Click play to hear a 5-minute long edited excerpt from an interview Brennan Leathers conducted with new Bainbridge Public Safety Director Jerry Carter on Tuesday, July 21.
Jerry Carter, the new director of Bainbridge Public Safety, is a familiar face to many in the community, having worked as a Bainbridge policeman since 1977.
Carter started out as a patrolman and worked his way up through the supervisor ranks, even cross-training as a firefighter when the Bainbridge police and fire departments merged into Public Safety in 1989. Over the years, Carter worked as a patrolman, investigator, shift captain and patrol commander.
Carter retired in Fall 2014 after having served as patrol commander since 2012. However in March 2015, City Manager Chris Hobby asked Carter to return to Public Safety to serve as its interim director, following the resignation of Eric Miller.
At the time, Carter thought his return to uniform would be temporary, but as several months went by, City Manager Chris Hobby said he realized that the 37-year veteran of Bainbridge police was well-suited to be a permanent chief.
Carter’s wife, Van, and their six daughters (all grown) supported him in his return to Public Safety, where Carter has a good working relationship with his fellow officers and also is well-liked and trusted by many people in the community.
Talking about Carter upon the occasion of Carter’s retirement, City Manager Hobby said,
“I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about Jerry. People know and respect him. He’s a trusted face. Folks understand that when they have an issue, Major Carter would treat them with respect and fairness. He would listen to them and try and ensure a just outcome. That’s all you can ask for.”
Hobby said Carter also works well with other officers.
“When he was a patrol captain, he ran an almost problem-free shift. He treated all his officers fairly and listened to their grievances. That’s really why he ended up as patrol major. He had the ability to coordinate resources and bring people together, recognizing their unique skills and talents. Jerry is a rare individual.”
Carter to focus on officer training and community relationship
Carter said that he has known several of the veteran officers who have also worked for a long time, including current Patrol Major Robert Humphrey (31 years), Captain David Cutchin (26 years), Major Doyle Welch, who oversees the Fire Protection side of Public Safety, and Larry Funderburke, a retired former BPS director who is returning as the department’s chief investigator.
Carter said the many combined years of experience of those officers is an asset, not only in their knowledge of police and firefighting, but also in how well each veteran officer knows the community.
However, Carter is also focused on helping the department’s younger officers learn. Current officers now have a path for attaining Public Safety officer certifications that reflect additional training and job responsibility, as well as lead toward a path of promotion.
There’s also a number of officers who have either completed a probationary training period or been hired within the past 12 months. That number includes six cadet officers, who are attending either police or firefighter academies to be dual-trained in both fields. Those six cadets will also have to undergo a probationary training period with a partner officer, but once that’s complete, Public Safety’s officer roster–considered “short” in numbers only a few years ago–will be near the full strength that is needed to protect a community of Bainbridge’s size.
Carter said he also supports efforts that individual officers have suggested, including:
- Shop With a Cop — BPS officers help local youth go shopping for Christmas presents to give their siblings and parents (officers do fundraising throughout the year to fund the shopping outing and a lunch for the participants)
- Captain David Cutchin and other officers have recently been taking groups of children from the Friendship House summer program to go fishing at local ponds
Other community outreach efforts throughout the year, including visits by officers to local schools to teach students about fire safety and what the job of a policeman is.
Carter acknowledges that on a national basis, citizens have cast a wary eye towards police officers, even before the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others. He said the root of the problem is based in the ability for citizens to feel like they can talk to officers about their concerns.
“We want them to know that officers are not the enemy, we sincerely want to be their friends and help them with whatever issues they’re facing,” Carter said. “We get complaints every day…I’m going to listen and try to be fair with them. I’m not going to take sides–I can’t do that, it wouldn’t be right to begin with.”
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