Police exchange program brings Israelis to Richmond Hill

Georgene Brazer, local columnist

People don’t decide to become extraordinary. They decide to do extraordinary things. Edmund Hillary I call those I write about heroes, individuals with talents and accomplishments who show tenacity in reaching people; people who are decent, caring about the community and eager to serve.

Thinking about this, I realized that this article expands the picture of this theme. Police. Police officers around the world are risking their lives to make our homes, our world a better place. They never stop working. And so this story of giving begins.

A 16-member delegation of senior Israel Police and Prison Service officials came to Georgia for leadership development training through the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE).

Dr. Robert Friedmann, founding director of GIREE, works closely with law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad on community policing and homeland security. This unique law enforcement leadership program has made major contributions to law enforcement agencies in Georgia, 30 other states, and more than 30 countries.

Major Jason Sakelarios (retired) of the Richmond Hill Police Department, whom I wrote about in the December 9, 2021 article, was instrumental in bringing this illustrious group to Richmond Hill. Showing the delegation around our city was an idea that had occurred to him since his visit to Israel as a participant in this program in November 2021. Jason told me that the participation was one of the most rewarding experiences, both personally and professionally.

He contacted Dr. Friedmann to have the delegation come to Richmond Hill during their program in Georgia. Jason really wanted to share the ways the Richmond Hill Police Department is meeting the challenges of policing in a rapidly growing and changing community and to introduce these officers to the wonders of neighborhood and close relationships that our police share with Richmond Hill. Mayor Carpenter stressed the importance of being selected for this visit for Richmond Hill. “This brings us significant recognition outside our borders. Israel’s expertise adds to our already strong strength, helps our services within our community,” he said. When I mentioned the program to Katherine Johnson, CEO of our Chamber of Commerce, she said with a smile, “Good, great. Good security is good for business. Councilman Robbie Ward joined the group for lunch. He told me that their knowledge, their kindness and their desire to participate had impressed him enormously. “What an opportunity for our police to share and develop relationships internationally.”

Jason and members of the Department came together and created a presentation package which they shared with their overseas counterparts. Delegates were given a brief history of the department, the rapid growth the city has experienced over the past 20 years and the challenges this growth has created for the department in its law enforcement role and how it is managed. Delegates found many of these ideas unique.

They commented on the number of ideas and techniques that our force uses to meet the needs of our citizens that could be implemented in their own jurisdictions/agencies.

This type of training is practically invaluable. The interaction, the discussions helped to cement the bonds between our police officers and their Israeli counterparts. They will stay in touch to continue learning from each other. Professional and personal friendships were made.

Delegates toured Richmond Hill and heard about its unique history from Christy Sherman, Executive Director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. They attended our Veterans Day ceremony.

They found the ceremony meaningful because most of the delegates are veterans of the Israeli army.

A trip to Fort McAllister, taking them back to our Civil War history and the opportunity to experience black powder shooting was a special moment, as were our Richmond Hill Christmas decorations. Ted Gray, “our train man”, was wonderful. He put up his famous train display filled with his village and more for them to experience. Early, but eager to give our guests a special memory of our world, our Richmond Hill.

We are Richmond Hill, serving you with dedication and pride.

We really have a lot to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving.

Georgene.Brazer is president of the Richmond Hill Downtown Development Authority.

Ryan H. Bowman