Two local police chiefs on Friday told members of the Legislature’s Carroll County delegation what they’d like to see pursued in the coming legislative assembly sessions.
Carrollton Police Chief Joel Richards and Villa Rica Police Chief Michael Mansour met with District 18 Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, District 68 Rep. Dustin Hightower, R-Carrollton, and District 69 Rep. Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, at the Carroll County Courthouse.
The discussion touched on several issues, but much of the meeting concerned synthetic drugs and school safety, on the forefront of the attendees’ minds after Friday morning’s tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
Cooke said legislation on synthetic drugs will be a “top-level agenda item” in the upcoming session in January.
Lawmakers have had trouble legislating the substances recently, with new compounds coming out every few months.
“We’ve got to stay ahead of the curve on this somehow,” Mansour said. “There’s constantly new stuff coming out because as soon as something can be made illegal, there’s this new formula that’s being sold that is legal.”
Cooke agreed, sharing the problems that legislators have faced with the drugs.
“We’ll pass a bill every year, but these companies just stay ahead,” he said. “They come up with a new compound that can’t be tested for.”
Coke said he and his colleagues will be looking for ways to get at synthetics, without hurting other industries that deal with similar compounds.
“We want to get after the synthetics, but not get caught up in other unintended consequences for other industries that deal in that, particularly the pharmaceutical industries,” Cooke said.
Richards said he’s found some success in targeting the local centers of distribution, particularly convenience stores that peddle the synthetic drugs.
“We’ve put a fear in some of these storeowners, so they’re afraid to sell it,” Richards said. “It all goes back to starting with them — the people who sell it. That’s where cities can get involved — say, if you sell these, you’ll lose your business license.”
Cooke stressed that the issue will be addressed, and that the governor’s office has been on board “since day one.”
As for school safety, Richards told the representatives that the lines of communication between a school system and a police department must be strong to prevent or respond to quickly a situation in which police are necessary.
“If police departments and schools do not work together, it’s going to be detrimental in the long run,” Richards said.
Richards expressed concerns on unreported offenses, including one specific example of a fight between a boy and girl at a local high school that the police were not aware of until the girl’s father came to the police station.
“And it’s not against the law for them to not report that to the police department,” Richards said. “The only things they have to report are aggravated assault if a firearm is present, aggravated battery, any sexual offense, carrying a weapon and having marijuana or a controlled substance.”
Nix agreed with the police chief, saying that when things are “swept under the rug” it can lead to larger problems.
“They’ve got these things that aren’t big deals that go unreported, and then all of a sudden, you have something major come along that is a big deal,” Nix said.
The police chiefs asked the representatives for “common sense” legislation on what can, should and must be reported.
Friday’s Delegation Day, Hightower said, was something he brought back to Carroll County shortly after his election to the District 68 seat, after several years of not having one.
The meetings, held all day Friday, gave local community leaders from law enforcement, government and schools the chance to meet with their legislators face-to-face.
“It’s a positive day, even if the discussions can get a little heated,” Hightower said. “That’s what this is all about — keeping an open debate.”