Protecting the Public Trust

About the Athens City Police Department

An ordinance on December 4, 1911, created the Athens City Police Department, effective January 1, 1912. The department was to consist of a chief and one or more patrolmen, special patrolmen, and detectives. The first chief was W.A. Mills. Since that time, there have been 12 chiefs of police. The current chief is Nick Magruder.

The department is currently authorized to employ 27 full-time sworn officers, 20 part-time sworn officers 4 communications officers, an administrative assistant, a public records clerk, and a licensed social worker.

Why Do We Exist?

The Athens Police Department exists as a law enforcement agency, as all law enforcement agencies exist, to safeguard the public trust.

Public Trust

What is the public trust, one may ask. John Locke, writing in his “Second Treatises on Government” (1691), postulated a theoretical situation called “Social Contract Theory.”

Locke hypothesized that a bargain between the free citizens of a particular society and their government exists and through this bargain a society would grant certain rights to their government in order to protect the society’s natural and inalienable rights and to ensure the collective safety of all (Social Contract Theory).

Perhaps the central right that is granted to the government is to correct or punish those that would violate or take advantage of the rules of society. It is this set of rights conferred upon a government by the governed that is often referred to as the public trust.

The public trust, in summary, is the specific list of rights granted by the governed to their government to ensure that the individuals in a society will retain their inalienable rights and to provide for community safety and prosperity.

Responsibility of Officers

As police officers, the front line representatives of organized government, we are charged with the responsibility to safeguard the rights that our citizens have granted to our government. We accomplish this task in numerous ways, but we are always expected to do so ethically from a value base that is both legally right and morally correct.

Police officers are expected to uphold the public trust in a fair and equitable manner, and with equal access to all. We must always balance the goal of order maintenance with the goal of law enforcement, to do so objectively, and to do so as part of a team in the criminal justice system.

Perhaps the biggest responsibility of any law enforcement officer is to recognize that his or her authority is not derived by a set of laws and ordinances, or an oath of office, but is granted to them from the very community they serve.