The Cumming Police Department has seen a lot of changes over the last year, including a new chief, new hires and new vehicles, but Cumming Police Chief David Marsh said experience might be the most important change of all.
In July 2019, Marsh was sworn-in an as the new chief of the Cumming Police Department, after working with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office since 2004.
Marsh said since he stepped into the role, the department has made some cosmetic changes for vehicles and patches and added new equipment, “but the reality is the biggest change is the people, 100%.”
“We have, including me, 21 people working here at the Police Department,” Marsh said. “When I first started, we had seven, so we had a pretty strong push to get good people in, to get good people hired, to get good people working, and I’m pleasantly surprised that we have been able to get that mark.”
The chief said those hires have all been for uniformed officers and have run the gamut from new officers to those with experience in Forsyth, Hall and Gwinnett counties and the city of Atlanta, which he counts as a big benefit for the department.
“What we’re really looking forward to in the future is just training and cultivating our police department around that leadership,” Marsh said. “We don’t have a ton of shootings in the city of Cumming, which is great, which is awesome, but should we have one, it’s nice that we have people that know how to handle that kind of stuff.
“Experience is one of the things that everyone wants to have but no one wants to get because it takes years … and you have to go through hard things to learn from experience, so when you bring people in that have truly lifetimes of experience from one of the hardest places in the country, it just changes the dynamics of this place exponentially.”
Experience isn’t the only change the new employees have brought.
Marsh said when he came to the department, officers were not handling calls at all hours of the day, and now they are.
“So that was one of the biggest pushes was to get enough officers in who we could kind of fulfill our duties as a police department and handle calls for service,” he said. “That’s the real basic mandate of what our job is, when 911 calls come in, we need officers that are working around the clock, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we didn’t have that.”
Another internal change has been the addition of a criminal investigation division to look at property and person crimes that have been committed, whereas before the job fell on one officer and was done in addition to their other duties.
“What they’ve been able to provide in way of investigations to our city, you can’t even imagine what it’s like,” Marsh said, “and it even concerned me a little bit because, essentially, this agency, we weren’t investigating any property crime. Anything that was considered a person crime, we were sending to the sheriff’s office and they were adding that to the list of however many person crimes that they have. I have been just so proud of their ability to take cases and work them as completely as possible.”
Over the past year or so, the department has also seen some additions of new equipment including body cameras, cameras in vehicles and nine new police vehicles.
While Marsh had experience with law enforcement, he said budgeting was a new something he was learning as “money is pretty much the bottom line for all decisions that we make,” but he said he’s received a lot of support from Mayor Troy Brumbalow and the Cumming City Council.
“I tried to my best to weigh the needs of the police department versus the needs of the city council and how the finances work, and the reality is they’ve been almost unconditionally supportive of everything we’ve asked for,” Marsh said.
When it came to the new vehicles, Marsh said four of the nine had already been planned in the city’s annual budget, but city leaders were supportive of the extra five that were needed.
Like city leaders, Marsh said he had also received support from Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman and the FCSO, where Marsh previously spent time in the patrol, narcotics and criminal investigation divisions, worked as part of a DEA taskforce and held administrative roles such as training and internal affairs.
“One of the biggest places of help that they have been for us is in the area of training,” he said. “They’ve got a fulltime training staff, they offer fulltime training classes all the time, they have a calendar that is really well built. COVID changed a little bit of that, they had to tweak a couple of things, but when they have 500 people, they have continuous training.”
Marsh said the sheriff’s office often had trainings for certifications, such as DUIs and PIT maneuvers, and “If I need a guy in a class, I make a phone call, and they say no problem.”
Marsh said he believes the changes that have been made in the first year will set the tone for the department in the coming years.
“We’re in a great position now, and if money is tight next year, we’re in a position where we can spend less, and it’s something that we’re excited to do our part as well to make sure that we’re fiscally responsible,” he said.
Among those changes will include a new headquarters at the planned Cumming City Center, which he said will about double the amount of space the department has from the current building on Veterans Memorial Boulevard, which he said is about 60 years old.
“Having a new building at the City Center is going to be unbelievable,” Marsh said. “Apparently it’s just going to be a beautiful building, and the whole downstairs is going to be the municipal court, and the second floor is going to be for all of our personnel.”