Gary Yandura, the first chief of Brookhaven’s Police Department, now serves as chief emeritus of the city’s police force. Yandura started the Brookhaven department in 2013. He plans to retire Jan. 1.

Brookhaven Police Chief Emeritus Gary Yandura.

Q.     What do you think is the chief accomplishment of the Brookhaven police over the past 10 years?

A. I feel our main accomplishment is our relationship with the community in providing the law enforcement services needed and expected by them.   We’re very proud of our response times on priority calls which have exceeded national standards along with us receiving an award for being the safest city in Dekalb County a few years ago.     While everyone’s criminal activity has increased due to multiple reasons, our department has also had a better-than-average clearance rate in resolving our crimes.    All of these efforts could only be accomplished with the support of our city administration and council, who have continuously supported our initiatives and efforts.

Q.     What are you the proudest of?

A. First, I’m most proud of our department members that deal with our community every day and, once again, the relationship we have with our community.  In addition, I’m very proud of the technology we’ve initiated in our area to enhance our law enforcement services.   This would include our license plate readers (LPRs) installed throughout the city, which has enabled us to solve many crimes that have occurred both inside and outside of our limits.     We were the first department to initiate a LPR partnership with Georgia Power.    Other programs that have been very successful which were some of the first in our area were our First Responder Drone Program, our Mental Health Co-Responder Program and most recently the implementation of a “Live911” program which allows our officers to hear live 911 calls as their answered by our 911 center.   This allows them to prepare and respond to serious calls in a safer, more efficient manner.  Many of these programs were the result of ideas brought about by our very own staff members.  I’m also very proud that we’ve hired and mentored two members who became police chiefs in other jurisdictions, one of whom is now a state commissioner.

Q.     What is your biggest regret?

A. The only regret I have is wishing I was younger when starting with the city of Brookhaven. The experience I’ve gained in three previous cities during my first 37 years of law enforcement prepared me for Brookhaven, but it’s now time to pass on the torch to a well-prepared younger command staff that I’m sure will carry on our department’s partnership with our community.

Q.     What has been the hardest thing for the department to accomplish over the past 10 years?

A. The hardest thing for our department to accomplish over the last 10 years can actually be narrowed down to the last few years, when retention and recruitment has been an issue, not only for our department, but across the nation. Our city administration and government has always been very supportive of our police department, as well as our entire community,  but the overall law enforcement environment throughout our country does have an impact on every law enforcement member and their families. Our city has continually provided everything needed to maintain and recruit good officers, but we still struggle with fewer applicants interested in law enforcement careers.  This has been slowly changing during the past year, enabling us to reach our authorized strength soon.

Q.     Will the city’s new police headquarters and law enforcement center change policing in Brookhaven? If so, how?

I don’t believe our new police headquarters will change policing in Brookhaven, as this is ingrained in our members already doing a great job in policing.  The new building will enhance our ability to recruit and retain our members with a new working environment which will now include a fitness center, better training facilities, and an overall better work environment than our current building, which was rented and retrofitted as our first police facility.

Brookhaven Police Chief Brandon Gurley.

Brandon Gurley is chief of police for the city of Brookhaven. Gurley was one of the first officers hired after Brookhaven’s department was created in 2013. He has held a variety of positions in the department. He was named chief in September. 

Q.    What do you think is the Brookhaven Police Department’s biggest accomplishment over the past decade?

Our relationship with our community is our biggest accomplishment. Our officers continue to work very hard in building and maintaining relationships throughout our community that has led to stronger trust. Our community welcomes and supports our innovative approach to the use of technology in policing. This would not be possible without the support of our city administration and council, along with the hard work of the men and women of the Brookhaven Police Department.

Q.    What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the department over the next 10 years?

Hiring and retention will be our biggest challenge moving forward. We were used to seeing a waiting list of applicants who wanted an opportunity to work at our agency.  Over the last three years, we have seen the attitudes and climate toward policing shift in a negative way. The negative views of policing highlighted in the media have impacted the interest we once saw in others who wanted to become police officers.  Crime continues to rise, but the number of police applicants needed to serve our community has decreased.  

Q.    What new directions, if any, do you hope to lead the department? 

I am excited to lead this department into the next 10 years.  We will renew our focus on forward-thinking and innovative approaches to public safety.  It will be important to recognize the staffing challenges and find new and innovative ways to meet the demands of public safety for the city of Brookhaven. I will promote this “out of the box” approach and encourage staff to look to the future to identify ways in which we can lead the nation in public safety.

Q.    Brookhaven officials have long said the city’s most popular department is police. How can you maintain that popularity over the next decade?

We have a strong sense of partnership with our residents because our internal community engagement with our staff is strong.  Our officers mirror how they are treated internally with their interactions in the community.  We can’t expect them to treat the public with respect if they do not feel respected in the workplace.  Our sense of community starts within.  This type of relationship and partnership with the community will maintain our popularity and respect that we are able to enjoy.  

Q.    Will the city’s new police headquarters and law enforcement center change policing in Brookhaven? If so, how?

Our staff are looking forward to relocating to the new building.  The new facility will provide opportunities for us to leverage with recruiting and hiring while affording a more productive work environment for our staff.  Our new building will feature a fitness center and state-of-the-art training facility while being strategically located on the Peachtree Creek Greenway.  We look forward to the renewed focus this will allow us to take on our health and wellness initiatives.  

Read more about Brookhaven’s 10th anniversary in our special supplement here.

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.