Moultrie police were recognized at Tuesday’s Moultrie City Council meeting for increasing the number of officers trained to deal with mental health issues.
Before presenting the award to Police Chief Frank Lang, Steve Turner, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Thomasville office, said that the department has had half of its officers trained.
That percentage, he said, is the highest he’s aware of in the area.
The award was presented on behalf of the Georgia Crisis Intervention Team Advisory Board and the Georgia Chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
Moultrie police made a big push toward having officers trained after the fatal shooting of 51-year-old Walter Wayne Peterson who had a standoff with police on Labor Day in 2011. Peterson was shot multiple times after he charged at SWAT team officers who had entered the residence, police said at the time.
Officers surrounded Peterson’s 113 Seventh St. N.W. residence after he allegedly threw a brick through the window of a convenience store, where a witness said he had a disagreement with an employee.
The GBI said that the police Cpl. Eric Fries fired the fatal shots after Peterson ran at officers while holding a large butcher knife.
The district attorney’s office closed the file last year after receiving a report from the GBI, with District Attorney David Miller saying in April 2012 that there was no criminal conduct on the officer’s part in the case.
Lynn Wilson, who chairs Moultrie’s Mental Health Subcommittee and also was at Tuesday’s meeting, said that Lang was instrumental in getting more officers trained in crisis intervention techniques. She said she had approached him even before the shooting of Peterson and he was receptive and moving forward with the program.
The first group of Moultrie officers received training here in a March 2012 session that also included as students two Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office deputies and two Moultrie firefighters.
The course trains emergency service providers to recognize symptoms of mental illness and to defuse situations without resorting to force when possible.
The police department has had some officers certified to train additional officers, and additional sessions have been held since the initial class.
Lang’s goal is to have all of the roughly 50 officers in the department trained.
In other business Tuesday the council:
• Took care of housekeeping issues to start the new year. Council action included naming Councilman Daniel Dunn as mayor pro temp; setting council salaries at $495 per month and the mayor’s salary at $580 per month, the same as last year; reappointing top city employees to serve another year, including city manager, and clerk and assistant clerk; reappointing David Herndon as judge of Moultrie Municipal Court; and authorizing Mayor Bill McIntosh to make appointments to committees.
• Set qualifying fees to run for city council seats at $178.20, which is the 3 percent of salary set by state law for those fees.
• Approved a renewal of an alcoholic beverage license for Applebee’s, 421 Veterans Parkway N., and two temporary licenses for one-time events by the Colquitt County Arts Center for its annual hunt dinner and Ronald K. Reagin for the hunting heritage banquet at Spence Field.
• Agreed to purchase a tractor for right-of-way maintenance in the amount of $53,269.