Retiring Atlanta police chief sits down with Channel 2

ATLANTA — After 35 years on the force, Atlanta Police Chief George Turner officially announced Thursday that he is retiring.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne broke the news of the chief’s retirement Wednesday.

At a news conference Thursday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed also announced that Deputy Chief Erika Shields will take over the role of Atlanta’s top cop.

Newly-named Atlanta police chief Erika Shields. (Photo: John Spink/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

"I am truly honored, humbled and grateful," Shields said about taking on her new role.

Reed said Shields "has the foundation to be the best and most qualified, police department leaders, I think in the country."

Turner leaves behind an impressive record of reducing crime by 27 percent since 2009.

He fought back tears as he discussed a recent death in his family and how the decision to retire wasn't an easy one.

"I believe that I'm leaving this department in good hands. I love this city," Turner said.

As for Shields, Channel 2’s Audrey Washington asked what she'll combat within her first 100 days in office and the significance of being a female police chief.

"I don't think the challenges I face will be gender-based, I think they will be criminal, crime-based," Shields said. "And when the New Year comes, we will redevelop and reassess the space that were in."

CHIEF TURNER ONE-ON-ONE

Before the city announced Turner’s successor, Winne sat down one-on-one with Turner to talk about his retirement.

He reflected on his time as chief and the challenges that Shield will face as she takes over command.

“You know, our men and women that do this job, that swear in to protect and serve people that really don't care a lot about police right now. I am honored to work with so many folks that really take that pledge,” Turner said.

As Winne spoke with Turner, he noticed the chief getting emotional as he talked about his career with the force.

“You don't walk away from a place that you've been for 35-plus years and not have some emotions come up in your chest,” Turner said.

Chief George Turner speaks to Channel 2's Mark Winne

Turner said he's retiring as chief Dec. 28.

“It is absolutely my timing,” Turner told Winne. “This is my 17th assignment on the Atlanta Police Department.

Turner credited his strong faith for helping him get through the toughest times of the department.

“I don't know how I could've managed 35 years without my faith in God. And the prayers of so many people that are in my circle--specifically, my wife and my children,” Turner said.

“What is your greatest accomplishment as chief?” Winne asked Turner.

“Well, I think the complete paradigm shift in the way that we do our business,” Turner said. “I was fortunate enough to be appointed police chief under Mayor Reed's administration.”

“Statistically, what has the crime picture done during your tenure as chief?” Winne asked Turner.

Turner said crime, overall, is down 27 percent since he took over as chief. He told Winne that violent crime is up about 15 percent in major cities nationwide this year.

Crime data shows murders are up more than 100 percent for the first time since Turner became chief.

“And part of that challenge, I believe, is a disconnect with what's happening with our youth,” Turner told Winne.

Winne asked Turner what his greatest frustration was as police chief.

“The city of Atlanta Police Department is no different than most major city police departments around the country, that we're struggling to recruit to our ranks. We are authorized to have more than 2,000 sworn police officers. If we had that many officers on the street, how much more effective that we could be on our streets,” Turner said.

Winne asked Turner about one of his sons, who is an investigator on a dangerous assignment.

“Well you know, it’s not my choice. You know, we pray. We trust God that he's going to give his protective arms around him and we believe,” Turner said.

Turner said he plans on staying in the city of Atlanta.

He said he looks forward to spending more time with his family.