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Flowery Branch police: A community partnership

Chief stresses training in 1st year in post

POSTED: December 26, 2013 12:32 a.m.


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Flowery Branch Police Chief David Spillers is uncompromising on the point that service to community is the critical thread in a successful connection.

“That focus should never diminish,” said Spillers, who has just completed his first year as chief of the growing community’s police department.

Flowery Branch’s newest chief served under former Chief Gerald Lanich, who retired in August 2012 after a 38-year career in law enforcement. Spillers and Lanich first worked together at the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, where they would compete to surpass goals for citations written.

As patrolmen, they were determined to exceed whatever benchmarks their positions set.

Later as narcotics investigators in Hall, their performance goals changed, but the desire to exceed delivery did not.

“(Drug suspects) used to call it ‘Hell County,’” Spillers said, laughing.

At Lanich’s request, Spillers ultimately landed in Flowery Branch, a former whistle-stop town on a quick growth trajectory. He said he considers Lanich not only a mentor but a close friend.

Spillers’ experience spans from patrolling the streets, covert drug task force investigations, domestic violence and child-related offenses to pushing paper and training people.

There is a certain air about the tenured cop; Witticisms belie heart-rending moments.

Lifting the lifeless body of a child, a casualty of Gainesville’s 1998 tornado, into his arms is one memory on which the edges never quite fade.

As police chief, Spillers’ experience allows him to not only train officers as one who has walked in their shoes, but time has burnished with patience and compassion that sharp edge a successful cop needs.

He is also committed, he said, to go above and beyond continuing education requirements, doubling officers’ training requirements, and encouraging his staff to pursue individual studies to better their work.

Chief Investigator Sgt. Christopher Hulsey has been working with Spillers for about 10 years.

“Chief Spillers was my partner on night shift when I started at Flowery Branch,” said Hulsey. “He has (risen) up the ranks from night-shift patrolman, to a corporal on patrol, to assistant chief, to the chief.”

And Spillers makes succession planning a priority.

Hulsey and Sgt. Jake Xayavong have both attended management schooling, “and I know that several other officers attended specialized classes such as crime scene processing, investigations, narcotics testing, field officer training and courses regarding missing and exploited children and elder abuse.

“This education has really helped the officers to be more attentive and helpful when dealing with the community,” Hulsey said.

“I’m truly honored to be working under Chief David Spillers,” said Xayavong. “He’s given me great guidance and knowledge while working under his command. I admire his hard work in our department and with the community of Flowery Branch.”

“The police department has really progressed in the past year,” Hulsey said. “... It really seems that the police department and the community have become closer than ever.”

In the city considered one of the fastest-growing in North Georgia, according to the most recent census, it’s no longer about just ticket writing, or chasing bad guys; it’s about building and enriching community.

“Our priority, our livelihood relies on public service,” Spillers said.

Of course, citations are part of the job, he said, “but you do not write tickets for revenue purposes. You write citations because they committed a safety violation with their vehicle.”

Traffic tickets — as a byproduct — do produce some revenue, Spillers said , but this represents only about 25-27 percent of Flowery Branch’s budget, he said.

“Forty-five percent of every dollar we collect goes in one way or fashion to the state,” he said, as statutory surcharges.

Citizens want a safe community, he said, and a minimum of conflict.

“In a small community,” he said, “a police department can be any number of those things that the community can count on.

“We wear so many hats — some need advice; some need direction,” he said. “We’re the first step in conflict resolution.

“Often times you hear the poor side of things,” Spillers said, due to media coverage, and do not hear about the cases in which he receives phone calls about an officer’s exemplary work.

“To provide a service to this community is 100 percent of my focus,” said Spillers. “I will fail; I do fail — but I try to use the feedback (from that) — changing if I need to.”

“Chief Spillers’ main focus is to have the police department and the community be more involved with one another,” Hulsey said.

Over the past year, the department sponsored a family lawn concert, “Fiddlin’ at the Tracks,” and joined with residents and merchants during the Shop with a Cop Christmas drive.

“The community really stepped up. ... The community was amazing,” Hulsey said. “The officers really have a great time with the children during Christmastime, even though it’s the busiest time of the year.”

“Chief Spillers is doing a fabulous job leading the police department,” said City Councilman Joe Anglin. “He seems to have made it a mission of his to be actively involved with the community. He is well-spoken, knowledgeable, approachable, efficient, forward-thinking and has been at practically every scheduled council meeting.

“The man does not keep a 8-4 schedule,” continued Anglin. “I regularly see him around town. I think he works from sunrise to sunset and then some. He obviously loves his job and has a heart for the city. He has been a great hire for the city of Flowery Branch.”

“(Community policing is) still the focus,” Spillers said. “There are so many facets to this community. We’ve made some strong changes, but still have miles to go before we sleep.”


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