It wasn’t that he and some of his officers have been invited three times to train the Republic of Georgia’s police in response to domestic violence and active shooter incidents that made Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton proud.
What made him proud was seeing techniques the Eastern European country’s law enforcement officers adopted after visiting the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s offices in Atlanta. Thanks to Cotton and his officers, officers in the Republic of Georgia also have the chance to learn from officers in Covington, Georgia.
“It’s a point of pride to me when I tour their crime lab and the director showed us all the things they patterned after the GBI,” Cotton said. “We toured their medical examiner offices and the influence of [the GBI’s] medical examiner here.
They pattern it all after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”
That’s not too much of a surprise. Last year, Vernon Keenan of the GBI invited some metro Atlanta police chiefs to visit the Republic of Georgia. While in the country’s capital, Tbilisi, Mike Turner, formerly with the Monroe Police Department and now serving as an international narcotic liaison with the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) asked if Cotton would be interested in returning to Georgia to teach their police whatever they needed.
Cotton said, “Yes”.
Last November, Cotton traveled with Covington Police Department Capt. Philip Bradford to train officers how to respond to domestic violence situations. In April, Bradford and Capt. Ken Malcom returned to offer training in dealing with active shooter incidents, a topic that Cotton said was important in the wake of the bombings in Belgium in March 2016 and the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015.
A second class in active shooting training was led by Cotton and Lt. Al Miller this July. “Their focus [the Georgian police] moved from domestic violence to terrorist/active shooter response.
A young police force
It’s necessary, he said, because in the wake of the Rose Revolution in November 2003, a peaceful, pro-Western takeover of government, President Mikhail Saakashvili fired 30,000 members of the national police due to widespread corruption and leftover Soviet attitudes.
“The State Department worked really hard with them to modernize their police departments,” Cotton said. “The GBI did a lot of work with them.”
The State Department offered provided grant money so the Republic of Georgia’s police could be further trained.
“They’ve had to hire so many people so fast over the last 11 years, the academy [training] has been abbreviated,” Cotton said. “There are a lot of details left out that [officers] have to go back and do in-service training.
“A lot of what we’re trying to do is focus on basics,” Cotton said.
Expanding basic training, Cotton said, include, for the course in domestic violence response, teaching officers to be practical when they approach a building.
“The officer’s safety is involved,” Cotton said. “We were teaching them how to recognize domestic violence with an eye towards officer safety.”
INL had brought the lack of officer safety awareness to the trainer’s attention. “We teach good officer safety practices throughout the whole training,” Cotton said.
“The thing that stands out most to me, in law enforcement is their desire to be a modern police department,” he said. “The desire to distance themselves from the former Soviet Union is prevalent. They are doing everything they can to be a modern police department.”
A beautiful country
In 327, the Republic of Georgia became one of the earliest European countries to convert to Christianity. The language, part of the Kartvelian languages indigenous to the Caucasus Mountains, is one of the 26 original languages and the alphabet predates the Cyrillic alphabet used in the Russian language.
Cotton said that archeological discoveries outside of the capital of Tbilisi indicate that humans left Africa 300,000 earlier than previously thought. The oldest remnants of wine-making have also been discovered in Georgia, Cotton said. “They believe wine production may have been in that area.
“They are very proud of their heritage and their history,” Cotton said. “The culture is really old because of its location and because of the region.”
Georgians are also working to regain their identity, Cotton said. “It goes back to the root of their desire to be a Democratic society. They’ve been rebuilding since 1993 [after the collapse of the U.S.S.R.].”
Cotton has been asked to return and teach in Batumi, a coastal town on the Black Sea. He will be teaching a class on women in policing in March. Malcolm will be returning to teach another workshop in October.
“Like with any of my international travels with the police department, I’ve learned that no matter where you go in the world, people are the same; our issues are the same,” Cotton said. “For the most point, we want to live our lives, raise our children, work, worship our god, however that may be, and we want our governments to lead us alone.”