DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. - The city of Douglasville offered early retirement for one week to two city employees.
Channel 2’s Liz Artz learned the only city employee who took the opportunity was Police Chief Chris Womack.
Artz said Douglasville residents had mixed feelings about the opportunity and some felt it might have been a way to get rid of the former chief, who is now running for sheriff of Douglas County.
“It would be great if I had a chance to get a one-week opportunity to change things up and retire a little early," Douglasville resident Daniel Adams said.
The opportunity was offered to all city employees who had 30 years on the job.
“We opened up an early retirement incentive program. We opened it for one week for anyone who had at least 30 years of service with Douglasville," Assistant City Manager Marcia Hampton said.
Hampton said there were only two employees who qualified—Womack and a police captain who had already planned on retiring the first of the year. At the time of the offer, Womack only had 28 years at the department.
“But he only had 28 years of service?” Artz asked Hampton. “Technically he had 30 because we do offer military buyback for any of our employees so you can buy back military service," Hampton said.
Hampton said the city wanted to go in a different direction, with a focus on community policing. The city manager told Artz Womack said that is not his style of leadership. City leaders felt Chief Gary Sparks could better lead the department in that direction.
“(The focus is on) getting his folks and troops in gear, making certain we reach out to the community and trying to create a positive image for public safety in city of Douglasville," Hampton said.
Douglasville mayor Harvey Persons wrote a column for Chapel Hill News and Views that highlights what the new direction of the police department will be. The column says in part:
"For the past four years I have emphasized one overall goal for Douglasville. It has been for our community to become one of the premier places in America to live, work, play and raise a family. Having a top-notch law enforcement agency certainly is essential to achieving this goal. We have had an outstanding Police Department in Douglasville in the past, and I believe it will become even better in the months ahead."
Persons goes on to list four areas of emphasis in the new philosophy of the police department: to function within the organization of the local government, a focus on a team of officers serving the community rather than a single individual, a separation between professional and personal use of social media and increasing diversity among police officers.
Hampton said the retirement deal was brought to them by Womack and had nothing to do with incidents involving the chief and allegations of abuse of power.
Channel 2 Action News obtained video of an incident caught on camera where Womack, in plain clothes, could be seen and heard yelling at a motorist. In another incident captured on video, Womack was seen yelling at a truck driver. The former chief later claimed the truck driver flicked cigarette butts down his shirt.
Womack, who is now running for sheriff, has supporters who feel the city did the right thing.
“Anyone that puts in 30 years of life to the city or job deserves a little something back. I’m glad he could capture that," resident Carol Bowman said.
Bowman says she thinks she’ll vote for Womack for sheriff.
Womack officially retired Aug. 31st