On Jan. 3, 1980, I began my police relationship with Sandy Springs. A beat car was assigned to me on the evening watch, 3 to 11 p.m., working the west side of Roswell Road from I-285 north to Abernathy Road. I was somewhat familiar with Sandy Springs as I traveled north on Roswell Road to get home from Buckhead, where I used to throw darts at a bar called Digger O’ Dells on East Andrews Drive.
At the time, Fulton County Police was new, only five years old since splitting from city of Atlanta police on July 1, 1975. North Fulton was where APD sent the older officers and those who they would rather not see. It was their version of Siberia, but for the officers, it was the briar patch. Few calls, nice scenery, and it was not Atlanta.
I came along as part of the first merit system class of employees, not a transfer from the city police. Since I had three years of experience, I rode two days with older officers, then was given a copied map of the north county and set loose. I immediately managed to get lost somewhere north of the river, on a call to Mountain Park. I ended up in Hickory Flat and on the lieutenant’s you-know-what list after the complainant asked why I never showed for the report. They decided to send me south into Sandy Springs. I got a call on Johnson Ferry Road near the hospital. I ended up on Johnson Ferry in Cobb County. That was the beginning.
Twenty-four years later, Ashley Jenkins, my Neighborhood Watch contact in her subdivision, asked if I would be interested in the new city of Sandy Springs Police Task Force, charged with creating the city’s police department. My retirement was close and this was a perfect opportunity, so I agreed. For weeks on end, a core group of five or so of us met each Wednesday, trying to build a police department. We literally started from scratch.
Budgets, work force numbers, cars, radios, procurement lists, and how on Earth would we put it all together, were part of the weekly discussions.
Of course, there isn’t enough room to talk about the entire process we endured to get to July 1, 2006. The fact is, it was a daily crisis, but at the same time, incredibly fun. Everything from scratch! Cars, badges, uniforms, everything.
Other agencies often commend us for our badges, gold set on a black background. That actually came about as a mistake. The badge-maker was supposed to make the badge in the traditional black writing on gold, but she got it backwards. We liked it so much we adopted it as our badge. Although they may not admit it, Dunwoody and Johns Creek followed suit.
As time neared, there were only five or so of us officially designated as SSPD officers, neatly tucked into a corner at the CH2M Hill city management offices, sitting on boxes, recruiting officers on our cheap Nextel phones.
We wore several hats. Mine was community and media. We were under the microscope with the competitive Atlanta media market. Everything we did made the news. On July 6, 2006, we began operations at midnight. One minute later, we arrested a drunk guy at the Shell station on Northwood Drive. To this day, I am sure he has no idea of his significance to the new police department.
Our new police units drove south from City Hall while the county police drove north in a pre-arranged changing of the guard, in a parade-style event. We waved to them; they waved back — some with only one finger. It was a difficult transition.
I consider myself lucky to have been a part of such a rare event, to create a police department from the very beginning. As I leave, I realize the majority of officers and staff within the department came long after the inception and have no idea how SSPD came about. Maybe I will write a book.
We have a wonderful community, so much so that I believe we are somewhat spoiled. With so much anti-police ranting on social media over the past years, people are afraid to support the men and women of law enforcement. You have been consistent through it all, providing a tremendous support system for our department. We are truly lucky.
I want to thank many people who got us to this point, but especially Ashley Jenkins, Jim Anderson, Joe Wilkerson, former Chief Gene Wilson, Eva Galambos, Tibby DeJulio, John Paulson, Dave Greenspan, Rusty Paul and a host of others. I especially want to thank Sandy Rose, one of the best detectives ever and the love of my life.
Thank you for all the support in the past and all of the great things that lay ahead!
Steve Rose recently retired as a captain in the Sandy Springs Police Department. He now works there in a civilian role.