Tuesday, April 18th the City Hall was packed with community members and police officers eager to meet the Chief of Police Candidates. Mayor of Sylvester, Bill Yearta welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming out to support the Chief of Police Candidates. Council Member, Randy Hill led the invocation.
The first candidate was Ms. Karen Anderson. She served as Major with the Dekalb County Police Department. Anderson has been policing for 33 years, 25 of which was with Atlanta where she retired. She was proud to say that she was responsible for 150 officers at the Georgia Dome for events which she felt like she had led them well. Those events can be very difficult to lead and maintain but she stated all went well with the great officers that she had under her. Anderson was a part of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where she worked the Volleyball Venue not far from where the bomb exploded. That was a night I am sure she will never forget but Police Officers like Anderson was able to handle this situation in a manner to be proud of. Anderson has her Master’s in Public Relations and is working on her Doctorate.
The second candidate was Anson Evans. He served as Chief of Police at the Jeffersonville Police Department which is East of Macon. He retired in 2014 with 29 years of Military and retired in 2015 with 29 years in Law Enforcement. He has a degree in Criminal Justice. Evans has been a part of many obstacles and situations over the 29 years in both careers, some of which he can not mention due to the confidentiality of the military. He was proud to say that he had been a part of the Homeland Security as a Sergeant and has been part of many special projects. He was honored to say that he served as a leader in starting a gang unit which is a very needed unit. Evans stated that he had traveled the world with the military and was blessed to meet his wife while doing so. He laughed and said that he had to learn to speak Spanish to her though because he knew he would want to eat. Crowd all responded with laughs. We all understand that in South Georgia, we love to eat!
After the candidates both introduced themselves then Mr. Jason Armstrong with Albany State University served as the Moderator. Both candidates were asked five questions which were the same to each candidate. The candidates did not know the questions prior to them being asked. Below are the questions and answers given by each candidate.
1. Tell us about your interest in Sylvester. What is motivating you to pursue a new position here in Southwest Georgia?
She stated that she talked to people in the community both adults and youth on one of her few visits to Sylvester. While on one of her stops here, she saw some youth that had a shirt on that said “Dare”. She asked them if they were in the Dare program and they looked down at their shirts and explained to Anderson that it was a church group they were a part of that encouraged them to “Dare to be me”. She was thrilled to see that this was being taught in local churches. Anderson also mentioned the she attended Georgia Southern which brought her to South Georgia. She believes that Sylvester is a great fit for her. Anderson is super excited about Sylvester being the Peanut Capitol of the World, that Peter Pan Peanut Butter is located here and to attend the Peanut Festival and the Peanut Pickin’ 100 Mile Yard Sale.
After retiring, Evans stated that he has looked for a place to call home, a place that he can write books about and he believes that Sylvester is that place. He stated that growing up his parents taught him that if he wanted something, to claim it and it will be his and he is hoping and praying that Sylvester will be the place he can call home. Community is everything to Evans he stated. He stated living in Sylvester would be him a little closer to Tampa and that is where his daughter lives. Evans stated that in his military career he was a warrior and instead of being a warrior now, he desires to be a guarder. He wants to use all his resources and give a peace of mind to all home owners. Evans referred to wanting Sylvester to be like the Andy Griffith Show, where everyone knows everyone and crime is down low. The crowd laughed and agreed.
2. Please explain your philosophy of community engagement. How do you intend as the Chief to engage the citizens of Sylvester?
He stated that he planned to utilize social media to engage the citizens. He wants things posted on twitter, facebook and neighborhood watch teams so that the community can see what’s happening. Evans stated that he would like to involve citizens in the police work so that they had a better understanding of how things worked in a police environment. He also feels that a police department should have a recruitment plan. Evans believes that you get that by involving the youth from the ages of 14-18, keeping a positive image and having visibility in the community.
She believes in building trust within the community. She wants to be able to meet with the community, businesses, NAACP, Lions Club, etc along with meeting with the youth. She also thinks a citizen’s police academy to change the perception of the community is needed. Anderson said she definitely wants a faith based program. She also believes social media is needed to produce good stories. She wants to use it to keep people informed but wants the good stories out there too. She feels like the police department is the one to control their own stories. Anderson feels that connecting sooner than later is the best way to do.
3. If selected, what would be your goals and approach for your first month on the job? First year? How do you plan to accomplish these goals?
She stated that the first month she would take to make an assessment. She would like to meet with as many people as she can. She would also like to look at a plan to reduce crime, check on complaints and deficiencies and take a look at the policy and procedures. She did not plan to make any big changes unless they were needed. Within the year, Anderson stated she would like to formulate the direction of her vision and find the best way to move Sylvester forward.
He too stated that the first month he would take to make an assessment. He would like to find out what is exactly going on within the department and the community. He would like to talk to the officers and find out what their thoughts are. He believes in holding people accountable. Evans stated that he would definitely want to look at the budget to see any short falls because reducing the budget is a major goal of his. He also wants to take a look at the technology used and do a crime analysis. Evans plans to build a 5 year strategic plan. At the closing of this question, Evans stated that he does want the community to participate in surveys because he feels the community is the report card for the police department.
4. Ethical standards in any profession are important; however, the law enforcement profession is built upon public trust. Therefore, what steps are you prepared to take to ensure that members of the department not only adhere to the Canon of Ethics for Law Enforcement Officers but promote a culture of ethical integrity within the department?
He replied quickly that he was responsible for 7,000 troops at one time and he had to build their trust so he understands that for sure. He feels the way to build trust is to get out and talk to people. Anderson stated that if any of the officers had issues with their ability to do the job, they can be sent for training. He wants the community to be proud of Sylvester.
She believes in Ethics and Integrity. She also believes in doing the right thing! Anderson wants to follow up on complaints with internal affairs. She plans to take a look at the policy and procedures within the police department. Training is very important to her so she will make sure officers have training. Without any question she stated, the department would work ethically and professionally. Anderson’s motto is that she will inspect what she expects but that she will not micro-manage.
5. Please provide your experience with budgeting. How do you intend to meet the operational needs of the department, yet ensure fiscal integrity?
She has had experience with a 1.5 million dollar budget. The way she operates she stated is that the department heads justify the budgets to her and she justifies them to the city manager. She stated that she plans to write grants when needed because she has experience in writing grants. Anderson stated that there are grants available from federal, GEMA and the state for technology. She also stated that she would like to work with companies and businesses that would like to be sponsors to purchase bullet proof vests, etc.
He has had experience with a 2.5 million dollar budget and while in the military he had a 30 million dollar budget to manage. He is constantly looking for ways to save money. Evans stated that it seemed that Sylvester and Worth County was becoming a popular place for tornadoes so in case of emergencies such as that, he would like to be able to use other agencies and officers to help on the street during emergencies. Another way he feels that he can save money is to get rid of old cars that are costing more in repair and to purchase cars that are cheaper in gas. Evans wants to have an outlook of where he and the department wants to be so they can work as a team to get there.
We at The Martin News hopes this helps enlighten you to what the candidates had to say about why they would like join the Sylvester Police Department.