Oct 5, 2007

Changing cop culture

Don't think about John Wayne.

The newly appointed Riverdale Police chief speaks authoritatively, with a bold and booming voice. He shakes hands that way, too, with his short, strong fingers and big, broad palm.

Samuel F. Patterson, a 59-year-old who flew helicopters in Vietnam and worked with the Atlanta Police Department for 18 years, comes off as big, strong, and manly. But in his first week as police chief, Patterson is promising to continue the department's direction toward friendly, courteous and professional policing, distancing his 43 officers from the image of over-aggressive men with billy clubs and badges.

"Obviously, we want to be disciplined, and obviously, we want to enforce the law, but there's a way to do that without being John Wayne," Patterson said, speaking of the late actor who is an icon of rugged individualism.

"We want to enforce the law with a certain level of professionalism," he said, "a certain amount of respect, even for the worst of criminals. I tell my officers, treat that citizen -- and in some cases it may be a criminal -- as you would want another officer to treat your mother. Do that and you can't go wrong."

Patterson, who has been with the department for two and a half years, took the top spot on Tuesday.

Read the full story, Riverdale's new police chief, @ the Clayton News Daily.