New interim police chief of Stone Mountain discusses goals for department and community

After 35 years of service, former Stone Mountain Chief of Police Chancey Troutman announced his retirement earlier this year and he quickly named a successor – James Westerfield.

Westerfield is filling the role of police chief while the city conducts an ongoing interviewing process, but he said he hopes that having the support of elected officials and many members of the Stone Mountain community will lead to a permanent position.

A 15-year member of the Stone Mountain Police Department, Westerfield took over as interim chief in May. He recently sat down with The Champion to discuss what it has been like being at the helm of the Stone Mountain Police Department so far; what he views as the department’s and the community’s strengths and weaknesses; and how he plans to make the department and his community a better place to live, work and play.

What made you want a career in law enforcement?

“As far back as I can remember, everyone—whether it was family, friends or neighbors—always called on my father when they needed help. My father was always that strong person within our community and our family and it was something I always remembered. He was not in law enforcement, but he was a peacekeeper and a strong force. So helping others and giving them assurance was something I learned early on and I wanted to carry that into my profession. My younger sister told me I would make a good police officer. I’ve been in law enforcement for 18 years and with the Stone Mountain Police Department for 15 years.”

 

What are your goals for the Stone Mountain Police Department and the community of Stone Mountain as interim chief of police?

“My three main goals are:

  1. I want to make sure there is no gap or divide between the community and the police department. I know nationally police have taken a hit in the way they are viewed, and I want us to work together to make sure that narrative does not gain traction.

 

  1. I want us to provide excellent service and safety to the community but also internally for our officers. Part of our mission is to provide public safety with professionalism and serve in a diligent and courteous manner.

 

  1. I want to make the quality of life high for our citizens and police officers. Something we have to remember is that in our department, our product that we produce is our service and we want to provide a great service and make life better for everyone involved by doing so.”

 

What are concerns or issues that need to be addressed within your agency and/or the community of Stone Mountain?

“In the department, I can see what I want to work on to improve first and that would be staffing, education and training. I say that because, as most people may know, staffing is a national topic. There are shortages in Georgia for qualified police, this makes recruiting very competitive, especially in this area. I want to focus on retention of qualified officers and recruiting more qualified officers. Through more education and training, I want to invest in our officers. It is important to me to have well-educated police because they will be more well-rounded and prepared to handle most situations. It is an investment in the entire department itself.

 

“In the community, we observe more people with mental health issues. Our goal will be to make sure these members of our community will have proper resources available to them so we can keep them from being subjects of incarceration. Because of misunderstanding and misinformation, I will require our officers to be Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) certified. That includes at least 40 hours of training. This will give us more resources to be able to make sure we understand and are better prepared to know what we’re dealing with.”

 

National Night Out is coming up. Why are events where the police and community interact and engage with one another important?

“These kinds of events are very important to me because they help to humanize the badge. Our officers meet and interact with the community to learn what they need from us, and it helps the community to better understand our officers and destroy a negative narrative. When someone encounters law enforcement, it is usually in moments of distress or crisis. These events can let the community know we’re here for you.

 

“Our first ‘Meet your Patrol Officers’ event at Sweet Potato Café, where we had a meal with community members, was a success. We want to continue and expand. We’re in the planning stages of hosting a supply drive for kids, organizing basketball games, hosting gun lock and gun safety demonstrations and more community events.”

 

For more information, visit www.stonemountaincity.org/departments/police/.

 

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