New police chief reflects after 100 days on the job
by Marcus E. Howard
November 23, 2011 12:37 AM | 3772 views | 8 8 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Charles Sewell took over as Powder Springs police chief on Aug. 1. Soon after beginning the job of protecting the city’s residents, the new chief helped to officially open the new police headquarters on Richard Sailors Parkway, hired new personnel, and introduced a series of plans for the department. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
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POWDER SPRINGS — The first 100 days on the job for Powder Springs’ new police chief, Charles Sewell, have been busy to say the least.

Soon after beginning the job of protecting the city’s increasingly diverse population of more than 13,000 residents on Aug. 1, the new chief helped to officially open the new police headquarters on Richard Sailors Parkway, hired new personnel, and introduced a series of plans for the department.

“It’s been an exciting time. I’m very proud to be in Powder Springs,” Sewell said. “The department was without a chief for some time, and so I think it was important to organize and find direction for the department. I’ve had a very good reception from the public, and of course, the elected officials have given me tremendous support.”

Sewell took over the department after former police chief L. Rick Richardson was fired in February for allegedly selling city property without authorization.

In July, the Powder Springs City Council unanimously voted to hire Sewell, who previously served as police chief in McMinnville, Tenn. The council also increased the chief’s salary to $90,000, up from $75,000.

Councilwoman Rosalyn Neal, who recently won a second term on the Council, said she thinks Sewell has gotten off to a good start.

Neal is the council’s police liaison, along with Councilman Al Thurman, and said she and her fellow members have no plans to stand in the way of Sewell’s plans to improve the department.

“We can’t micromanage,” she said. “Whatever he does is fine with us right now.”

When Sewell took over the department, he said he was faced with vacant high-level positions within the department and an aging vehicle fleet in need of replacement. After learning local and state laws, as well as getting acquainted with residents and other law enforcement officials in the county, Sewell set out to make changes.

One of the first things he did was conduct an employee survey to give him direction as to where to take the department, he said. He has asked the city to declare surplus equipment to reallocate the funds, and he’s filled seven supervisory and upper management positions, and three patrol officer positions in the department.

The department now has 29 police officers, plus five civilian staff.

A tip sheet program has been started that requires every officer to regularly find a resident in public and give him or her a tip sheet, which contains helpful public safety information. The program aims to help residents put a face with the badge.

“Too many times I’ve been to the scene of a crime after something happened and a citizen tells me, ‘Well, just before this occurred, I saw something suspicious,’” Sewell said.

“When I ask them what happened when you called police, they say, ‘I didn’t call police. I didn’t want to bother you.’ (But) what they’re really saying is I was uncomfortable calling police because I don’t know you.”

Another new addition is the use of police software to conduct crime mapping, the electronic version of tracking crime with push pins on a map.

“At any shift, the supervisor can look at the map and see where the hotspots are, and that’s where we know to deploy our police officers,” Sewell said.

The 2010 crime statistics reported by the department included two murders, three rapes, seven robberies, 19 aggravated assaults, 135 burglaries, 209 larcenies and 30 auto thefts in the city. One of the keys to fighting crime, Sewell said, is keeping neighborhoods in good condition, which shows criminals that the residents actively care.

He said the department will begin working with the Community Development Department to begin “aggressive” code enforcement to keep neighborhoods spruced and protect property values. It’ll also work to maintain the cleanliness of parks and sidewalks, he said.

Among other new plans, Sewell said the department will soon re-start a citizen police academy, which it had in the past; work with a local church to rebuild areas affected by the 2009 flood; and make public presentations to listen to residents’ concerns.

“We want to break down barriers, have more informed citizens, and teach citizens police procedures,” the chief said. “I want to develop a volunteer base, perhaps through people who have been through the citizens police academy or other means, in order to develop a civilian patrol, so that we can have more eyes and ears on the Silver Comet Trail and other trails owned by the city.”

A typical day for Sewell begins around 7:30 a.m., when he arrives at his office. If he’s lucky, he’ll leave work nearly 12 hours later at 7 p.m. The chief’s schedule these days is filled with overseeing the department, reviewing policy, meeting the public – such as when he read to Compton Elementary School students on Friday – and occasionally he visits different areas of Powder Springs to get acquainted with the city.

Sewell previously worked in Georgia as chief of the Morrow Police Department in Clayton County. He and his wife relocated from Tennessee and now live just outside the Powder Springs city limits.

“This is not my first time as chief,” Sewell said. “I realize that the first three months will be very, very busy and in a lot of cases just very time consuming. But it’s been very rewarding and I’m very pleased with the direction the department is going.”
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Novel idea
November 24, 2011
Perhaps Cobb's chief could learn a thing or two from Sewell. Imagine a chief actually showing up to work and working a whole day.
Just Wait
November 23, 2011
Although I was a fan of Chief Richardson, I wish the new Chief luck. Leading a small town police department is filled with potholes that can wreck a car. I agree that the citizens police academy is a good idea, if for no other reason, it educates the public in the law. As they say, ignorance is no excuse. As far as passing out flyers so the pubic is not afraid to call the police, that is a bit misguided. Knowing the local officer will not effect that because the real reason is people just don't want to get involved, go to court, get sued, etc.
November 23, 2011
It's important for a police chief to show the community he cares but he must also show his officers he cares. Prior to the three officer hires Powder Springs had 12 supervisors and 13 officers. Who really does the work? Does such a small department really need two majors and five lieutenants, and four sergeants in addition to the chief? More officers mean more visibility, more safety, and better support. If you want a better police department support your officers. Expect professionalism and give them the training and tools to be professional. A citizen's police academy is great, but look around is that really where the Powder Springs Police Department's focus needs to be now. Focus on the officers, not on fluff.
November 24, 2011
--Supporting @ November 23, 2011 If you want a better police department support your officers. Expect professionalism and give them the training and tools to be professional. --

I would be more specific and say that you should also expect honesty, common-sense and respect for citizens from your officers. Sadly, these are not characteristics/qualities that all police agencies require/expect from their members these days. Please note that I am not suggesting that this is or is not already the case with Powder Springs PD.

Good luck Sewell!
November 23, 2011
The city needed to fill that vacant spot. It appears Sewell is on target with what the needs are of our city. We will see how long this lasts as Mayor Vaughn is always cutting the wrong places in the budget. We want the city to be a beautiful place to live and I whole heartedly agree that you have to have curb appeal to fight crime. Powder Springs has areas that are totally run down but when code enforcement tries to step in, the mayor cuts them off at the knees. The mayor needs to be more supportive of the code enforcement and step up when people who are being fined complain. It is her job to back up her employees. Good luck Sewell.....I hope we don't lose you due to the good ol's boy system Vaughn has going!
David Ingram
November 23, 2011
Sewell puts on many appearances, unfortunately it’s all smoke and mirrors. For example, he said that he opened the new police department. That is a complete lie. Actually, Major Arnold opened the new police department, Sewell is just willing to take the credit. Sewell is “in partnership with the community”, the reality is that the community Sewell came from (McMinnville, TN), calls tripled under his command and the number of officers stayed the same. Powder Springs is already suffering under his authority.
George Bradt
November 23, 2011
This is a nice story. Sewell's instincts seem to be guiding him to build much stronger bonds with the community. He is

1) getting people rallied around the imperative of strengthening the community.

2) breaking the work into manageable milestones.

3) getting some early wins.

4) moving quickly to strengthen the team.

5) communicating his community message in everything he says and does.

Well done.

George Bradt - PrimeGenesis Executive Onboarding
Not Knocking
November 23, 2011
Not knocking the new chief, but the things he is doing were put forth to Mayor Vaughn and the City manager many times and were shut down. Mayor Vaughn cut the budget by over 200,000.00 and would not let Chief Richardson hire personnel or buy equipment. She cut crime prevention and the citizens police academy. Crime should go down drastacally because of the burglars and other criminals that were caught while Richardson was chief.
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