While at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Va., Jay Parrish talked with officers from Baltimore and St. Louis, two cities that suffered racial turmoil following high-profile deaths involving law enforcement.
“What I realized was that those events don’t unfold because of one event,” said Parrish, who graduated from the FBI’s National Academy in June. “One event is just the dynamite that sets off the fuse that had been burning.”
Parrish, who officially becomes Gainesville Police Department’s deputy chief Monday, said he and Chief Carol Martin must push to create and sustain relationships with the community to ensure no such tragedy befalls Gainesville.
The deputy chief’s 10-week academy took place as events unfolded in Baltimore, where Freddie Gray is believed to have died in police custody.
“When you hear the people that were there talk about it, those relationships didn’t exist,” Parrish said. “The police was this law enforcement arm, this enforcement action arm, and they didn’t really seem to get involved in other community needs.”
Parrish was announced as the deputy chief July 20.
“He’s someone who has obviously set goals for himself since day one and has worked to achieve those goals since day one,” said Sgt. Kevin Holbrook, who has worked with Parrish for more than a decade. “He’s an example of true leadership, because he works hand-in-hand and side-by-side with his employees.”
The appointment process involved an interview with upper city management, Martin and outside police chiefs.
“Deputy Chief Parrish is a dedicated professional that has demonstrated what it takes to help this department uphold the legacy of historic achievements and sacrifices made throughout its history,” Martin said in a statement. “I am confident that Deputy Chief Parrish will make tremendous contributions to this department and to our city, especially those to address the law enforcement challenges of the 21st century.”
After years of work with his father Roger Parrish’s construction company, Jay Parrish looked for something else.
“He told me to find a job that I loved to do, and I’d never work a day in my life,” Jay Parrish said of his father.
Parrish’s interactions with police officers and the rarely missed Saturday night program “Cops” led him to apply with Chief Frank Hooper after finishing school at what was then North Georgia College & State University with a business administration degree.
Following 15 years of work, Parrish said he is disillusioned with TV cop dramas.
“It’s hard not to watch them and see what they’re doing wrong,” he said.
To help with college, Parrish served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, reporting to Parris Island, S.C. two days after finishing high school.
“In life, you are your own captain. You decide your destiny with how much effort you’re going to put in, and you can’t rely on all the other people to fix your problems,” he said.
Parrish’s most recent role with the department was as the captain of the support services bureau. Once imagining he’d never get higher than detective, he said the moves up the ladder taught him the valuable policing skills to engage with the community.
“Handcuffs aren’t always a solution,” Parrish said. “Many times our solutions have to be out of the box.”
The deputy chief credits much of his success to his wife, Katie Parrish, with whom he attempts to do the CrossFit exercise program and has two boys, Grayson, 10, and Wyatt, 5. The promotion, Parrish said, has been humbling.
“It’s a responsibility that stays with you,” he said. “When you go home, it’s on your mind, so there’s a careful balancing act between family and work. But at the same time that Chief Martin would entrust me to be her eyes and ears while she’s away is extremely humbling.”