RINCON — It is a year of change for the Rincon Police Department.
Chief Mark Gerbino has his entire staff focusing community policing.
"We'll focus more now on community-oriented policing and community interaction,” Gerbino said. “In addition to providing a safe environment for our community, we're starting community programs that are really validating."
The first initiative in this program is a Drug Enforcement Administration drug drop-off. The department at 107 W. 17th St. has a special vault for depositing drugs that are turned in and can be dropped off on Saturdays.
The next initiative is called Rincon Home Watch, which will be rolled out over the next few months. It includes the addition of a patrol officer position who will manage community oriented policing outreaches and back up the day patrol.
Kelli Powers will be the new community resource officer. She will be the face of the program to the public.
Lt. Jonathon Murrell, a veteran of nine years on the Rincon Police Department, said, "I will basically oversee the community outreach program."
Another new initiative will be the Chaplain program. Chaplains from local churches will ride one night a month with officers and visit the community.
It’s also a conduit for police to get into the churches. The program will help officers get more comfortable talking with local clergy, providing a two-way communication path.
Coffee with a Cop is another initiative that is due to begin soon and will provide a way on a regular basis for community members to talk with the police. They meetings will start at Starbucks in Kroger and then be moved around to different venues. This will help people put a name to the officers’ badges.
The Rincon Police Department is also getting new tag readers as another tool to keep our roads and highways safe. In just seconds, a patrol officer will know if a vehicle is unregistered, stolen or has a warrant.
Currently, the Rincon Police Department is allotted 21 sworn-officer positions but has seven openings. Gerbino said that recruitment of new officers is going well in large part due to working with area police academies, including one at Savannah Technical College.
Two part-time positions were also created, including a property room custodian and a public information officer. Gena Sullivan, the PIO at the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, will serve Rincon in a part-time capacity, working with area media and the community.
Gerbino said there are many advantages for recruits to choose working in a smaller agency like Rincon’s. One big factor, he said, is that smaller agencies have to do a little bit of everything so there are more opportunities to learn and grow as an officer.
One other opportunity that has opened up for the department is that a GBI officer will be able to use its headquarters as a part-time field office, providing great benefits to Gerbino’s department and the GBI. Gerbino's team has just completed building an interview room complete with soundproof walls. The entire office is being painted and new cameras are being installed.
Gerbino welcomes the community getting in touch with the department. The main telephone number is 912-826-5200.