DeKALB – Chad McNett became the DeKalb Police Department’s first community relations officer and training coordinator in February, but he’s not new to DeKalb police. He started as a DeKalb patrol officer in fall 1995 and then started picking up administrative duties seven years ago.
DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery created a new position to help the department become more proactive and develop better relationships with city residents. Daily Chronicle reporter David Thomas recently discussed the new duties with McNett.
Thomas: What is a community relations officer?
McNett: The community relations side is where I basically reach out to different groups in the community, or if they contact the police department. We work together, try to coordinate events. Basically, we’re trying to create positive contacts with the police, instead of the typical, always service or responding to a crisis. ... Just a new approach, to pretty much have one guy be the liaison to basically anyone communitywide.
Thomas: And the training supervisor?
McNett: The training, over the years, has been handled by different lieutenants and things like that. ... One of the main goals is to develop an in-house academy where we have a core curriculum that all officers in the police department will be able to take these different courses. Just to try and even out the training ... rather than half the department may have a certain training and half the department might not have. That has the potential to affect how two different guys might handle a similar call. We’re looking to do things like that, and increase training for recruits that come out of the academy.
Thomas: Are you excited to be moving into the new police station later this year?
McNett: We are very excited. It’s been awhile. We started talking about this, I think, over 10 years ago. We have outgrown our building. Just the thought of moving to a bigger building is enticing in its own right. But to a brand-new, bigger building to move to is even better. It’ll have all of the latest for technology. It’s a great location.
Thomas: Is there a particular facet or thing about the new building you’re excited about?
McNett: The way we have it set up now, if you’re looking at the prisoner/arresting side of things is not ideal, and not as safe as it should be. Because our processing area is the back of the building, our records area is in the middle and release is at the front. We have to basically walk prisoners through our records area ... that’s not good. The new building is going to have a dedicated booking area, one for adults and one for juveniles. ... That’s going to eliminate some of the safety concerns a lot of civilian workers have. They don’t want to necessarily be exposed to the arresting side of police work.
... We have a lot of shared, cramped offices now. We have a lot of people that are in not even an office but a repurposed closet. Maybe with a desk put into it. The room will be good. We’ll have our workout facility [that] is going to be much better. We have a little room in the basement that has four pieces of equipment. We’re looking to upgrade that and get multiple pieces ... We’re going to promote a voluntary fitness program. The new fitness center will be great for that.