By Joe Johnson
Nearly nine months after firing its police chief, Watkinsville has hired a new chief,
Shannon Brock. Brock is currently Uniform Patrol Division commander of the police department in St. Mary's, a coastal city in southeast Georgia. He will begin his new position in Watkinsville on July 29, according to City Administrator Sharyn Dickerson.
Lee O’ Dillon, who had led the Oconee County city’s police force for 32 years was fired Oct. 17, 2018 after an investigation concluded he had mismanaged the police department.
The WPD is currently led by interim Police Chief Will Horton.
Reporting on an internal investigation conducted in conjunction with the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office of Professional Standards, revealed that O’Dillon created a hostile work environment, made misrepresentations to the city regarding the backgrounds of applicants for WPD officer positions, made false statements to the public regarding disciplinary actions related to citizen complaints, and made false statements regarding a burglary investigation.
Also, O’Dillon reportedly failed to properly provide training officers on compliance with the state’s Child Abuse Protocol, which provides guidelines on how agencies should respond to cases of child abuse and neglect.
According to the Oconee Enterprise, the lack of training resulted in a dangerous situation shortly before Chief O’Dillon’s suspension last August:
In June 2018, two untrained Watkinsville officers responded to a situation where children were nailed into a “crib/cage”/cage overnight, the newspaper reported.
After the officers were unable to contact DFACS they left the children in the custody of the offender, with a warning “don’t do this again,” the Enterprise reported at the time.
Only after a member of the involved family called the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office, was the suspect arrested and the children taken into protective custody, the newspaper reported.
This incident resulted in O'Dillon's suspension and triggered the investigation that subsequently led to his termination.
Brock was involved in community policing events and responses to disasters such as Hurricane Irma. According to Dickerson, the Watkinsville city administrator, Brock served 19 years with the St. Mary’s Police Department. She said the recommendation to hire Brock came from a selection committee that included herself, Mayor Dave Shearon, Council members Brian Brodrick and Marci Campbell, City Clerk Julie Sanders, a Watkinsville citizen and Athens-Clarke County Deputy Police Chief Mike Hunsinger.
Of the 12 applicants for the job, five were selected for interviews but Brock “emerged as the clear choice for chief,” Dickerson said.
Before an offer was made, Brock was invited back along with his family so they could spend time with of the citizens and officials in his new home town.
“The city felt it paramount that Brock and his family get a glimpse into what life in Watkinsville would look like before making such a big move from southeast Georgia,” Dickerson said.