Lt. D.G. Schoeppner is Tucker’s liaison to the DeKalb County Police Department and can be followed at facebook.com/dgschoeppner or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These past few weeks police and police work have been put under a microscope. It’s not the first time, but I have to say that this scrutiny has brought with it the most widespread outrage that I have ever seen. I will accept that police officers are far from perfect. I will also accept that there are aspects of what we do that can be done better. However, I will not accept the notion that we are biased because of race. If we can agree on those facts as a starting point, our focus should now be on how to move forward.
Some citizens have contacted the Mayor about instituting policy changes within the police department. Mayor Auman was kind enough to invite me to speak about these proposed changes at the June 8 City Council meeting. I was happy to say that all eight of the proposals were already in place either by state law, Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training requirements, or DeKalb Police policy. These are all positive things which put the State of Georgia and the DeKalb County Police Department well ahead of the curve regarding police accountability. However, this should not be taken to mean that we believe our mission is accomplished.
Before the coronavirus outbreak we routinely interacted with the community. We hosted a monthly Coffee with a Cop, as well as our bi-monthly Community Engagement Meeting, and participated in bigger events like National Night Out. We also have a full-time public education specialist who is constantly communicating with the public and arranging community meetings. We have these meetings to encourage dialogue between the citizens and police. We are always open to feedback.
The sad truth, though, is that people tend not to show up. We do have several regulars that we can count on seeing, but nowhere near the number of people who recently felt compelled to protest in Tucker and elsewhere. Hope, however, is not lost. Once the health restrictions are lifted, I expect we will continue with these initiatives. I hope that these events may now attract new people who can give us additional perspective on how to tackle some of our societal problems.
The most proud I have ever been at one of these events was the topic of my column in the August 2019 issue of InTucker. This was where a young man named Carlos Allen specifically came to a Coffee with a Cop event to thank Sgt. Parker for arresting him. That’s right, Mr. Allen had strayed down the path of dealing drugs and it took being arrested to wake him up and decide that he needed to straighten out his life. It sure is a shame that these positive interactions don’t get as much attention as the negative ones.
Being a police officer is a difficult job. We are always trying to do better. If we can focus our energy into constructive communication, there is no reason we can’t get there.