HAMILTON, Ga. (WRBL) – The small city of Hamilton, Georgia was left reeling last year after body camera video showed former Police Chief Gene Allmond and Sergeant John Brooks using racial slurs and discussing slavery and the black population in a negative way ahead of a Black Lives Matter march.
The footage was found by a part time city employee and turned over to the mayor and Hamilton City Council who then called for the resignation of Allmond and Brooks.
Brooks would later be fired after failing to resign.
The city turned their attention to two things healing and finding a new police chief that could help aid in this mission.
This is where current Police Chief Eric Weiss comes in.
“Well, as I said in April of 2021, I believe it was my first interview,” said Weiss. “It is going to be a new day for Hamilton, not only city wide but in the actual police department as well.”
Weiss would expand and diversify the police force all while implementing diversity and other training for these officers.
“We went from a one person department with a few part time officers to four full-time officers, which I believe has had a huge impact on the citizens of Hamilton,” said Weiss.
In his opinion, the biggest change Weiss has made is being community focused, driven and making sure the police department is visible and known well by the Hamilton community.
“Know the community on the professional level, know the community on a personal level as well,” said Weiss. “And what that has done over time is… several volatile situations that either our police department was dispatched to, we were able to deconflict that volatile situation, not because of what happened that day but because of the investment we had previously made in the community.”
That change is something Hamilton Mayor Pro Tempore Ransom Farley said has aided in the healing of their small community.
“You get to know them, and when getting to know them, you get to believe in them and have some kind of faith,” said Farley. “And that’s what they’re doing and that’s good we don’t want the citizens to be afraid of the police.”
Chief Weiss has held multiple community events like a monthly ice cream social, a school supplies giveaway and working with local Harris County organizations during Christmas time to ensure those in need have gifts and food.
“We’ve made substantial increase in staffing this year. I am comfortable with our staffing level, but the most important thing no matter what is the citizens of this community. Not only does the police department want to be visible, we want to make sure the citizens can lay their heads down at night and feel safe. We never ever ever want to get to a point where a Hamilton, Georgia resident or visitor goes to sleep at night and does not feel safe.”
Although the staffing increase is improving the diversity of the force, helping aid in call response time and allowing them to have a bigger presence it the community, it doesn’t come without its own challenges.
“Response time, the quality of service, the individual service has been a positive change for Hamilton that has been challenging,” said Weiss. “As with any personnel, any equipment you have to get more of, it is more of a cost. However, our costs are closely monitored and we make sure it is implemented reasonably for the taxpayers.”
Farley says the changes have been worth it.
“He has brought us up to date on what a police department was supposed to be because when he came in, it was outdated and he brought that up,” said Farley. “Along with that, we have our first woman officer, Sergeant Julie Haze, and we have our first Black policeman here in Hamilton, Officer Tim Green.”
Chief Weiss said the past year of changes and growth for the department is just the beginning. He outlined one of his short term goals.
“Hamilton has a lot of traffic during the day. It does… the small city turns very big and very large quickly,” said Chief Weiss. “We have three schools here, or going to be three schools, but we have a big high school. A lot of teen drivers and we’ve see a lot of accidents, most minor thankfully, but if we can institute some teen driving program, teen driving initiative that is our goal going forward… short term.”
Even with the new changes and goals, Farley said there’s always room for improvement.
“Just like any department or anything, there’s always room for improvement,” said Farley. “And we’re hoping over time, we’ll meet all those improvements that we’re looking for.”
The changes and improvements in Hamilton don’t come without a reminder of why these changes had to happen.
“Now, I understand there were some scares that unraveled from that video. That video was terrible and our job was to heal that,” Chief Weiss. “I said a year ago that our job was to heal the community and I can sit here and I can tell the community how we’re going to heal, but until I get out there and really show them and communicate with them and see what their needs are, that would be impossible.”
Chief Weiss said himself and his officers are held to the same standard.
“We treat people fairly, we have good quality conversations with them and we respect them,” said Chief Weiss. “That’s how we operate around here.”
Chief Weiss was sworn in on April 12, 2021.
Before working in this role , Weiss worked his way through various positions at the Muscogee County Sheriff’s office, including as an investigator. He also worked for the Drug Administration Task Force prior to leading the Hamilton Police Department.
He said having relationships with Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office gives him added resources to ensure him and his department are policing efficiently and properly.