The most popular people in Brookhaven right now seem to be wearing badges and guns.
Since the Brookhaven Police Force took to the streets July 31, residents have given officers a very warm welcome, said Lt. Brandon Gurley.
“We couldn’t ask for a better reception than what we’ve received from people who live and work in Brookhaven,” Gurley said.
He said people often clap when officers walk into restaurants. Many will offer to buy them lunch.
“That is something that happens on a pretty regular basis that officers have expressed great gratitude for,” Gurley said.
There have also been the doughnuts left at City Hall for the officers, or the Starbuck’s gift cards given to the department to thank them for their help with a children’s event.
“It’s been great,” Gurley said. “It’s just little stuff like that means a lot.”
Gurley said people seem to appreciate the presence of the new police officers in their community.
“Any time we’re out in public people are approaching us,” Gurley said. “I had two people walk up and tell us how they’re not used to seeing so many police officers in their neighborhood, and how much safer they feel.”
Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis said he’s very excited about the new police department. When Davis brought up the police force at a recent town hall meeting, the crowd broke out in an unsolicited round of applause.
“I hear things every day from people who have had positive interactions with our police department,” Davis said. “We’ve got some excellent officers.”
Gurley said people typically aren’t so excited to see police officers. An encounter with the police is often because of a speeding ticket or something more serious, like a home invasion.
“Usually when we’re dealing with people, we’re dealing with them on their worst day,” Gurley said. “We experience them taking out their frustration on us.
“In this particular situation it’s been very nice being able to interact with people on their good day when they’re not dealing with something negative in their life,” Gurley said.
Gurley said the positive interactions motivate the officers to work hard for Brookhaven.
“The officers that we have are part of a brand new police department, and they feel like they have a voice and do have a voice in direction the department takes,” Gurley said.
“It’s an experience in years to come that they can look back on and say, ‘I had a say in the way the department is operating and the success they are having. That’s a unique experience that does not come around often in our field.”