COVINGTON, Ga. - There’s an old proverb that reads “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” When Covington Police Department Capt. Craig Treadwell checks out at the end of his tour Wednesday, his nearly 37-year career of service to his city and county may very well epitomize that proverb.
Sitting in his office surrounded by the boxes he’s using to pack up mementoes of his career, the Newton County native said he can’t remember wanting to do anything else.
“All I ever wanted to be is something in public safety,” he said.
CPD commanders talk about Captain Craig Treadwell’s retirement
There is no better testament to a police officer than the opinion of those with whom he serves. As Covington police Capt. Craig Treadwell approaches his last tour on Nov. 1, The Covington News reached out to three members of the CPD command staff for their thoughts on Treadwell’s retirement.
Chief Stacy Cotton called Treadwell “a cop’s cop” and “a caring Superman.”
“Craig is a confident police officer. He’s a cop’s cop. He is always conducting himself and dressed in a sharp and professional manner and he was always tactically sound in everything he did when it came to police work. At the same time he can be one of the most compassionate, caring police officers that I’ve ever seen when it came to dealing with crisis. I’d call it ‘A caring Superman.’
“I never felt like I was his police chief or he was my captain, but that we were together leading this department. We were close in age, we were close friends. For nine years we were on the SWAT team together – we like to say we’ve kicked a lot of doors together. Those were some good times.
Commenting on who will fill the void left in the department with Treadwell’s retirement, Cotton said, “Craig fills it himself. I had the honor of promoting Craig to the position of captain in 1998 when I became police chief and relied heavily on Craig and his attention to detail and ability to mold and shape officers. Craig’s legacy will fill the gap.”
Cotton added, “I think that Craig doesn’t understand the impact that he’s had on the multitude of people within this department and this community. He’s impacted a lot of people and he’s going to be missed, but we’re excited to see him go on to the next step because he’s earned it. He’s carried a lot of people on his shoulders. He’s earned it. He was truly dedicated to this department. He’s been a loyal and dedicated employee.
CPD Capt. Phillip Bradford echoed Cotton’s sentiments.
“I started working at the Covington Police Department in November 1985 at the age of 18. I worked in the jail and Craig Treadwell was the supervisor over the street patrol officers on my shift. He began teaching me a skill set at that point in my career when he wasn’t even my supervisor. He invested in me as a young employee and helped me to grow in the job throughout the years.
“Over the 32 years I have worked with Craig I have seen him invest in the lives so many people. Not only in the Police Department but citizens he would meet on the street.
“If you speak Craig Treadwell’s name across our profession and in our community, no one ever has anything bad to say about him. It’s always a story of a good deed or something Craig had taught them along the way.
Capt. Ken Malcom added, “I was blessed to have had the opportunity to work with Craig Treadwell. I learned so much from him, especially early in my career. Craig can walk away from his tour of duty here knowing that he made a difference and served his community well.”
After starting at age 18 in 1981 as a jailer and radio operator with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, Treadwell was promoted to road deputy after about four months.
Then, in February 1982, during his first month on the road, he was shot in the leg during a gunfight with a couple of wanted men from South Carolina in a stolen truck on Highway 81 north of Oxford. While he said it wasn’t his scariest moment on the job, it was a learning experience he would carry with him his entire career.
It also confirmed in his mind his career choice.
“I’ve been way more scared since then,” he said. “But that was one of the better learning experiences I ever had. I realized right then that this is a dangerous job; you’ve got to be careful. You can’t take anything for granted. I think it probably saved my life dozens of times since then.
“My mom asked me at the hospital that day, ‘Are you going to quit now? Are you going to find another job?’
“I said, ‘No, ma’am. I actually want to do it more, now.’”
After the shooting, Treadwell said he decided to make law enforcement his career and started to look at other agencies.
“I started looking at Covington police. I had to make a hard decision. It’s the hardest decision I ever made in my life — leaving the sheriff’s department and coming here — because I had a really good job at the sheriff’s department.”
Treadwell joined CPD in August 1982, working on the evening watch. He said he’s never looked back.
After working in patrol for three years, he applied for promotion to lieutenant in 1985.
“I actually got promoted to lieutenant in 1985. I had only been here three years,” he said. “I was a night shift lieutenant at 22.
“My first captain was Billy Joe Hewell. He had just been promoted to captain and I just got promoted to lieutenant and I don’t think I could have worked for a better supervisor or leader. He is a people person and he taught me a lot about working with people and dealing with people. Treating people the way you want to be treated. It’s gone a long way.”
In 1988, Treadwell transferred to narcotics. He worked there from 1988 until the early part of 1990. In 1990, CPD and the sheriffs in the area got together and formed the multi-agency East Metro Drug Enforcement Team.
Treadwell was one of the first agents assigned to the team and served until 1993 when he went to the FBI Academy for the first three months that year.
After the Academy, he returned to CPD to work in the Criminal Investigations Division. He worked there from April 1993 through 1998. Along the way, he enrolled in Mercer University and earned his bachelor’s degree. Chief Stacy Cotton promoted him to captain in 1998.
After making captain, Treadwell returned to the East Metro Team as commander until 2004. After returning to CPD, he commanded at different times CID and the Patrol Division. Most recently, he has commanded the department’s Support Services Division.
“I’ve actually had the command of every division in the police department,” he said.
For the last five years, he has also served as the department’s public information officer, working with media outlets, including The Covington News, to get information to the public.
Late in our conversation, Treadwell admitted he was uncomfortable talking about his career. The admission is testament to his leadership and attitude toward the job he gave his life to.
“It’s been a really good career here,” he said. “But I don’t like talking a whole lot about ‘I.’ I’m really uncomfortable talking about ‘my’ career because it’s a lot of ‘I’s.
“Most of my career has been about ‘we’ — we as a department, we as a shift when I was a patrol lieutenant, we as a division when I was a division commander, or in the drug unit. We, when I was a SWAT team commander. It’s been a lot of working with good people, that’s what’s made me successful.”
Treadwell also praised the leadership of commanders he has worked for.
“Chief (Bob) Moody was my first chief, and I learned so much from him. And the captains I had - Captain (Barney) Anglin, who hired me, Captain Hewell, who really gave me a good foundation as far as being a supervisor and a good leader. People like Joe Nichols, who I worked for at the sheriff’s department, and Charlie Smith and Steve Gunnells that were my good friends and mentors coming up through my early years.
“I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to have those people to keep me pointed in the right direction.
“Chief Cotton has been a good friend and a good chief. I’ve been a captain under his department for almost 20 years here.”
When asked what he would miss most, Treadwell gave an expected answer.
“What I’m going to miss the most is the ‘we,’” he said. “Just working day in and day out with these people to get the job done.”
When asked what he would miss least, he struggled for an answer.
“Probably the long hours and just not being enough of us to go around,” he said. “It’ll be nice being able to decide what my schedule will be.”
Toward the end of our talk, Treadwell talked about the community.
“It’s changed a lot, but all in all, I think we’ve got a very good community and I think the community is behind this Police Department,” he said. ”The Police Department has been a big part of this community over the years. I’ve seen it and I’ve felt it when I’ve been out there working it.
“When people call for you by name when they call the Police Department, they want to talk to you, because they feel like you’re the person that’s going to get something done for them. You can go out in their community and find what their issues are and go and help them with it.
“I don’t know of anything that speaks any higher for a department than that.”