Milt PD town hall

Chief Rich Austin (left) and Capt. Jason Griffin speak at a virtual town hall Milton Police held Nov. 12 to answer questions from residents and outline happenings within the department. 

MILTON, Ga. — Milton Police held its second virtual town hall Nov. 12 to give updates on the department and answer questions from residents related to policing in the city. Police Chief Rich Austin and Capt. Jason Griffin, who heads the department’s Uniformed Patrol Division, fielded questions from residents.

One question pertained to how the department would handle civil unrest in Milton should it occur due to political, racial or other reasons.

“We’re very fortunate that this has not been a problem in Milton,” Austin said. “But as with many things in Milton we hope never happen, we have to be prepared. If civil unrest were to occur, officers would arrive, and the first goal would be to deescalate. We’re always, of course, going in with a balance of First Amendment rights and public safety.”

Austin said if need be, Milton Police have officers who have specialized training in such areas, and they have reciprocal agreements with other nearby law enforcement agencies should additional resources be needed.

Capt. Griffin answered a question related to what residents should do if they witness someone having a mental crisis.

“What I would recommend, if there’s something that you believe is going to turn criminal, I would call 911,” Griffin said. “If you would like our officers to go out and just check on somebody, we call it a welfare check, you can call the non-emergency number. Our officers are equipped with multiple resources, mental health resources, contacts they can call, shelters they can call, we do a lot. And they will go the extra mile and not make the person alienated.”

Austin said he wants to know that Milton officers go into those situations with “an attitude to help.”

As the department has grown in recent years, a resident asked about the selection process for new officers.

“It’s very stringent,” Austin said.

The chief said the department analyzes recruits through a background investigation, polygraph investigation and physical and psychological tests. He added that there are also demanding requirements once an officer is hired to serve with Milton Police.

In response to how the department retains those officers, Austin said the city’s new Public Safety Complex is a draw, as are the safety equipment, fleet and benefits offered by the department.

“And the citizens are encouraging and supportive of law enforcement,” Austin said.

Austin also touched on some happenings within the department.

Austin and Griffin fielded questions from the city’s new emergency operations center in the recently opened Public Safety Complex. Both touted the new building, which serves as the department’s headquarters, and said the emergency operations center got its “first workout” during tropical storm Zeta.

Chief Austin said as nationwide police reform discussions have continued, he has fielded many questions on how Milton Police operates. That led to the creation of a police policy FAQ page on the city’s website.

Austin said an 8-member Chief’s Advisory Board comprised of Milton residents has also been founded. While members serve strictly in an advisory role, Austin said their feedback is “invaluable.”

Capt. Griffin outlined some strategies to keep in mind as the holidays approach.

He said a major trend around the holidays is an uptick in car break-ins at homes and in commercial parking lots. He said residents should take valuables out of their cars and lock the doors. If something of value must stay in a car, it should be kept out of sight.

Over the last two years over 80 percent of entering auto cases involved unlocked car doors, Griffin said.

Milton Police also offer vacation checks on homes, accessible through the city’s website, and Griffin suggested residents look into purchasing a video doorbell to deter package thefts.

Video of the town hall can be viewed on Milton Police’s Facebook page, facebook.com/MiltonGAPoliceDepartment/.

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