CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - For the first time since Monday's swearing-in ceremony, we're hearing from the new Chatham County Police Chief, Jeff Hadley, in a one-on-one interview.
One of Chief Hadley's priorities early on is establishing relationships between his department and surrounding law enforcement, to create a seamless public safety network over all of Chatham County.
Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chief Jack Lumpkin reached out to Hadley shortly after he was announced the new Chatham County Police chief, and the two will meet again later this week.
Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher had the new chief and his staff for breakfast and opened up their shooting range to the new county officers to train.
It's this kind of networking Hadley says is imperative, and he's seen the importance of cooperation first-hand when his former office dealt with a mass-shooting scenario last February that made national headlines.
"We all had to work together instantaneously to bring that to a resolution. You had multiple crime scenes, we relied on each others personnel. And if you don't have those relationships intact before something like that hits, those moments can be very difficult to manage," Chief Hadley said.
Hadley is also focusing on filling his departments ranks with quality officers, who will not only write tickets and patrol county neighborhoods but also establish relationships with the people who live and work there.
Chief Hadley said, "There's a lot of energy in that room, back there in the squad room. They are helping shape this department. We're giving them some tasks and projects to give us recommendations so we can launch as best we can. I think they're excited."
We asked Chief Hadley about the decision to bring former Metro Assistant Chief Julie Tolbert on board as his own assistant chief, given Tobert's current involvement in a high-profile civil corruption lawsuit, and if that case would draw negative attention to his department.
"If there's any negative attention, that's on the folks that want to throw that shade our way. Chief Tolbert has been fantastic that in the few days that I have been here, I've certainly come to quickly realize what a valuable asset she is to this community," Hadley said.
The numbers of thefts from cars, homes and other buildings continue rise in the unincorporated county, and Hadley said figuring out an effective way to work with residents on that issue will also be a top priority.
Chief Hadley said, "Be present, be visible, that's part of our charge I think .. if I'm hearing correctly .. that the citizens want to see us, they want responsiveness and they want a relationship."
Again, the department is currently looking for qualified officers to fill their ranks. The job posting is on the county's website.