Updated: May 22, 2021
By Joe Johnson
Longtime Athens-Clarke County police officer Jerry Saulters has recently been in the unique position of serving in command positions simultaneously with two police departments.
On May 7 he began a part-time job as temporary police chief in Baldwin, a city with a few thousand residents in Banks and Habersham counties, while continuing to serve as a deputy police chief for ACCPD, a position he has held since July 2019.
Saulters said he applied for the part-time job after receiving an email about the position sent out by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to grow, so I applied,” Saulters said.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to share the knowledge skills and abilities I have learned while serving the Athens Community the last 23 years,” he said “It is a great opportunity for me to gain experience and learn how other police departments operate.”
Saulters added that the temporary position was “a great opportunity to help another agency while they go through this transition.”
He was hired to help the beleaguered small-town police department after three of its officers, including interim chief Matt Nall resigned at the beginning of May, leaving only two police officers to protect the community.
To compensate, the city adjusted its shift schedule to provide police coverage from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with night shifts being covered by the Banks and Habersham County Sheriff’s Offices.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to help the Baldwin Police Department,” Saulters said, “and grateful to (ACCPD) Chief (Cleveland) Spruill for allowing me this opportunity to grow.”
Saulters began working for Baldwin PD on May 10 and will stay on until a permanent chief is hired in a process he expects will take up to another eight weeks.
The city said that Saulters and its consulting firm, Excellence Exceeded, will work to “further professionalize” the police department.
Saulters is working with the consulting firm to review and improve the police department, which has dealt with such issues as body-worn camera footage that showed two officers acting violently against multiple individuals.
After Charles Webb resigned as chief for family health reasons in April 2020, Baldwin PD has been headed by two interim chiefs, a chief who served for just five weeks, who cited a “deeply-rooted negative culture” within the police department upon resigning, and an officer who served as acting chief until Saulters was hired.
“The Mayor and Council are confident that the measures we are currently taking will satisfy both the short and long-term public safety needs of our city,” Mayor Joe Elam said in a press release. “In the coming weeks, we will be working diligently with our consultants, with the assistance of Chief Saulters and the Habersham and Banks County sheriffs “to install a permanent chief and a police department we can all be proud of.”
Saulters is a 23-year veteran with ACCPD and has the knowledge and experience that is suited to help Baldwin with its law enforcement woes.
He began his career as a patrol officer in 1998 after serving in the U.S. Army for seven years. In 2005 Saulters was assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division’s Robbery/Homicide Unit. And two years later was promoted to sergeant in that division.
In 2012 Saulters was promoted to lieutenant and transferred to the Uniform Patrol Division, where he served as a shift command. In 2014 he graduated from the Southern Police Institute from the University of Louisville. Saulters was promoted to the rank of Captain in 2016 and served as commanding officer of the CID until being promoted to deputy chief in July 2019.
He is a graduate of the University of Louisville’s Southern Police Institute.
Saulters said that in his two weeks working for Baldwin he has managed the day-to-day operations of the police department and has been meeting with the mayor, city manager, council members, and police officers to learn as much as possible for when it comes time to assist in the selection process for a new chief.
Serving in command position simultaneously for two police departments entails lots of responsibilities, but Saulters said he has received support that allows him to juggle jobs.
“Baldwin is only part time,” he said. “Currently I am working 30 hours a week in Athens, and 30 hours a week in Baldwin. I do not mind working long hours and will do what is necessary to ensure my job responsibilities are taken care of.
“The city of Baldwin is very flexible in allowing me to work when I can,” Saulters said, and “I am not obligated to working 30 hours and can adjust my hours as needed.”
The deputy/temporary chief added, “Most importantly I have the support of my wife Shannon.”