Law Enforcement In Atlanta
Pretty scary when you turn on the news and see people running in and out of the smashed windows and doors of Lenox Mall and setting fire to your favorite Italian restaurant. The next evening the scene at Lenox was dozens of DNR Law Enforcement trucks, each with a 4-wheeler in the bed, parked in the Lenox parking lot. Then our game wardens rode in a line, circling a shopping mall in Buckhead.
That’s the Atlanta Buckhead. The real Buckhead is out here near the GON office. Game wardens we see out here help the sheriff and police to keep us safe in general, but most of the time when we see them they are checking for hunting licenses or pulling over teenagers getting too crazy on jet skis at Oconee.
So when I first saw our game wardens, shoulder to shoulder with State Patrol, the National Guard and Atlanta Police, my first thought was pride. Sportsmen funded that, your hunting and fishing license fees. Those 4-wheelers and pickup trucks sure came in handy, and having a specialized force of officers who know how to use them was a powerful tool in the state’s law-enforcement toolbox when Atlanta turned into a… really fighting to not use a bad word here… turned into a mess.
So how are y’all feeling about our game wardens being in a city when swarms of people decide to set fires, smash windows and help themselves to anything they want in Lenox Mall?
Are you OK with our game wardens being put into a position of having to stand shoulder-to-shoulder while getting screamed at inches from their faces? Getting spit on? You OK if people throw bottles at them? How about rocks hitting those new DNR trucks your license fees paid for?
I was concerned, but I supported it. Proud of them and proud that sportsmen contribute in such a way. I supported the governor bringing in the troops, so to speak, even if it included DNR, to restore some sense of order, and to protect peaceful protestors.
Then came June 17…
DNR Law Enforcement officers do much more general law enforcement of late, like helping the local sheriff’s department, drug enforcement, things other than enforcing game and fish laws and regulations. The term thrown out by some—just a few that I’ve heard—in other sections of DNR is “mission drift.” I’ve had conversations with an old-guard leader in the Georgia conservation circles who feels strongly that DNR—sportsmen—should be reimbursed when game wardens are called in by the state for things like security when world leaders converge on Sea Island for a G8 Summit. Or when riots get out of control.
I’ve disagreed. Game wardens are post-certified law enforcement, they carry guns, and they risk their lives each morning they walk out their door in uniform, just like local law enforcement officers and just like State Patrol. Their contributions to local communities are so much more than game and fish stuff.
Then came Wednesday, June 17, the day Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard held a press conference.
Imagine this scenario. Think of your local game warden. Most of you know him or her, might even attend the same church, have kids on the same ball team. Imagine your friend, a Georgia DNR Law Enforcement Division officer, during this mess. Imagine your friend the game warden was forced to uphold their sworn duty and arrest someone. Imagine if that person resisted, throwing punches to the face, a fight that went to the pavement, a hand getting to the officer’s belt and a gun being taken. Imagine your game warden having a split second to decide what to do when that gun is raised and pointed… a situation where the DA, before waiting on an impartial investigation by the GBI, charges our game warden with first degree murder.
If I had family who was an Atlanta cop, I would be worried about them going to work right now.
What about our game wardens?
It is a great time to live in a place where you can get your own meat in the backyard and grow a garden, where lawful people treat one another with respect and love, and where those who don’t, on either “side,” face reasonable consequences.