Covington Police Department Sgt. Chuck Groover (Special photo)
COVINGTON — It’s always nice to be recognized for hard work, but it’s especially rewarding when one’s peers notice.
Three employees of the Covington Police Department were honored earlier this month as being named the CPD Employees of the Year – a distinction voted on by the entire department.
“Part of good management is recognizing when employees do things right and rewarding good behavior,” said Police Chief Stacey Cotton. “They are all three great employees, obviously.”
Sgt. Chuck Groover in Support Services, Officer Anthony Walden in the Patrol Division, and Lerea Neely, who serves as an administrative assistant, were named on Dec. 5 as employees of the year at the Police Department’s annual banquet.
• Sgt. Chuck Groover
Sgt. Groover has been in law enforcement for a little more than 40 years, and has been with the Covington Police Department for 12 years. He is responsible for overseeing the department’s accreditation and certification processes. Groover is in charge of training, career development and writing all the policies and procedures for the CPD.
The Covington Police Department has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, since 1985, making it the first department in Georgia to do so and the 10th in the nation. Covington’s police, fire, 911 and public works departments are all accredited, one of the few cities with all four departments accredited.
“To say accreditation is a big deal here is an understatement,” Groover said. “One of my main jobs is to see that the department is reaccredited every three years.”
Chief Cotton said Groover has been an accreditation manager longer than just about anyone in Georgia – since 1986 when he was with the Macon Police Department, where he worked for 28 years – and is renowned as an expert in the area.
Groover is often asked to assess other police departments and sheriff’s offices across the country. He recently returned from Manilus, N.Y., a town near Syracuse.
“I enjoy doing that,” Groover said.”I always find something that other agencies do that I like that we can implement here. There are always opportunities to make us better.”
Cotton said that beyond Groover’s expertise, he brings a positive attitude to the job.
“Chuck is a bright and cheerful person and reminds us every day that it is fun to be a police officer and a servant to others, and he does it with such a bright and cheerful attitude,” he said.
Capt. Ken Malcom, Groover’s direct supervisor, said Groover is a tremendous resource for the department in general and for him personally.
“Chuck is not only an excellent trainer, teacher and mentor, but he is an excellent supervisor of the operations of the front desk area,” Malcom said. “With his experience and knowledge of the profession, he has really been a great person that I can go to and discuss and draw from his knowledge and experience.”
Groover said he was humbled to be recognized by his peers for doing a job that he enjoys so much where he can make a difference.
“Every police officer wants to make difference, but for me I am making a difference in the agency, making our policies and procedures the best they can be and to make sure our officers get the training they need each year,” he said. “Receiving an award like this from the entire department is very humbling. Knowing they appreciate what I try to do makes you feel real good.”
• Officer Anthony Walden
Officer Anthony Walden has been with the Covington Police Department for 15 and a half years and was in the military for eight and a half years before that. He is a second generation CPD officer. His father, Mike Walden was with the Police Department until the 1980s, he said.
“Anthony recently assumed the position of range master, providing firearms training,” said Chief Cotton. “He has done an excellent job and the employees recognize that.”
Walden is a member of the CPD’s day shift road patrol, a position that is challenging and ever-changing.
“The best thing about being on patrol is that every day is different, the calls are different and you never know exactly what you’re going to get,” Walden said.
He said the calls can range from a minor automobile accident to something more serous involving injuries to something that makes you chuckle.
For instance, he said he recently responded to a man who got nauseated while he was working community service because he had been smoking marijuana on his lunch break.
Knowing he is helping people is one of his greatest rewards, he said.
Walden said he has received calls or visits from people he had contact with years earlier who will say they were encouraged to go back to school or earned a GED because of the way he dealt with them when they got in trouble
“I like getting out and speaking to elderly folks and children and checking on them,” Walden said. “Sometimes we’re the only people they get to talk to and find out how their day is going. It’s little things like that that most people don’t see us do.”
• Lerea Neely
Working as an administrative assistant with the Covington Police Department is a second career for Lerea Neely who spent 29 years in banking until the bank she worked for closed its doors. In 2010, she was offered a position as a transcriber with the CPD and in 2011 was moved to administration, where she works as an administrative assistant to Chief Stacey Cotton.
“I really enjoy my job with the Police Department, but it’s different,” Neely said. “I still want to use a calculator every day. The first thing I said when I first came is, ‘Where is the calculator?’”
Having been given a calculator, her main responsibilities are bookkeeping, scheduling, expenses and to keep the administrative office running smoothly.
“Her hardest job is making sure I am where I’m supposed to be and keeping me on task,” Cotton said. “She also reaches out to other divisions and anything they need, she just does an excellent job doing. Lerea is someone who does things before we know they need to be done and she’s already got them handled.”
While her favorite part of the job is keeping up with accounts payable, Neely said her job is diverse and “never boring.”
“I am very proud to be a part of this group of people at the Police Department,” she said. “It’s just amazing what they do every day, and it’s like a family atmosphere here.”