By Joe Johnson
The City of Watkinsville today announced that Courtney Gale will be its next police chief.
A 25-year police veteran who began her career in Athens and most recently served as a police chief in McDuffie County, Gale replaces Interim Chief Todd Tetterton, who has served since May when Chief Shannon Brock went on medical leave. McCarthy
Watkinsville City Manager Sharyn Dickerson said that Gale has "extensive experience and understanding in not only police management, but also community engagement that will serve the city well and help continue to build upon former Chief Brock’s work."
Gale said she is excited about her new role as she returns to where she began her career over two decades ago.
"I am excited and honored to have the privilege to come home and serve our community with a great group of officers and City leadership," she said. "Chief Brock has done an exceptional job with WPD and we will continue and build off his legacy."
Watkinsville City City Manager Sharyn Dickerson said that Gale's "extensive experience and understanding in not only police management, but also community engagement will serve the city well."
Gale began her law enforcement career in 1998, first as an officer for Athens Clarke Police Department, then with the University of Georgia Police Department from 2017 to 2021, and most recently serving as chief in Thomson, a small city in McDuffie County.
Gale earned widespread recognition and admiration for her tenacity for never losing sight of her ultimate goal of becoming a police chief after battling back to fully recover from a near-death experience nearly two decades ago
Gale was a supervisor in ACCPD's robbery-homicide unit on Dec. 11, 2007, when she was doing extra duty at Kroger on Alps Road.
When checking on a man’s bizarre behavior in the meat aisle, he attacked her with a kitchen knife and stabbed her a dozen times. The knife sliced the officer's femoral artery, and authorities said she would have bled to death in the supermarket if a nurse who was shopping hadn’t been there to help stanch the bleeding.
Gale remained in a coma for two weeks and had several surgeries to save her leg, all while tethered to a respirator, a dialysis machine and feeding tube. She was released from the hospital 45 days later, then underwent intensive therapy at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
Doctors called her recovery extraordinary.
In a matter of weeks Gale went from wheelchair to a walker and then a cane and supervised rehab and working out at the gym four days a week.
She made use of her long medical leave to earn a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Georgia, an accomplishment that has become a requirement to become police chief in many cities.
“My goal of becoming police chief has not changed,” Gale told this reporter at the time. “I’m just picking up where I left off."
Though her doctor deemed Gale ready to return to work in December 2011, police officials were not ready to take her back as an officer until she could demonstrate she had recovered the physical and cognitive abilities required for the job.
In the meantime, Gale was hired as a civilian police employee, assigned to the training division and assisting with re-accreditation - an independent review of the police department. Her responsibilities were increased when assigned as coordinator of the Leadership in Police Organizations program, a three-week course hosted by the police department.
In June 2013, Gale was re-instated as an ACCPD sergeant with full police powers and was assigned as a supervisor in the Downtown Operations Unit.
Four years later she took a position with the University of Georgia Police Department as a sergeant and in 2018 was promoted to lieutenant and served as shift commander over 16 patrol officers and was a team leader for UGA football events and co-commander for the UGPD Crisis Negotiation Team.
Thomson announced it had hired Gale as its police chief in June 2021.
As TPD's top cop, Gale led a department that served a population of 6,900 and she facilitated community events and policing strategies. She revised and updated all department policies to ensure agency compliance with federal, state, and local laws. Her duties also included securing grants, fleet management and acquisition, vetting and employing new hires, and overall leadership for the department.