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An exchange program for police brings Israelis to Richmond Hill
Members of the Israel Police and Israel Prison Service came to Richmond Hill
Members of the Israel Police and Israel Prison Service came to Richmond Hill recently as part of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange. Photo provided.

Georgene Brazer, local columnist

People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things. Edmund Hillary I call those I write about heroes, individuals with talents and achievements that show a tenacity to reach people; decent, community minded individuals with a desire to serve.

As I reflected on this I realized that this article enlarges the picture of this theme. Police. Police the world over risk their lives to make our homes, our world a better place. They never stop working. And so, this story of giving begins.

A 16-member delegation of senior Israel Police and Israel Prison Service Officials came to Georgia for leadership development training through the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE).

Dr. Robert Friedmann, the Founding Director of GILEE, works closely with police departments in the U.S. and internationally on community policing and homeland security. This unique law enforcement leadership program has made a major contribution to law enforcement agencies in Georgia, 30 other states and more than 30 countries.

Richmond Hill Police Department Major Jason Sakelarios (Ret), whom I wrote about in the December 9, 2021 paper, was instrumental in bringing this illustrious group to Richmond Hill. Having the delegation visit our city was an idea planted in his mind since his visit to Israel as a participant in this program in November, 2021. Jason told me that participating was one of the most rewarding experiences in his life, both personally and professionally.

He contacted Dr. Friedmann to have the delegation come to Richmond Hill during their program in Georgia. Jason really wanted to share the ways that the Richmond Hill Police Department meets the challenges of policing in a rapidly growing and changing community and to have these officers experience the wonders of neighborhood and close relationships our police share with Richmond Hill. Mayor Carpenter remarked how important being selected for this visit is for Richmond Hill. “It brings us important recognition outside our borders. Israel’s expertise adds to our already highly successful force, helps our services within our community,” he said. When I mentioned the program to Katherine Johnson, CEO of our Chamber of Commerce, she said with a smile, “Good, great. Good safety is good for business.” Councilman Robbie Ward joined the group for lunch. He told me their knowledge, friendliness and desire to participate impressed him tremendously. “What an opportunity for our police to share and develop relationships internationally.”

Jason and members of the Department came together and created a presentation package that they shared with their overseas counterparts. The delegates were presented with a brief history of the department, the rapid growth the City has seen in the past 20 years and the challenges that growth has created for the Department in their role of providing law enforcement and how it is handled. The delegates found many of these ideas unique.

They commented on how many of the same ideas and techniques that our force uses to meet the needs of our citizens could be implemented in their own jurisdictions/agencies.

This type of training is virtually priceless. The interaction, the discussions helped to cement bonds between our police and their Israeli counterparts. They will stay in touch to continue to learn from each other. Professional and personal friendships were made.

The delegates were taken on a tour of Richmond Hill and heard about its unique history from Christy Sherman, executive director of the Convention and Visitors-Bureau. They attended our Veteran’s Day Ceremony.

They found the ceremony meaningful as most delegates are Israeli military veterans.

A trip to Fort McAllister, taking them back to our civil War history and the opportunity to experience the shooting of black powder was a special time as was experiencing our Richmond Hill Christmas decorations. Ted Gray, “our train man,” was wonderful. He put up his famous train display replete with its village and more for them to experience. Early, but willing to give our guests a special remembrance of our world, our Richmond Hill.

We Are Richmond Hill, serving you with dedication and pride.

We truly have much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving. 

Georgene.Brazer is chairwoman of the Richmond Hill Downtown Development Authority.

Ted Gray
Richmond Hill’s Ted Gray, with one of his model trains; right, an armpatch worn by a member of the delegation of Israel Police who recently trained in Richmond Hill.
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