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head of the Department since Police Commissioner Brian Scott was terminated in August, said the Department is now down by five officers and one dispatcher. He explained the Department is actively trying to hire new employees.
“We have been lucky to gain three new hires, all of which are experienced officers, and two of which are former employees of the Vidalia Police Department,” Jermon said.
The deficit at VPD was evident recently as officers from the area were called on to assist when an Alamo police officer was gunned down on October 9 and a manhunt ensued for the suspect. Officers were asked to join protective efforts in the area and also to escort slain Officer Dylan Harrison’s body from the state crime lab in Atlanta to a funeral home in Dublin.
The VPD was unable to respond to this call for assistance because all of the Department’s on-duty officers were dealing with a local shooting that occurred in Vidalia on October 9 around 2:30 a.m. “The Vidalia Department has received some negative comments about not going to Alamo to help with their situation,” Jermon explained. “We could not spare an officer for that crisis with the crisis of the shooting we were facing in our own backyard. There is not enough of us. We contacted those (departments) around us and Toombs County Sheriff Deputy Nathan Coursey traveled to Alamo to help in our absence.”
Later on October 9, Deputy Coursey was rushing to the scene of a fatal car accident in Normantown when he was involved in an accident that left him with extensive injuries. “This job already puts you in harm’s way,” Jermon commented. “Deputy Coursey’s accident is an example of how trying it is to do all you can for the public and how that act may cause you to become the one that needs help. We are grateful to Deputy Coursey for all he does for the community, and wish him a speedy recovery.”
Local businessman Vincent Drummer, who also addressed the police crisis during the City Council meeting, remarked that the low pay of the Vidalia Police Department is unacceptable. “We advertise our city as being one of the best, but we pay our protection for this city some of the lowest salaries,” he said. “We call these men and women to put themselves in danger to keep us safe; yet, they could be paid the same (salary) to make things in a factory. Their lives are worth more than that.”
Drummer told the Council that he had researched the pay for surrounding cities, including Hazlehurst and Baxley, and found that their pay for officers was higher. He asked the Council to be mindful of this revelation and to consider making changes.
Drummer also commented on officer presence in the community. “The men and women within the police force are mentally and physically exhausted because of the shortage of officers,” he remarked. “Crime is running rampant in our area, and I truly believe it is because people know this, and know there are not enough officers to be everywhere at once.”
He continued to share that this perspective came from his own experience. “A police officer lives in my neighborhood. His patrol car stays parked out in front of his house. Therefore, criminals think twice before committing crime because they know that an officer is in the area.”
Drummer assured the Council that he has appreciation for the work of the Police Department and hopes to see new hires become members of the Department who may provide some much needed relief to the currently overworked officers, as well as broaden the spectrum of police presence within the city to discourage criminals.
According to a recent update from Jermon, two more individuals have made their way through the hiring process and appear to be promising candidates for employment in the Vidalia PD.