The Duluth Police Department actively works at community policing. It’s a way to incorporate the department and its officers into the town’s community while they are doing their work.
They’re very good at it.
Just last fall and winter, the Duluth PD was recognized by several organizations for their outreach and professionalism. Georgia Advocates for Crime Prevention, GUIDE, Inc. and the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police all presented the department with awards for their work and approach.
Outreach is integral to the department
Community outreach is an organic part of how the department works, but recently they made it even more intentional with the appointment of Corporal Ted Sadowski to the position of Community Outreach and Public Information Officer.
“What we’ve done,” Sadowski said, “with social media and the news media, as well as getting out there in the public, is to showcase the department and blur the lines between law enforcement and the community.”
Sadowski had been working with the media for several years, but with the backing of Chief Jacquelyn Carruth, his new position was created that specifically adds community outreach to his responsibilities. The plans are to add a few more officers to the unit in the near future to further expand their work.
“Then we can get out there more,” Sadowski said, “into subdivisions, HOAs, the businesses, apartment communities and pretty much any fabric in the community.”
But the emphasis on positive interactions with the city’s residents doesn’t begin and end with Sadowski. Although there is no formal training for it, everyone in the department is expected to contribute to the relationship.
“It’s obviously encouraged in this line of work,” he said. “We’re dealing with the public on a daily basis. So we’re always trying to get out on a good foot during our interactions with the community.”
The department is always looking for the most qualified people when they are hiring. Sadowski estimates they select only about 2% of the folks that apply.
“The Chief has very strict standards,” he said. “She looks at what a person will do in the long term, including talking to the public.”
The Duluth PD gets a lot of positive feedback about their interactions with the public. But obviously the police aren’t just there for good things. More often they are called to stressful situations, sometimes resulting in arrests.
“We’re trying to make the best of the situation in light of what’s going on,” Sadowski said. “Obviously, if someone is being arrested it probably isn’t the best day of their life, so we try to make it as professional as possible. Honestly, the last thing we want to do is take someone to jail. It’s mostly just trying to get these people some help.”
Citizens Police Academy
The department has several official outreach programs, with the most visible one being the Citizens Police Academy. It’s a chance for residents to learn the ins and outs of what a Duluth officer’s job entails.
In the Academy, citizens learn about patrol techniques, the K-9 units, drug enforcement, even an introduction to CPR techniques.
Academy participants get an introduction to the department’s Crime Scene Investigation Unit and have the opportunity for a ride-along with an officer in a patrol car. They get to see the department’s Camera Room and learn about how the police use the over 300 cameras installed throughout the city.
An undercover officer from the Gwinnett Metro Task Force speaks at the Academy, wearing a mask to protect his identity. An officer from Gwinnett County Police’s Gang Task Force comes to educate the participants on gangs in the county — what they look like, what they wear, what they drive, even the graffiti they use.
And citizens can even participate in a video simulation of a shoot / don’t shoot scenario.
“We get rave reviews about it,” Sadowski said. “It’s an eye-opening experience when you’re not in this field. People tell our officers that they learned a lot.”
There are usually two sessions per year. The first 2023 offering began in April and runs for 10 weeks with classes held one night per week.
Recognizing Duluth’s diverse population, the Academy is offered in separate English and Spanish classes. Detective Bahamundi teaches the Spanish class completely in that language. Last December, the Citizens Police Academy had 12 graduates from the English class and 25 from the Spanish class.
Outreach efforts recognized
The emphasis on outreach is a lot of work, but it pays off for the department in its relationships with the citizens and businesses of Duluth.
And they’ve been officially recognized for it as well.
Last November, the department was presented with the “Silver Meritorious Award” from the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, recognizing that Duluth has continuously maintained its state certification for 10 years. Only one in five departments in Georgia attains this certification.
Sadowski explained that this is not an easy certification to obtain. The department performs mock assessments throughout the year to make sure they’re in compliance.
“We really harp on that,” he said. “We have to provide a lot of proof and data constantly throughout the year to meet their strict guidelines.”
In December, the department’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) received the ‘Community Recognition Award’ from GUIDE, Inc. for their alcohol compliance checks throughout the city. Several times each year, the department checks all the establishments in the City of Duluth that have alcohol permits.
They actually bring in an underage person who tries to buy liquor at those establishments. In the most recent check, 20 businesses were checked and only one failed, resulting in them getting a citation. And now that people also have to be 21 to buy cigarettes, the department will start to check that as well.
Also in December, the Georgia Advocates for Crime Prevention presented their “Best Leadership and Most Talented” award to the department and Duluth’s own Corporal Byung Kang was awarded “Officer of the Year.”
Planning to do even more
As hard as the Duluth Police already work at their community policing approach, they’re planning to work even harder. Current plans are to hire more officers for Sadowski’s Community Outreach Unit.
“We’re looking at further developing the outreach programs down the road,” he said. “Our whole plan is to get in the community even more than we are now. When we get more people, then we’ll get out there more.”
One program they’re planning to implement is the Explorer program. Explorer brings young people, ages 14 to 20, into the police department to meet regularly. They participate in things like traffic stops and attend classes similar to the Citizens Police Academy classes.
Many times Explorer graduates end up becoming police officers or civilian employees of the department.
As with a lot of employees these days, the Duluth Police Department is having trouble getting people to apply for open positions. That, combined with some of the things that have been in the news recently about policing, makes recruiting even more difficult.
But Sadowski is confident they’ll find the right folks. “Duluth backs us,” he said. “The City Council backs us, the Mayor — they’re all for us.”
No doubt the community policing approach helps. “We always try to be transparent,” Sadowski said. “We just hope we have the backing of our community.”
Photos Courtesy of Duluth Police Department