Every police department in the state of Georgia operates uniquely and independently from the rest. Each department is designed to cater to the unique needs of its community at large, responding to and preventing crime in ways that are specific to their demographics and geography. However, there are certain recognizable features and factions that bind them all together, creating a cohesive network of departments that work together to prevent and manage crime throughout the state. Thus, while these departments are each unique from one another, each police department has three main divisions that can be described as investigative, uniform, and support.
Uniformed officers are usually most citizens’ first point of contact with their local police departments. They’re the ones that maintain law and order in the community through responding to calls for service and patrolling each area of the community. In the event of an accident or malicious attack, uniformed officers are the ones to interact with persons involved on site.
Investigative officers continue the work of uniformed officers through investigating crimes against citizens, both long-term and short-term. The duty of the investigative officer is to solve crimes in which the suspect is at large, and they are also responsible for long-term operations to disseminate crime networks of every kind (gang crimes, narcotic operations, and other types of organized crime).
Support officers provide the administrative support needed for uniformed and investigative officers to complete their work for the community. This division serves as a backbone for the others, and their duties can vary from officer to officer. Within the service division, there are training officers, technology support staff, accreditation managers, probation officers, homeland security coordinators, and more. Without these administrative positions, uniformed and investigative officers would lack the organization and information to complete their duties.
Support officers don’t only offer support to officers, but to the entire community through services available to all citizens. The public information officer delivers information to the community about police news and events, and he or she is responsible for all media relations and press releases. Permit and ID officers are valuable to the entire community in that the disperse permits to taxis, taxi drivers, alcohol managers, and pawn shop employees that allow them to carry out their jobs in service of the community.
Other services provided to the community by support officers in Georgia police departments include home alarm system registration, criminal history access, and several services offered to victims of crimes that help them continue through life after a traumatic experience. These supportive officers often exist to walk with citizens through various police procedures, like payment of fines, obtaining criminal history reports, and posting bail for friends and loved ones who have been arrested and charged with a crime.
These processes will vary from city to city and county to county, which deems support officers essential to citizens as they make their way through these various procedures. For example, in order to obtain a criminal history report in the city of Marietta, Georgia, one must appear in person at the Marietta police department and pay a twenty (20) dollar fee. However, citizens of Savannah, Georgia need only submit a notarized form to receive a criminal history report. Regardless the city of location, support officers are on hand to assist citizens in completing proper procedures to receive any given police department public service.
These three divisions – service, uniform, and investigative – work together to fight crime on every level. To see this in action, consider the cities of Atlanta and Savannah, two of Georgia’s biggest cities and police departments, and their recent crime statistics. The city of Atlanta has decreased its overall number of police personnel due to a slight decline in population, but has increased its service officer presence in the past twenty years. The goal of this shift is to decrease personnel overall, but to increase officer efficiency by increasing the support available to investigative and uniformed officers. With an increase in technical and support staff, uniformed officers are able to release duties that don’t directly relate to patrolling and responding to emergency situations, increasing their rate of efficiency overall.
Because of this shift in personnel, the city of Atlanta has been able to decrease crime rates by twenty-seven (27) percent since 2009. Savannah, on the other hand, is known for having a crime rate higher than eighty-two (82) percent of Georgia’s other communities. In fact, Savannah is ranked as safer than only eight (8) percent of the United States’ cities overall. Savannah’s answer to this reputation has been to increase overall personnel, whereas Atlanta has responded to crime by increasing efficiency while decreasing the overall number of police personnel.