By Gerhard Schneibel
Sandy Springs is looking for a police chief with a record of leadership and preferably a military background to take over the Police Department after the resignation of Chief Gene Wilson.
Wilson resigned July 12 in the midst of an investigation into questionable practices and policy violations by officers. Maj. Jamey Moore also resigned as a result of the investigation, which was made public July 18. Lt. Trudy Vaughan and Sgt. Tanya Smith were fired.
Maj. David Bertrand was named acting chief, and some City Council members suggested he is qualified to fill the position permanently.
Finding the right person is important, City Manager John McDonough said, and the city will take all the time it needs to do so.
“Clearly, we’re looking for someone with proven leadership experience, with a vision to move the department forward. We want a chief that is an innovator and not afraid to try new approaches and one that will leverage technology to help reduce crime,” he said.
The city is seeking someone with a bachelor’s degree and a minimum of seven years’ experience as a chief, a deputy chief or the equivalent in a “full-service law enforcement agency,” according to an online job posting. Sandy Springs prefers a candidate with a master’s degree and military experience who has completed the FBI National Academy.
“We’re looking for someone who sets high standards and holds him or herself accountable to meeting those standards,” McDonough said.
Dist. 2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries stressed that, despite the leadership shake-up, the Police Department has been steadfast in its patrol duties.
“The policemen were doing their jobs; I’m very confident on that. And they continue to do their jobs,” she said. “I think that the officers out on the beat were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. I think the policy changes will just make it very clear how we want, especially the extra jobs and things. … Let’s just have the policies very clear.”
Dist. 1 Councilman Doug MacGinnitie said that because the department is still in a start-up phase, it needs a chief who has the trust of the people.
“It always comes down to leadership and who’s in management. You get the right people; you get the right results,” he said. “Going forward, you get the right people in place. That’s how you keep bad things from happening.”
Dist. 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio said the new chief will need a combination of leadership and administrative abilities to be successful.
“I think what will help is that the city has made it perfectly clear that we will not tolerate any type of violations of our policies and regulations,” he said. “I think by enforcing what we did … I think it just let everybody know that those type of violations will not be tolerated in Sandy Springs.”
Dist. 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerney said she is looking forward to finding a new chief.
“In terms of moving on, we need to spread the widest net and get the widest spread of qualified candidates, including our acting Chief Bertrand,” she said. “I think that the citizens should be very pleased to know that when our city manager and mayor discovered these lapses in judgment and in adherence to policy, we made the right decisions to address them immediately.”
Dist. 3 Councilman Rusty Paul and Dist. 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins were unavailable for comment.