“We have 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States,” said Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan, who spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Griffin Wednesday, adding that those agencies have about 850,000 police officers. “There is no one person in charge of those police officers.”
Instead, local police departments and sheriff’s offices are directly responsible for the communities they serve.
“When you call 911, which police agency answers the phone? It’s your local law enforcement agency. That’s why it’s so important to support your local law enforcement agency,” said Keenan, who has been with the GBI for 40 years and was appointed director in 2003.
Keenan said he’s seen many of the nearly 700 law enforcement agencies in Georgia, the good and the bad, and feels the support for this community’s agencies is worthwhile.
“You are very fortunate that you have great law enforcement in Griffin, Spalding County. I hope you recognize that,” Keenan said. “You have a lot going for you here.”
First formed in 1937, the GBI was created to provide assistance to local agencies, and it does so through more than 800 employees who work in one of three divisions — the state forensic science crime lab, the Georgia Crime Information Center and the investigative division.
Accompanied by City Manager Kenny Smith and Griffin Police Department Chief Frank Strickland, Keenan said the top priority of his office is to solve crimes against children. And a database alone with more than 245,000 DNA samples has allowed the GBI to solve about 3,000 cases, most of them sex offenses.
Keenan also shared with Kiwanis members that while crime rates across the state have declined over the years, the level of violence has gone up, especially when directed at law enforcement officers.
“It’s important to understand the violence directed at law enforcement officers in Georgia,” he said. “Georgia is No. 4 in the nation (in terms of) the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.”
Asked by the audience about opportunities to join the GBI, Keenan said it’s a competitive field to work in, adding that of about 700 applications his office receives, only about eight people will be hired.
One requirement to qualify for a job with the GBI is to have a clean record, which led Keenan to offer some career advice.
“A DUI can bring your career to a standstill,” he said. “Don’t do stupid things that will come back to haunt you.”