Rookie Braquel Streifthau

Smyrna Heroes Gala

Rookie Braquel Streifthau says she has “always been passionate about a career in law enforcement,’ in part because she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps, a Captain at the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Department.  To that aim, in college she worked toward a degree in Criminal Justice. In order to get her “foot in the door,” she also worked as a Cobb County 911 call taker and dispatcher. But she always knew her avocation was to be on the other side of the radio,” so she anxiously waited until she was old enough “to get into the academy.” 

Her hard work and focus paid off: She became a Smyrna Police Officer March 20, 2013. She is currently in the Field Training Program, riding with an experienced officer as she undergoes a minimum of 42 work-days “to learn the fundamentals of policing.” 

“So far,” reports Streifthau, “I love the job and enjoy coming to work. It’s great to know that even as a new police officer, [I] have a police family that supports, encourages, and helps [me] in any way then can.”  When comparing this job to her previous one working in 911, she observes, ‘As a police officer, you aren’t just dealing with people on the phone for an emergency; you meet a variety of people on the streets that are willing to talk or approach you and thank you for serving and protecting their city.” 

Streifthau takes a long view on police work. “In every city everywhere,” she believes, “there are troubled citizens that you come to work to help; that’s why law enforcement has been in existence for so long.”  And her hope? “I’m sure just in my few months on the road I hopefully have made a difference in someone’s life and not known it. I will continue coming to work and doing what I’m being trained to do for that reason.”

Thank you Office Streifthau for bringing your commitment and enthusiasm to our community.

By Karen Carter

Meet Detective Andrew Grubb (SPD)

Smyrna Heroes Gala

Meet Detective Andrew Grubb (SPD)

“Policing is a calling,” said Detective Andrea Grubb of the SPD. The 12-year veteran (3 years in Smyrna) reported his interest in this career began in high school. With single-minded focus he headed for that goal, earning a bachelor of science in Criminology, accepting a position in the Douglasville Police Department, then moving to Smyrna.

Grubb is proud to be part of the Smyrna community. He is a homeowner in Smyrna and “feels a connection to the community beyond work.” He has seen Smyrna grow “to a location that folks are proud to live in.” That feeling of community, he explains, means citizens “are more likely to become involved and try to improve their town.” In fact, he strongly believes “Smyrna is going to continue to grow and prosper as people continue to realize they can enjoy all that a small local government has to offer while being only minutes outside Atlanta.”

The demands of his work can be emotional as well as physical and technical; and Detective Grubb’s compassion shows during those times. An example: he once responded to a death call. The caller’s wife of 60 years had died unexpectedly during the night. The husband’s son was on his way, but it would be an hour before he arrived to help. Detective Grubb remained with the husband “to comfort him so he wouldn’t be alone.” When reflecting on that experience, he offered “I did nothing more than sit and listen to him talk about his wife, but I felt like I did more good in that one hour than I had in the last five years.”

Of course, extensive training is a part of every officer’s career. In addition to his degree in Criminology, Grubb also has nearly 2,000 hours of specialized training that includes SWAT, Clandestine Lab Investigator, Field Training Office, Undercover Operations, and DUI Detection. And speaking of DUI detection, Grubb recalled a 911 call about someone driving a golf cart down Cumberland Boulevard about 2:00 a.m. “Given that this adventure was most likely alcohol fueled,” Grubb continued, “I went to the first place most drunks go at that time in the morning.” He found the golf-cart driver carrying a pack of beer, pulled up to a 24-hour McDonald’s drive through. “He won a trip to jail for the poor decision,” Grubb explained, and concluded by adding, “Yes, folks, you can get a DUI on a golf cart.”

Grubb sees a bright future for himself in Smyrna. He believes that the community will continue to grow and improve, and as it does “the Police Department and opportunities therein will improve as well.”

Thank you, Detective Grubb, for your investment in our community’s growth and working to help keep it safe.

by Karen Carter

KENNETH DURDUN (SFD)

Smyrna Heroes Gala

KENNETH DURDUN (SFD): PROUD TO BE A PART OF A TEAM THAT HAS SO MUCH IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY.

“I’ve never had a bad reaction,” said Firefighter/paramedic Kenneth Durdun, “when I tell people I’m a firefighter.” Durdun believes “There’s a certain mystique to the profession,” and he immediately senses an element of trust and respect for his occupation. “It’s not everybody’s job,” he added, “when you have the potential to make an impact in an emergency or make a child smile.”

Durdun became interested in firefighting when he was having a home built in 1993 in Paulding County. The builder had gathered up scraps of material and set them afire—then left the scene. A brush fire erupted. Durdun just happened to arrive at the house to check on the builder’s progress; he saw the fire and called the fire department, which was manned by volunteers. After the volunteers extinguished the fire, they all got to talking about firefighting. Soon Durdun became a volunteer firefighter himself for the small community.Till on the job today, Durdun’s a 16-year veteran, with about 1-1/2 years in Smyrna. Durdun’s enthusiasm for his job still shows. “Each upward step in my career, whether it is a new certification or completing training on a specific piece of equipment is exciting to me,” he explained with a grin. He’s proud to be part of a team “that can have so much impact on a person or a community.” He looks forward each day to “seeing a need and trying to provide for it.”

One such need Durdun sees is the importance of Fire Safety Education for children, another aspect of his job that he enjoys. He likes that he’s instrumental in helping children become acquainted with firefighters and what to do in an emergency. When he’s called to a fire where children are involved, he understands that “They’re scared enough already.” And, he said, he doesn’t want them “to be scared of the firefighters, too.”

Durdun lives on a private lake and unwinds from his job by spending a lot of time on the lake with his wife of 23 years and his 3 children, skiing or just “hanging out on the dock.” He also enjoys “putting a hundred miles or so in the rearview mirror of my motorcycle.”

Durdun is grateful for the support of the Smyrna Public Safety Foundation (SPSF) and its community outreach programs, the annual holiday “Shop with a Hero” program for area underprivileged children, and with funds that help injured or disabled firefighters.

Thank you Firefighter Durdun for your enthusiasm and involvement in our community.

By Karen Carter

Meet SFD Hero Brannon Whatley

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Meet SFD Hero Brannon Whatley: “A career in the Fire Service is rewarding.”

When asked what attracted him to a career as a firefighter, Brannon Whatley responded that “the team-oriented atmosphere while helping a community in keeping safe led me to begin and enjoy a career in public safety.”  Like many “heroes” in the Smyrna Fire Department, Whatley, too, finds immense job satisfaction in knowing he plays a role in protecting his community.  The ethic of “service” runs deep within the SFD.

Whatley’s proud to serve as a firefighter. He understands that frequently firefighters encounter people at some of the worse times of their lives, and he appreciates when “Citizens acknowledge your dedication and hard work in helping them during emergency situations.”  Whatley has been a firefighter for 6 years, with about 4 years inSmyrna. His training includes a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences and certification as a Paramedic and Hazmat Technician.

Like many Smyrna firefighters and police officers, Whatley, too, appreciates what the Smyrna Public Safety (SPSF) does for the Fire and Police Departments and the community at large. One of the most important programs the SPSF provides, in Whatley’s estimation, is the benevolent fund that helps sick and injured public safety workers.

And another of his favorite programs funded by the SPSF is the annual holiday “Shop with a Hero” day.Smyrnafire and police “heroes” take area disadvantaged children to lunch and then shopping at local retailers. With funds provided by the SPSF, these children, with the officers’ help, purchase items for themselves and their families. Such is the economic situation of many of these children that they happily buy themselves toothpaste, toiletries, school supplies, and other necessary items that are beyond their families’ budgets. They also frequently buy gifts for themselves and their families to brighten what might otherwise be a dreary holiday season. Both the children and Smyrna’s police and fire “heroes” enjoy this outing, which would not be possible without the SPSF.

Whatley concluded by observing that “A career in the Fire Service is rewarding. It has led to building a second family, meeting great people and having close friends.”

Thank you, Firefighter Whatley, for your commitment in serving and protecting this community.

By Karen Carter

SPD “Hero” Corporal Anthony Montrose

Smyrna Heroes Gala

Meet SPD “Hero” Corporal Anthony Montrose who says “Smyrna suits me just fine.”

Support Corporal Montrose and all of Smyrna’s fire, police, and safety employees at this year’s Smyrna Heroes Gala on 9.8.12 at historic Brawner Hall on Atlant

a Road. Get tickets here or atwww.SmyrnaHeroesGala.com. Meanwhile, meet one of the SPD’s finest, Corporal Anthony Montrose:

“Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a police officer,” reported Anthony Montrose of the SPD. “I just couldn’t see myself in a cubicle.” He couldn’t face “the same thing everyday”; instead it’s the unknown that attracts him, the potential for something different happening every day. “I don’t like the mundane,” he commented. And rather than being cooped up in an office, he prefers being outside. “The heat, the cold, they don’t bother me,” he said, adding, after a pause, “Well, the rain does.”

As a corporal with the SPD, Montrose “looks after the younger guys.” SPD supervisors rely on the corporals to monitor and direct critical situations, calling the detectives out and keeping their fingers on the pulse of the SPD.

“The training never stops,” Montrose said. “Things are changing all the time; there’s new case law” that requires rethinking current police policies and considering new ones. Just about every factor that affects the law, can affect the SPD, Montrose observed, all the way from Supreme Court decisions to interdepartmental SPD guidelines.

A 20-year veteran, Montrose has been with the SPD 17 years. His previous training includes 11 years in the army military police, with missions in both Greece and Germany, locations that spurred his interest in travel. Before Montrose came to the SPD, he was also 3 years with the MARTA force, but decided “that wasn’t the kind of policing I wanted to do.” Smyrna suits him just right, he observed.

Montrose likes his solitude to unwind. His policy on his down time? “Don’t bring the job home; you have to get away from it.” He reads avidly, bikes on the Silver Comet trail, watches television, goes to the movies, travels. “I deal with people all day,” he reported, “so I like to spend time with myself.”

Thank you, Corporal Montrose, for being a part of our community.

By Karen Carter

Chad Almond, SPD Hero, 9-1-1 System Coordinator

Smyrna Heroes Gala

Chad Almond, SPD Hero, 9-1-1 System Coordinator: “If I can’t fix it, I make sure to get it fixed.”

Chad Almond came to Smyrna’s Police Department fresh out of high school 24 years ago. Over those years he has seen many changes in the way the SPD handles 9-1-1 calls and all the technical aspects of communications within the Department. He’s the 911 Systems Coordinator, a position he worked up to over the years and, in some respects, actually built for himself as technological improvements both increased and complicated communications for the Department.

He started as a Dispatcher. “I was always nosey,” he explained. “If something didn’t work, I tried to fix it.” Over the years he became better and better at fixing problems, which led to his position of being responsible for the technical aspects of the communication systems and making sure they work. His responsibilities run the gamut of the SPD from 911 calls to internal communications to the mobile terminals in the individual mobile units and beyond.

He loves his job, and it shows. His face lights up as he talks about the many changes he’s experienced and worked with over the last 24 years. Getting outside technical support when he needs it is probably his biggest frustration. “I don’t like having a problem in front of me that I can’t resolve,” he reported; and he hates to wait on someone else’s time schedule for addressing the problem. So he watches and learns when he must call IT in to help, and the next time he sees that problem, “I can fix it and save the City a few bucks.”

He enjoys working with the various officers and their complaints about the system. “First I have to recognize what [the officers’] abilities are,” he explained, “and go from there” in resolving the issues they bring to his attention. He explains to them “what the system can do” and how the officer can use it.

Almond is solidly connected to the community and has a long history of donating his time and talents to different causes. He organizes charity events, for example, particularly motorcycle rides to benefit injured officers, to fight cancer, Huntington’s disease, and other notable causes. He’s currently working on 2 different rides. “I get caught up in the middle, the excitement of people coming together,” he reported. “I want to help people in their times of need.”

Thank you Chad Almond for your boundless enthusiasm and skills in helping our community.

By Karen Carter

Officer Chris Graeff (SPD)

Smyrna Heroes Gala

Officer Chris Graeff (SPD): Helping others in need.
“I’ve been interested in becoming a police officer since my early teens,” saod Chris Graeff.  “When I was 13, I thought it was a really cool job,” he continued.  “You can drive fast and carry a gun.”  As he matured, however, he learned that being a police officer meant much more. Police officers frequently encounter people at one of
the worse times in their lives, and as Graeff commented, “I can help people who truly need help.”
Graeff came to the Smyrna PD about a year ago. He finds rewards in his career. He offered an example that occurred at his previous posting withCobbCounty: he arrested an individual who later actually thanked him for the arrest.  This arrest involved a call Graeff answered about a man and women actively fighting, both aggressors in the situation.  As he learned, the woman also battled an alcohol problem.  He arrested both individuals, and the woman was subsequently sentenced to some jail time.  While in jail, she sobered up.  Upon her release she started attending meetings for her alcohol addiction.  Later, Graeff was on a call in her neighborhood on an unrelated matter.  The woman recognized Graeff, approached him, and thanked him for arresting her.  It was the start on her road to sobriety; a much-needed (and appreciated, as it turned out) wake-up call.
To maintain balance in his life, Graeff requires a “clear separation between my personal and professional lives.”  His 4-year old daughter is a key factor in that separation.  They spend time going to the park, kid’s museums, and the zoo.  “I forget about everything else,” he said.  “Making her happy is my #1 priority.”

Groeff’s 1000+ hours of training include training in DUIs, interviews and interrogations, and LIDAR (speed detection device).  He also has Active Shooter and Advanced Firearms Training.  He’s trained in CPR, commenting that people may be surprised to learn “how many times police officers come upon a medical situation.” He looks forward to earning a position with more responsibility, perhaps federally, perhaps in investigation such as robbery/homicide.
Welcome to our community, Officer Graeff, and thank you for bringing your skills to the SPD.

By Karen Carter

Barbara Johnson (SPD), 911 Supervisor

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Hero Barbara Johnson (SPD), 911 Supervisor: Answering the Call 

Barbara Johnson, 911 Supervisor, has seen a lot of action in her 29 years of service. She’s been with the Smyrna PD for 12 years, answering 911 calls and directing the action that addresses those calls.  Hers can be a stressful job. Her husband is a police officer, so between them, they certainly understand that stress is an integral part of their respective jobs.

            “You just have to handle it,” Johnson reports.  Her job is unpredictable; sometimes she fields “hundreds of calls” an hour; other times maybe only 10-15.  “It just depends on what happens.” Not everyone can handle the stressors of this high-pressure position. In fact, some dispatchers left after only one shift, despite intensive training in preparation for the position.

            Johnson has proven time and again that she can handle the position. In fact, one of her proudest moments as a 911 dispatcher came when she worked for the Illinois State Police fielding 2 sets of calls: one channel dealing with an air pursuit, and a second channel handling a completely separate ground pursuit.  “I’ve always been really good at my job,” she explained when asked about the difficulty of dealing so capably with 2 entirely different circumstances and officers throughout the course of the pursuits.  “I took it in stride.”  Both cases were resolved successfully, she concluded: “We got them both.” She was rewarded for her efforts with a nomination for Dispatcher of the Year.

            Johnson draws upon her 29 years of service when she observes, “Crime isn’t what it used to be. It’s much worse now.” She sees more armed robberies, more homicides and home invasions. To relax, she and her police-officer husband “do everything together,” from quietly relaxing in at home, their refuge from the stress, to going to movies and traveling together.  They look forward to retirement in a few years when they’ll move toFlorida.

            Thank you, Supervisor Johnson, for answering our calls.

By Karen Carter

Eric Smith (SPD)

Smyrna Heroes Gala

            Officer Eric Smith (SPD) connected to the Smyrna Community

“I’ve noticed a shift since 9/11,” Eric Smith observed.  “It seems more people     come up and say ‘Hi’ than previously.”  The SPD is “close knit,” he said, and it feels a deep “relationship with the community.”  This sense of community is reinforced, therefore, when “random people” greet him, and he is appreciative of the community’s efforts on his behalf.

As a child, Smith frequently visited relatives in Maine, where he had a police officer uncle.  The excitement of the job interested him, and “catching bad guys seemed like fun.”  Smith’s uncle allowed him to drive the police car at about 8 years old and he also “played with the lights and sirens.”  His interest blossomed from there.  Smith has been a police officer for over 11 years now with 7 years of service in Smyrna.

Smith looked forward to the 2011 Smyrna Auction for Heroes Gala on 9.10.11.  Unlike his day-to-day experiences dealing with the public, the Gala “allows us to meet the community at a good time, having fun.”  Proceeds benefit the SPSF and the many programs and services it funds, and “In these bad economic times,” Smith observed, “any dollars are appreciated.”  The community involvement behind the Gala impressed Smith: “We know the community cares, and it’s good to see that.”

“I’m a spiritual person,” Smith says.  His faith, family, and fellow police officers sustain him when he experiences what he calls “shocks to the conscience,” particularly horrific experiences such as the death of a child.  “We see people at the worst time in their lives,” he adds, and “faith that everything will be ok” is a crucial aspect of him getting through these times.

Smith was Rookie of the Year for 2003-04, and his training includes as a POST Certified General Instructor, POST Certified Field Training Officer, POST Certified Peace Officer, POST Certified Jailor, and Certified Jail Tactical Response Team training.

Thank you, Officer Smith, for being an important part of our community.

By Karen Carter

Michael Smith SPD

Smyrna Heroes Gala

A Story of Gratitude for SPD Officer Michael Smith

It’s an unfortunate aspect of police work that “90% of the time we deal with the 10% of the populace that causes trouble,” says Michael Smith.  “We give people tickets; we arrest them and take them to jail,” he continues.  “So it’s a rare moment when someone comes up and thanks us.”  UnlikeSmyrnafirefighters who frequently receive kudos from grateful residents,Smyrnapolice officers may spend their shifts in an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility.

But such is not always the case.  Smith recalls an incident that took place one Christmas season: “It’s our goal,” he relates, “to get through the holiday season without someone’s door being kicked in and all the residents’ money and gifts stolen.”  But that’s exactly what happened one Christmas Eve day when aSmyrnafamily was absent from their home.  The family was devastated and called the police, but the officers could do little for the family at that time other than take the report.

Back at the station after investigating the break-in, the officers involved that day, including Smith, passed the hat and were able to collect $500 from officers on duty.  They went shopping for the kids, buying presents, and even had some money left over to give to the parents to help with their holiday celebration.  But the story doesn’t end there.

About 8 months later, Smith was called to aSmyrnaschool for a disturbance.  As he was investigating, he noticed a little girl hanging around him.  He smiled at her, and she said, “You don’t remember me, do you Officer Smith?”  He responded, “No, sweetie, I’m sorry, I don’t.  Where did we meet?”  As soon as she started telling him of a Christmas Eve break-in, he immediately remembered the situation.  He asked her, “Did you have a good Christmas.”  She smiled and responded, “Yes, I did.  Thank you.”

This unexpectedly brightened his day.  “It’s refreshing,” Smith relates.  “As police officers we sometimes get jaded.  But when someone does come up and thank you, it reminds you that the community is behind you.”

He sums up the experience by observing, “It’s why we do what we do.”

Here’s another well-deserved thanks: Thank you, Officer Smith, for contributing so much to our community both professionally and personally.

(Note: Smith wears several hats for the SPD.  He’s the SPD Crime Prevention Officer, Public Information Officer, Grants Manager, and is also reorganizing the Department’s Neighborhood Watch Program.)

By Karen Carter

 

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