Cov­ing­ton Po­lice: Led by ex­pe­ri­ence

128 years of know-how make up Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Depart­ment com­mand staff

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - JACKIE GUTKNECHT jgutknecht@cov­

With more than 128 years of com­bined polic­ing ex­pe­ri­ence un­der the belts of the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Depart­ment (CPD) com­mand staff, Po­lice Chief Stacey Cot­ton said he could not do his job with­out the men and women in his depart­ment.

Mon­day night dur­ing the Cov­ing­ton City Coun­cil meet­ing, Cot­ton was sur­prised to be rec­og­nized for his 30 years of ser­vice.

“I wouldn’t be here to­day if it wasn’t for the men and women who wear the uni­form,” he said. “We’re very blessed; we’re a very close fam­ily.

“We are what we are be­cause of the men and women and what they do ev­ery day. I just get to lock the door and turn the lights out.”

Cot­ton said he was the baby of the depart­ment with just 30 years. Cap­tain of the Sup­port Ser­vices Di­vi­sion Craig Tread­well has 35 years with CPD, while Cap­tain of the Uni­form Patrol Di­vi­sion Philip Brad­ford has 32 years and Cap­tain of the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions Di­vi­sion Ken Malcom has 31 years. Cot­ton also named re­cently re­tired As­sis­tant Chief Al­mond Turner who had 45 years of ser­vice with the depart­ment.

Cot­ton started rec­og­niz­ing of­fi­cers for 30 years of ser­vice a few years ago in spe­cial staff pre­sen­ta­tions, and when his 30 years rolled around, Brad­ford said Cot­ton needed to also have a spe­cial recog­ni­tion.

Along with his 30-year an­niver­sary with the depart­ment, which was met on Jan. 15 of this year, Cot­ton is look­ing for­ward to cel­e­brat­ing

20 years as po­lice chief Dec. 11 of this year.

“If you look at the av­er­age ten­ure of a po­lice chief around the State of Ge­or­gia, I’m sure around the coun­try, you don’t see chiefs work­ing in an or­ga­ni­za­tion that long,” Malcom said, not­ing the av­er­age ten­ure in the state for a po­lice chief is three to five years.

“He is a top-quality per­son,” Ge­or­gia As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Frank Ro­tondo said. “I want to say how much we at the GACP ap­pre­ci­ate Chief Cot­ton’s com­mit­ment to pro­fes­sional polic­ing.”

30 years of changes

With years of ex­pe­ri­ence, the com­mand staff of CPD has seen Cov­ing­ton change and find its iden­tity as part of the Metro At­lanta area, Cot­ton said.

Tread­well said crime in­ves­ti­ga­tions have changed com­pletely as the ma­jor­ity of the per­pe­tra­tors are com­ing from out­side the City of Cov­ing­ton to com­mit crimes nowa­days. Malcom re­ferred to it as “dip and dart,” as in sus­pects dip into town, com­mit crimes and dart back out.

“It makes it more dif­fi­cult to solve be­cause there’s a larger pool of sus­pects,” Malcom said. “We don’t know them. We rely heav­ily on es­tab­lish­ing re­la­tion­ships with neigh­bor­ing law en­force­ment agen­cies so we can get the as­sis­tance we need to solve things.”

Brad­ford said one of the big­gest changes he has seen within the depart­ment is the lead­er­ship style Cot­ton has brought on as chief. All of the mem­bers of the com­mand staff were hired on by for­mer CPD Chief Bobby Moody.

“Moody was a good leader, but he was a dif­fer­ent type of leader,” he said. “Cot­ton has in­stilled in us that we’re here to serve and he fos­ters that type of lead­er­ship, of a ser­vant­hood type of lead­er­ship and that we are ser­vants of our com­mu­nity.”

Brad­ford said the lead­er­ship style has caused an over­all change in the depart­ment that cre­ates a dif­fer­ent in­ter­ac­tion with the com­mu­nity as a whole.

“If you run into a po­lice of­fi­cer on the street, I think you would have seen some­thing dif­fer­ent that day, than if you run into a po­lice of­fi­cer on the street to­day,” he said. “And it’s all from the top down.”

Malcom said one of the big­gest changes he’s seen is the pro­fes­sion­al­ism within the depart­ment. Years ago, it was un­heard of for a po­lice of­fi­cer to have a col­lege de­gree and now a ma­jor­ity of the staff ei­ther has a de­gree or is work­ing on one.

30 years to be proud of

In the last 30 years, CPD has re­ceived nu­mer­ous awards and ac­cred­i­ta­tions, but that is not what the depart­ment vet­er­ans hang their hats on. CPD prides it­self on the com­mu­nity ser­vice and re­la­tion­ships it has con­tin­ued to de­velop over the years.

“I am re­ally proud of the fact that we’ve all worked to­gether so long,” Tread­well said. “We’ve got­ten along so well and fos­tered re­la­tion­ships.

“With­out those re­la­tion­ships it wouldn’t be so fluid.”

Malcom said he said he is al­ways proud to be sur­rounded by a sup­port­ive group of peo­ple who con­stantly build each other up. While go­ing through a per­sonal tragedy, he said, his fel­low CPD of­fi­cers helped him keep it to­gether.

“I’m for­ever loyal, grate­ful, in­debted to them for what they did for me,” he said. “I’ll never for­get it. I’ll take that to my grave.”

Not only does the depart­ment work to make sure its mem­bers are sup­ported, but through the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Who Care, the com­mu­nity is also able to feel some of that sup­port, Malcom said.

“I don’t think there’s a po­lice depart­ment in the State of Ge­or­gia, maybe in the coun­try that has done what we’ve done to try to help peo­ple in our com­mu­nity out­side of just the nor­mal po­lice ser­vices that we pro­vide, just tak­ing it to a dif­fer­ent level of ser­vices,” he said. “That’s the one thing, I think, when I walk away from it, when I look back that’s prob­a­bly some­thing I’m go­ing to be very, very proud of.”

As a whole, Brad­ford said he is proud of who the CPD is.

“We are a re­spected agency be­cause of who we are,” he said. “It makes you proud to say you’re a Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Of­fi­cer when you’re in At­lanta. Peo­ple know us be­cause of who we are, not be­cause we boast or any­thing.”

He said the depart­ment’s strong re­la­tion­ships and fo­cus on good polic­ing and com­mu­nity ser­vice con­tinue to grow the good rep­u­ta­tion.

‘It seems like yes­ter­day…’

“We talk about 30, 35 years, all this,” Brad­ford said. “It seems like yes­ter­day we were all stand­ing on the streets to­gether, you know, slap­ping each other on the back, get­ting in a foot chase, laugh­ing at some­body fall­ing down.”

Each mem­ber of the CPD com­mand staff had a dif­fer­ent jour­ney to the depart­ment. Whether it be fol­low­ing in their fa­ther’s foot­steps, trans­fer­ring from an­other depart­ment, a way to pay for col­lege or some­thing they’ve al­ways wanted to do, be­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer in the City of Cov­ing­ton was what they were meant to do.

Af­ter be­ing hurt on the job with the New­ton County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice (NCSO) at 18 years old, Tread­well said his pas­sion for law en­force­ment was ig­nited and he saw the CPD as a place he could have a long-term ca­reer.

Brad­ford’s fa­ther also was a po­lice of­fi­cer and he’s known it was some­thing he was go­ing to do since the sec­ond grade. He ap­plied for a po­si­tion im­me­di­ately af­ter turn­ing 18 and started work­ing as a jailor.

Malcom grew up vis­it­ing his dad, who served as a jus­tice of the peace, at his of­fice and lis­ten­ing to the dis­patch ra­dios. Through that, he worked in dis­patch and heard a ma­jor­ity of CPD calls be­fore mov­ing into a patrol po­si­tion.

Cot­ton made his way into law en­force­ment as a way to pay for his col­lege tu­ition. He was ini­tially plan­ning on fol­low­ing in his fa­ther’s foot­steps and be­com­ing a lawyer, but worked his way up within the depart­ment and found he had a knack for the busi­ness side of law en­force­ment.

Leav­ing a legacy

Cot­ton said in the next 30 years he hopes his mark can still be seen within the depart­ment.

“What we’re do­ing right now, we’re in the be­gin­ning stages of work­ing to pre­pare the next gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers within the depart­ment and kind of set the tone,” he said. “It may not be for the next 30 years, but at least maybe 15 to 20.”

He said a true sign of whether or not he’s done his job cor­rectly will be whether or not the next po­lice chief comes from in­side the depart­ment or from an­other depart­ment.

“When a city usu­ally goes out­side they’re not happy with what they have. When they pro­mote from within, they’re happy, they’re proud of what they have,” he said. “That’s what I want to see.”

Cot­ton said in the next seven to eight years, CPD will have an en­tirely new com­mand staff and it is up to them now to set the tone for what’s to come.

“I’ve got of­fi­cers that I’m hir­ing that weren’t alive when any of us started work­ing,” he said. “We’ve got peo­ple out here that weren’t even born when we started work­ing and that’s been kind of a cul­ture shock for each one of us.”

He said he wants to know that there are lead­ers com­ing up through the ranks with the abil­ity to fill each one of their shoes with the spe­cial skills they each carry.

Jackie Gutknecht | The Cov­ing­ton News

A com­bined 128 years of polic­ing ex­pe­ri­ence leads the Cov­ing­ton Po­lice Depart­ment. Pic­tured from left are Capt. Ken Malcom, with 31 years, Capt. Philip Brad­ford, with 32 years, Capt. Craig Tread­well, with 35 years, and Chief Stacey Cot­ton, with 30 years.

CPD of­fi­cers with 30 years in the depart­ment are rec­og­nized with a spe­cial badge.

Mayor Ron­nie John­ston presents Chief Cot­ton with his 30-year badge Mon­day night.

Photos by Jackie Gutknecht | The Cov­ing­ton News

Re­cently re­tired As­sis­tant Chief Al­mond Turner rec­og­nizes Chief Cot­ton for his 30 years of ser­vice. Turner served 45 years with the depart­ment be­fore he re­tired.

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