Behind the Badge: A Day in the Life of Snellville PD
Officer Neal Carter shares the technological advances Snellville Police have made, along with some personal experiences that have shaped his career as an officer.
Neal Carter, a Snellville Police officer for six years now, was hired straight out of Columbus State University. A Lilburn native and Parkview graduate, Carter considers the police force his extended family.
Aside from the camaraderie and personal relationships he has formed with the force, Carter firmly believes that Snellville Police are some of the top in the nation. Not only do they have more officers per square mile than county police, they also have top-notch technology to assist them in fighting crime.
Snellville is divided into four separate zones and each zone has one officer per shift. One zone laid out for Gwinnett County Police, on the other hand, often encompasses the size of the entire city of Snellville. This means that Snellville officers are able to respond quickly and efficiently no matter where you’re calling from, as long as you're inside city limits.
Technology as a crime fighting tool
Two new pieces of technology have changed the way police officers do their jobs over the past couple of years. The first is the ability to check a suspect’s criminal history immediately, instead of having to call it in over the radio. As long as the suspect has a new driver’s license, an officer can pull up their picture. If they don’t have ID on them and give a false name, the officer will immediately know.
The second is something called Rapid ID, which has been around for about a year or so. Snellville PD has six of these machines, with one for each shift.
If a suspect has been arrested in Georgia within the past ten years, an officer can take his picture, swipe his fingerprints on the Rapid ID system and pull up his criminal history. The machine will tell the officer whether the suspect has any outstanding warrants, if they're on parole, or on the sex offender registry.
“We used to joke that shows like CSI Miami made it look like we all had these resources, when we didn’t,” said Carter. “But now, we’re getting there.”
Carter recalled an incident where Rapid ID came in particularly useful. A mentally disabled man was caught stealing at a dollar store in town. He had no identification on him, nor was he able to tell officers who he was.
“We found out he was missing from a group home in Grayson,” said Carter.
Because he had a criminal history, they were able to find out who he was immediately. Before Rapid ID, the man would have been identified as a John Doe, and it would have taken hours at the jail to determine who he was.
And here’s a tip for you: because of this technology, officers can determine immediately if you’re driving with a suspended or revoked license. That offense results in a trip to the jail, immediately, every time. So don’t do it.
Building bridges, changing lives
Although Ofc. Carter often catches people on their worst day, he does love his job. He’s only called out once in all the years he’s been working. Despite that, there are calls that stand out in his mind that he wishes he didn’t have to take. For instance, he was the first to respond on the day Heather Strube was brutally murdered by her mother-in-law in the Target parking lot.
He recalled finding Strube, and all the blood at the scene. He remembers discovering there was a child in the backseat of the car, a one-year-old.
Ofc. Carter now has a one-year-old of his own. The memory still disturbs him.
In an arrest that was less violent, but no less difficult, a young single mother was caught shoplifting at Walmart.
“I didn’t enjoy taking a preschool teacher to jail for $70 worth of costumes for her daughter,” he said. “She just made a stupid decision.”
Ofc. Carter is proud to serve and protect, and wants the citizens of Snellville, including the youngest ones, to never be afraid of the police force. To that end, he participates in community events like Hero Night at Chick-fil-a, speaks at local neighborhood meetings and shows up at various events to allow people to get to know him on a personal level.
“I want kids to come to us for anything,” he said, “and to not be afraid of us. We’re not the bad guys.”
That’s something that Snellville Police are pretty good at.
Programs like the Snellville Citizen’s Police Academy, which just graduated its fourteenth class, build bridges between citizens and officers, while events like the annual Shop with a Cop program show children the best side of police officers.
During the Shop with a Cop event, officers, the Snellville Citizen’s Police Academy Alumni Association and Police Explorers were able to shop with 20 families, including 33 children, and provide them with Christmas gifts of their choosing (see photos).
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