ALBANY — Retiring Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek made a pitch Monday for keeping the department intact despite increasing calls to merge it with the sheriff’s office.
Speaking to members of the Dougherty County Commission’s finance committee, Cheek said the loss of the county’s police department would be significant to residents in the unincorporated area of the county.
“It’s been said that I have spoken out in favor of a merger with the sheriff’s office,” Cheek, who celebrated 41 years in law enforcement Monday, said. “That’s not true. I’ve said that, with my retirement, I expect it to come up. But based on my years of service, I don’t think any such merger is a good idea.
“I don’t see that there is a savings; it would simply be a shifting of the resources. The citizens of the county’s unincorporated area pay for the services we provide, and they deserve to have that service.”
Cheek pointed out differences in the Dougherty Sheriff’s Office and DCP, noting that each provides unique services.
“I know the rumor mill is in hyperdrive right now about the sheriff’s office taking over our operations, and I know the last several grand juries have recommended considering the feasibility of a merger of the departments,” Cheek said. “But I feel both agencies have their own unique place and function.”
Cheek provided statistics that he said validate the work of his 49-member staff. Among those he emphasized were 927,054 patrol miles during calendar year 2011, 1,324 arrests, 24,389 dispatched calls, 455 accidents investigated and 377 domestic violence calls.
“If you think you can find waste in our staffing, I’d be glad to have you come by and get a taste of what they do,” the outgoing chief said. “We don’t just work our folks. In truth, we overwork them.”
Cheek discussed a couple of seemingly simple — but what he said were ineffective — solutions to one of his department’s primary budget costs: fuel consumption.
“We can park our cars and be totally reactive,” he said. “Or, looking back to the talk that sprung up in 2002 about cutting 19 positions to save money, it was suggested that we could reduce our (patrol) miles by 40 percent. But I don’t think that’s the message we want to send to the community.”
Cheek said citizens in unincorporated Dougherty County have come to expect a certain level of service from the police department.
“If you look at bang for the buck, I’ll match our efficiencies with anybody’s,” he said. “We’re doing way more with way less.”