FORSYTH — Keith Corley has nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience under his belt, but his new job still gives him some butterflies.
“I’m nervously excited,” said Corley, 50, who begins his job as the city’s new police chief June 1.
Corley has worked for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office for 29 years and was hired by then-Sheriff L. Cary Bittick, father of current Sheriff John Cary Bittick.
Corley currently serves as a captain in the sheriff’s office Support Services Division, supervising the 911 center, court security and school programs such as DARE.
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When former Forsyth Police Chief Art Phillips took early retirement at the end of 2009, Corley decided he was ready for a new challenge. He was one of six people vying for the job.
“I want (Forsyth) to be a good place to work for police officers,” he said. “Customer service is a big part of that. I want to make sure the citizens get what they expect from the police.”
Corley impressed city officials with his experience and his progressive ideas for the position, Forsyth Councilman Eric Wilson said.
“He’s very well qualified,” Wilson said. “He has over 3,000 hours of training. He can take the police department forward. ... He’s talked about more community-oriented policing and being more visible with downtown businesses. He wants to make the department nationally accredited.”
With Monroe County dubbed the “public safety capital of Georgia,” Wilson said he wants the police department to be the “best, most professional, exemplary department in the state.”
One of Corley’s first planned moves is to work closely with his soon-to-be-former co-workers in the sheriff’s office. Corley has talked about a plan in which police representatives will attend the weekly staff meetings at the sheriff’s office, and vice versa.
“At one point, we had a joint investigative team, probably about 15 or 20 years ago,” Corley said. “But because of budget issues, it stopped. I’ve talked with the chief deputy, and we want to send command representatives to each other’s staff meetings. We can brief each other and ... hopefully start training better with each other. If we interact more, it can’t lead to anything but good things.”
Corley is a lifelong resident of Forsyth and is a graduate of Mary Persons High School. His wife, Becky, is the daughter of former Superior Court Judge Hugh D. Sosebee. The couple has two children, Mary Kate, a rising junior at the University of Kentucky, and Laura, a senior at Mary Persons who will attend the University of Alabama.
Corley has always shown concern for his hometown, said Deputy Kirk Seckinger.
“He’s very personable,” Seckinger said. “He’s a real community-oriented type person. ... He’s already thinking ahead (for the new job). He’s friendly and approachable.”
Seckinger pointed out that Corley organized the safe-driving program for students, which includes using electronic eyepieces to simulate being drunk. Corley also helped start the Care Trak program the sheriff’s office uses to help track Alzheimer’s patients who wander off.
In addition to his varied experiences working in the sheriff’s office, Corley brings other unique law enforcement training to his new job. In 1996, he was one of many law enforcement officers across the state to help with security at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
In 1998, Corley attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., and in 2004 earned an FBI fellowship that allowed him to work with the Department of Justice (with the Bureau of Justice Assistance) and the National Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Corley said many police departments use the acronym P.R.I.D.E. — professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and excellence — to define how they want their officers to act.
“If I can instill that in our police officers, we’re going to have nothing but success,” he said.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.