By Jim Simpson
In a small brick building on Buford Highway across from the bustling Town Center Park, Suwanee Chief of Police Mike Jones sits behind an impressive wooden desk discussing philosophy. Not Descartes, Kierkegaard or Kant, but “community policing.”
As a rule, Jones pushes this philosophy, stressing that it isn’t merely a program but a way of life for him and his staff of 39 sworn officers.
“There are two types of officers in my opinion: those that police from the head and those that police from the heart. I’m looking for the ones that police from the heart.” For Chief Jones, these are the types of officers he wants because they’re most adept at building relationships within the community.
“We can be tough when we have to, but we don’t have to be tough all the time,” said Jones. “If we have to get down and dirty with somebody, they make the call and we just have to do what we gotta do. In most cases, it’s rare that we have altercations. It’s all in how you talk to people. That’s what we really push here: communication and building relationships.”
Jones established P.A.C.T. (Police And Citizens Together) in 2001 as a tool to build trust within the community. Inspired by a similar idea from the Morrow Police Department, Jones tweaked it to fit Suwanee’s needs.
In 1999 when he was hired as chief, Suwanee was a city of only 5,000 citizens. But Jones noticed the area’s overwhelming neighborhood developments, and with each one he saw a possibility to reach out to the community. He assigned an officer to each neighborhood to meet with homeowners’ associations setting up a link between residents and officers to meet regularly and discuss crime statistics, prevention, and to let citizens know the department was there for them.
In March of 2019, Jones was named 2018-2019 Georgia Police Chief of the Year in a ceremony at the State Capitol. In his Suwanee office, behind his big desk, while talking about the proclamation which states, in part, that he followed in his father’s footsteps, Jones pauses with a nostalgic look in his eyes.
Jones’ father served with the City of Rome Police Department for 33 years, retiring as a captain. Young Mike Jones began his law enforcement career in 1974 as a radio dispatcher with that same city, working his way up to major before coming to Suwanee as chief.
“I tell my people all the time that you don’t have to be big to be good. Even though we’re a small agency, we can be professional. In fact, when you walk through the building, you see three words on the walls: Professional, Ethical, Knowledgeable.” The words also appear on every police car and are engraved on the back of each officer’s badge.
Outside his office, a huge handmade quilt made by a former employee hangs on the wall giving the place a family vibe that doesn’t end there: Jones’ wife is a Gainesville City Marshal, his younger brother served with the Georgia State Patrol, and his eldest son is a lieutenant with the Gwinnett County Fire Department.
“When I was 17, I worked the night shift as a radio dispatcher in Rome, and when I turned 21 they swore me in,” said Jones with a smile. “I’ve wanted to be a police officer my entire life.”