made as a department and the many gifts for which we owe our thanks. The greatest gift we have received is the support that we have been shown throughout the year by the citizens of this great city. It has been a difficult year for law enforcement officers. We have seen a 67 percent increase in the number of officers killed by gunfire this year as compared to last year. I am concerned for our country and for our law enforcement officers, but I am also encouraged by the outpouring of love and support that I have seen from our community.
Our officers see “I Support Acworth Police” magnets on vehicles everywhere they go, citizens have brought cards and treats to the police department nearly every week, and our officers are stopped nearly every day by people who just want to say “thanks” for serving the community. During a time when officers in many communities feel maligned and marginalized, our officers feel appreciated and respected. I believe that is one of the reasons that our department is not facing the officer shortages that other departments are seeing.
Our department has seen tremendous support in terms of the financial commitment that has been made for training. Our officers have collectively received more than 6,000 hours of training this year alone. In addition, our new use-of-force simulator has become an invaluable part of our training program. We are so grateful to have it. Proper training is essential, and the bare minimum of 20 hours per officer is not sufficient to maintain our high standards. Our city recognizes this fact, and has allotted the funds necessary to ensure that our officers have the skills needed to meet the challenges of 21st century policing.
I am also grateful for our city’s commitment to ensure that our officers have the best equipment possible. Over the past two years, the city has made incredible strides to provide the best of the best for our officers and for our citizens. In a relatively short time, we have made major improvements to our headquarters and detention facilities and implemented a take-home car program. And this month we are issuing body-worn cameras to all of our officers. It took a great deal of time, research and planning to get to where we are now, and since we began this process years ago, we will actually be one of the first agencies in the area to fully deploy body cameras to all of our officers. I believe that I have a personal responsibility to our citizens to make sure that their officers have the best equipment possible. It is also my responsibility to ensure that we are completely transparent with our policies and practices. Our body camera initiative helps to ensure that both responsibilities are met. I am confident that in the years to come, we will continue to grow and to ensure that our police department has the right tools to provide the best possible service to the community.
In this season of giving, I am acutely aware of the many blessings our department has received. I am grateful that we are able to take a huge step in increasing officer safety and trust within our community by issuing body-worn cameras to our officers. More than anything, I am so thankful for our officers and staff at the Acworth Police Department, without whom none of the great work we do would be possible. It takes a team to make it happen, and ours is the best! Our mayor, city manager, board of aldermen and community have worked hard to ensure that we have excellent equipment and benefits. That is a major reason that people want to come here to work, but there is also an unquantifiable, intangible factor that puts us over the top: our friendly, positive environment where people enjoy coming to work each day. That is true within the walls of our department as well as out in the community. Acworth is a special place, and I am grateful to call it home.
By Chief Wayne Dennard