Meg Heap wants to fix damaged working relationships
CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) -
She's barely off the campaign trail, but District Attorney Elect Meg Heap is already moving full steam ahead. She's meeting with every police chief in Chatham County.
"I realize as a prosecutor you rely heavily on your relationships and you rely heavily on what the police do. So you need to have a good working relationship," Heap explained.
"It's almost like a marriage," said Pooler Police Chief Mark Revenew. "The district attorney's office is with us all the way when making the cases. They're with us in the early stages, the arraignments and the preliminary hearings. It's really a close knit relationship."
A relationship Heap believes was damaged by her predecessor, Larry Chisolm.
"Law enforcement did not feel welcome in the district attorney's office," she said. "There was a policy set in place that they were not allowed in the office without an escort."
But the District Attorney's office disputes that claim in a written statement to WTOC:
Just like most modern offices, especially law offices and law enforcement agencies, all visitors to the DA's Office wait in the reception area until the party who they intend to see can greet them and take them to their offices. Since 2009, this has been the practice in the DA's Office and there is no policy specific to police. This standard practice is also in place at the local police departments for their professional guests.
Good relations with the police are measured by the amount of communication that occurs between the parties daily and the sharing of information, grants and other resources, which has only grown over the last 3 years. Since 2009, personnel from the DA's office have interacted on a daily basis with the police for investigation assistance and professional consults and have been more personally involved in the training of law enforcement personnel than ever before.
But Chief Revenew and Savannah Chatham Metro Police Chief Willie Lovett say they welcome change. Especially since Heap recently appointed former District Attorney Prosecutor Greg McConnell as her new assistant DA.
"We've worked with both of them before," said Chief Revenew. "Both of them are very competent and very concerned about the community. Mr. McConnell couldn't have been a better choice as chief. "
"I expect to see a lot of improvement, " explained Chief Lovett. "When I say improvement, I'm talking about communication between the investigators and the D.A.'s office. We'll have some input."
A better relationship Heap believes will ultimately crack down on violence in Chatham County and put criminals away for a long time.
"The stronger the relationship, the better the case and the safer the community," she said.
Heap will be sworn in as the Chatham County District Attorney on Jan. 2, 2013. After the ceremony, Heap said there will be a reception for all law enforcement officers in her new office.