Despite increasing pressure from groups across the country to characterize police officers as unprofessional or prejudiced, an organization in Newnan is working just as hard to maintain law enforcement morale.
One of the biggest boosters of law enforcement and firefighters is Norma Haynes with the Newnan-Coweta Public Safety Foundation. Haynes is well known for her community activities and especially her love of local public safety personnel.
During the 1980s, Haynes served as the first female bailiff in Coweta superior and state courts. In that work, she saw the need of recognizing the work of public safety personnel. She also saw the need to help these folks in times of medical and financial crisis.
The Newnan-Coweta Public Safety Foundation was formed over 15 years ago in an effort to bring awareness to the community regarding the hard work that first responders do in Coweta County.
Haynes also founded the annual public safety dinner, which now feeds about 250 local public safety workers.
Residents might have noticed blue ribbons popping up across the county. Businesses and homes are now displaying the “Loyal Blue” ribbons to show their support at the foundation’s encouragement.
The blue ribbons are used during Public Safety Week each year to pay tribute to emergency workers, but they are coming out of storage to thank law officers following the recent police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
“It was our hope that when police would drive by, they could see people supporting them,” Haynes said.
The ribbons are designed to show both officers and potential recruits community backing and to counteract the comments and news stories coming from other parts of the country that accuse law enforcement agencies of discrimination and abuse.
Recruiting new officers is a challenge these days. Newnan Police Chief D.L. “Buster” Meadows said recently that it now takes 300-400 applicants to result in one or two good hires, and hiring them is just the first step.
“We’ve had people go through our entire process, and their spouse will put the squelch on it onces it occurs to them they’ll be going out on patrol,” he said.
Sheriff Mike Yeager said that it’s also getting harder and harder to get viable candidates for positions like deputy sheriff.
“Our application base has been down for the last year or more,” he said. “There’s been so much negativity in the media about public safety over the last several years, so I think that has a bigger effect on recruiting than people think.”
While their application stack might not be optimal, Yeager said that it won’t affect their hiring procedures.
“We’re not going to water down our standards,” he said. “We get applicants who are certified and have worked with other agencies, but we have some issues with their background checks, so we don’t pursue them.”
As public-safety agencies are trying to work more with less, the foundation also helps raise money to purchase necessary items for both police and fire departments that isn’t in their budgets.
The foundation was able to purchase four, fully equipped bicycles for both the police and fire departments that are now in service.
The bikes are also designed to respond to situations that might not be well suited for patrol cars, such as parades, events like Taste of Newnan, and the 4th of July fireworks at Drake Stadium.
Last year, the foundation donated $5,780 to the police department to help fund the cost of equipping patrol cars with two Automated External Defibrillators.
Since police officers are often the first emergency personnel to arrive on scene, having the ability to assist a patient in cardiac arrest will allow officers to start the life-support process before paramedics arrive.
“Because something like this isn’t in the budget, it's with deep love and grateful hearts that our foundation can be of help in providing these,” Haynes said. "I wanted our citizens to know just what good things have come from their kind and generous donations."
Clay Neely: firstname.lastname@example.org, @clayneely