Police chief shares ‘words of wisdom’ with students.

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Griffin Police Chief Steven Heaton spoke with students at A.Z Kelsey Academy, letting them know, “the decisions you make can impact your lives in the long term.”

Heaton was speaking with the students as part of the Education Prosperity Initiative’s monthly meeting, which was held at the school, this month. EPI Chairman and retired educator Jewell Walker-Harps told the students Heaton “would be sharing some words of wisdom. Take it, shake it up, digest it, and put it to proper use.”

Heaton said the Griffin Police Department has made changes to engage the community, especially the young people.” He said this is something important to the city and something that will continue with his successor, as Heaton is leaving the department as of Nov. 21.

“It’s important to understand,” Heaton told the students, “decisions you make will impact you in the long term. Sometimes decisions made when younger have devastating impact on your future.”

He noted “events have given police a black eye. We’re trying to build relationships in our community, in dealing with adults and kids. I can’t imagine living in a community where it’s not safe to go sit on your front porch out of fear of shootings and gangs.”

Heaton said one of the problems with building relationships is perception. “People think any time an officer gets out of the car it’s to arrest someone. That’s a myth, when only a small percentage of times is it to make an arrest. Kids and adults have lost that message and it’s something we will have to address for years to come.”

He told the students, “it’s important to build that relationship, but it has two parts, the police department and you.”

One of the students said people are afraid of the police, because of what they’ve seen elsewhere with people being killed. “We run away when we see the police because we don’t want to be the next on killed.”

Heaton assured her the police are there to help “and if you’re doing nothing wrong, there is no reason to run.”

If police respond to shots fired call, he said, they want to find out were the shots came from, who did it, and to catch them. “If you run, when police show up, it raises suspicions and the officer will chase you because he thinks you did something wrong. If you stay and tell him what you saw, or that you didn’t see anything and were just standing there, he can move on and find the suspect. Running away from police takes them away from solving that crime.”

Heaton encouraged the students to make wise decisions, using why they are at the school as example. “You had some problems at your other school, and were sent here,” he said, “while some just need to catch up.”

Many of the students said they like it at Kelsey. They can get their work done better, have smaller groups and there’s more one-o- one time.
Heaton said, “but you have to make that adjustment, to work with large groups. This is where you learn to do that.”

He also spoke about respect. “Be respectful. It’s a two-way street. You want respect, you have to show respect. At this age, you know better, to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”

He also encouraged the students. “You always want to do better. You try to do better. Take advantage of the opportunities you have now.”

Heaton spoke about the importance of communications, admitting it is one of the problems between police and the community. “How you communicate with police depends on if you end up in handcuffs or not,” he said. “Officers are going to be friendly and want to have positive contact.”

Ray Lightner
Griffin Daily News