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Days dwindle for retiring assistant APD chief

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- There is a saying that old soldiers simply fade away.

After more than 35 years Albany Police Department Assistant Police Chief Wilma Griffin announced her December retirement, but don't expect her to fade away.

"I will take a break and spend more time with my family," Griffin said. "I still live here and I want to work for the best for the city."

Griffin plans to continue her membership and mentoring in community organizations such as the Dougherty County School System "Turn-A-Round" program.

The program mentors students on issues such as anger management, assertiveness training and standing up to peer pressure. It also helps motivate students in academics.

"I won't give up my work with kids," Griffin said. "I'll also continue to work with the elderly."

Griffin won't be giving up the fight against gangs anytime soon either. As a former chair of the monthly Gang Task Force meeting, she plans to attend as a private citizen.

"When someone calls the police, I want to make sure they are there," Griffin said. "When there is gang trouble, they will be there."

It was 1975 when Griffin gave up her civilian life and job as a Licensed Practical Nurse to become one of the few women on the force. The force was also mostly white when she became an officer.

"It was that time," Griffin said. "I feel that I was embraced by my fellow officers. It didn't matter the race or whether man or woman. I adapted to whatever came my way."

Griffin served under nine chiefs during her 35 years. She adapted to their views on objectives, their goals and their missions, she said.

Passing that willingness to adapt to other officers has been part of what she has been doing since she started on the force.

Griffin paid her dues and began as a foot patrol officer in the days when downtown bustled with businesses, clubs and activity. She didn't know it then, but she was fast becoming a role model. She was:

* The first black officer to be assigned to the narcotics division;

* The first female detective lieutenant;

* The first woman from Albany to attend the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy;

* The first black officer in the Internal Affairs Division;

* The first female captain;

* The first -- and so far only -- black female major and division commander;

* The first female assistant chief of police

She says it was her ability to adapt that saw her through the changes. Those changes included the massive introduction of technology into the profession. Computers, new crime scene investigation techniques and an ever expanding communication system had to be mastered.

The human factor especially had to be taken into account. No matter the technology it is always about service to the people in her community for Griffin.

"It is the greatest feeling to find a missing child and give them back to their parents unharmed," Griffin said. "That makes it worthwhile."

Police work can turn violent. Asked if she has ever had to use deadly force, Griffin said she would rather not talk about it. That is not what the work is about, Griffin said. As a true police officer, she said, it is about serving and protecting the community.

It is only when the community and the police engage each other that they can really fight crime, Griffin said. As she rose through the ranks to supervise two captains and about 38 other officers in her division, she tried her best to instill ethics and the sense of responsibility in the officers she served with.

A 28-year veteran officer, police Lt. James Williams said Griffin would be missed by the department.

"Chief Griffin's labor clearly symbolizes an ethical and devoted peace officer exemplarily performing her duties under adverse conditions," Williams said. "From the day she was assigned to walk a beat in the bar district, throughout her dedicated law enforcement career to the present, Chief Griffin has brought bona fide virtue to the peace officer profession."