MARIETTA — Efforts to become more responsive to community concerns about policing are among the initiatives Cobb Police Chief Michael Register said his department has begun during the first few weeks of his tenure.
Register, who became Cobb’s police chief June 13, highlighted the changes he had made to his department in a presentation to Cobb commissioners Monday afternoon. Many of the changes, he said, come in response to findings of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s report of the agency. The $93,000 review of the department by the IACP was commissioned by the county last year.
Among the IACP’s report’s 14 “priority 1” recommendations, which the report suggested were the most vital and pressing, were that the department “acknowledge and address” public perceptions of racism and discriminatory policing, which the report’s authors said was the “root cause” of the department’s strained relationships and lack of public trust with some in the community.
“If one citizen has one perception that they’re being unfairly treated, that’s a concern for me, and I know it’s a concern for the county, and it’s a concern for my whole command staff,” Register said.
Other public perceptions of Cobb police, the report said, was that the department often showed an “over-response” on minor traffic crashes and traffic stops and that such over-responses and traffic stops were more likely for minority drivers than non-minority motorists.
As one of its responses, Register said the department will add training or increase training time focused on topics such as community police and crime prevention, cultural diversity, fairness in policing and other topics.
One addition, Register said, will see department recruits get 24 hours of crisis intervention training, whereas the new officers previously received no such instruction. Current officers will be given 40 hours of advanced training on crisis intervention.
That change, he said, was sparked by public feedback.
“We actually had segments of the community, citizens, come in and look at our curriculum, and have a frank discussion on the curriculum and give us some insight on what they believed was needed,” he said.
Register said his department has also created a committee to examine the department’s complaint procedures in order to improve “consistency” of fielding and tracking citizen complaints, and also develop an “early warning” system as it relates to officers who receive such feedback.
“If we identify an officer who is having some challenges, we can intervene early. If we intervene early, there’s a good possibility that we save careers, and we certainly protect that officer and the community,” Register said, adding that his goal is to have officer complaints resolved within 45 days.
The department will be seeking feedback from the religious community next week as it holds a “Faith Forum” at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Cobb County Public Safety Training Center, 2109 Valor Drive, Marietta. Register said he hopes to hold such events quarterly.
The upcoming event was lauded by Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who said she was glad to see the effort aimed at addressing the religious community’s concerns as part of Register’s first slate of initiatives.
“I commend you on hitting the ground running, as we knew you would, and addressing the issues from the IACP report and having a plan to move forward,” she told Register.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who led Monday’s meeting due to Chairman Mike Boyce’s absence, said that while she had seen an increased presence of the county police department within the community prior to Register’s arrival, she believed the new chief had already taken the involvement of the department in the community to “a different level” within his first two months in office.
“I think we would not have been displeased if he just said ‘This is my plan for how to integrate these recommendations from the IACP report,’ but he has actually put some things in place, which I think was impressive,” Cupid said. “At least I walked away confident from this meeting about his ability to facilitate the organization moving forward.”