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Criminal Justice

Dickens Picks Interim Chief to Head APD

Black Atlantans previously told city leaders they want respect from the new chief. Can Schierbaum deliver?

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has selected interim Police Chief Darin Schierbaum to be Atlanta’s top cop. (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

It’s official: Atlanta has a new top cop. 

Mayor Andre Dickens appointed interim chief Darin Schierbaum to the permanent position. Schierbaum will be the 26th chief of the Atlanta Police Department. 

“During his service as Interim Chief, we have seen crime drop, significant arrests of gang leaders, and partnership with the community increase,” Dickens said in a press release Monday announcing his appointment. “I thank Chief Schierbaum for his willingness to serve and look forward to continuing our partnership to continue building one safe city, with one bright future, together.”

Schierbaum has worked in APD for two decades and graduated as valedictorian from the Atlanta Police Department Academy. He has served in the Community, LGBT, and Hispanic liaison units during his time with APD. Schierbaum has served as interim chief since June and was previously assistant chief.

“I can think of no greater privilege than to continue being able to serve the residents of this great city alongside the civilian and sworn personnel who serve in a Constitutional, committed, competent and compassionate manner every single day. We will continue to aggressively target gangs, drugs and illegal guns in our city, while also deepening the bonds of trust and service between the force and the community,” Schierbaum said.

The mayor’s office has not commented about the search process; however, in his announcement, Dickens said his administration was pleased with their choice.

“After interviewing several diverse, high-caliber finalists for the position, I was happy, but not surprised, to find that we had the right candidate already at the post,” he said.

Schierbaum’s hiring comes just over a month after Dickens and the city released a survey to collect public feedback for help in picking the next chief of police. 

One of those residents was Desmond Der’Vil. The Sylvan Hills resident said his experience as a homeowner is what inspired him to offer his input on who should be the Atlanta Police Department’s future leader. 

“Seeing some of the crime that takes place … hearing stories of people saying they called the police when they heard gunshots and no one showed up, or it took a long time for them to show up,” Der’Vil said about what concerns him most in the neighborhood he’s called home since 2020. “I remember one night something happened, and people were saying they were calling the closest police station over here in the Lakewood area, and no one was coming to the phone.”

The anonymous survey was announced and released in September. The feedback request asked residents to rank which qualifications, priorities, and leadership qualities are most important to them in a new police chief. 

“Building public trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve is a collaborative process, and our Administration wants to ensure that all Atlantans have a seat at the table so we can hear their priorities for policing in Atlanta,” Dickens said when the survey was first released.

In the wake of rising crime in a city still reeling from the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks over two years ago, a lot of eyes will be on the APD leader. Residents and community leaders are hoping for a leader who embraces de-escalation tactics and won’t be afraid to stand up to the mayor.

‘There’s no respect’

Duwon Robinson was born and raised in Bowen Homes in Bankhead, and said he’s seen the neighborhood change throughout his lifetime, with more guns and drugs being brought into the community.

“It was really community policing back then; now it’s more of a police state, there’s no interaction, there’s no respect between the community and the police,” Robinson said.

Robinson was a 2017 candidate for City Council District 9, and said he wants to see the new chief prioritize community involvement, which is why he decided to fill out the survey.

“I love the fact that [the mayor] is asking the public’s input on what they think about the new chief because we’re the ones that have to be protected by the decisions that are coming down from the police chief,” he said.

West End resident Davida Huntley is in a unique position. The community activist also works in the city’s solicitor general’s office, processing misdemeanor citations issued by APD and witnessing the influence of understaffing on the force firsthand.

Huntley filled out the survey because she wants the new chief to prioritize community relationships between police precincts and the residents they serve. She added that it is important for officers to be at school, church, and other community events. 

“‘Highly educated’ was one of the options [in the survey], but personable or approachable was not an option,” Huntley said. “I do believe that is a major requirement for a leader of such statute that you are able to have a conversation with your police chiefs and not feel that they’re above you. I want somebody who is relatable and also professional.”

Though in Atlanta the chief of police reports directly to the mayor, Huntley says she wants Dickens to pick a candidate that isn’t afraid to stand up to him.

“I honestly believe that the mayor should be as transparent as possible with making sure that there’s a police chief that doesn’t necessarily always have to agree with the mayor because there are two levels of expertise,” she said.

Embracing the alternatives

Kiyomi Rollins is a Westview resident who first arrived in Atlanta in 1998. Rollins didn’t fill out the survey, but has been keeping close tabs on public safety developments since moving to the city. 

“There was a time that police officers had the opportunity to spend more consistent time in our community,” Rollins said. “I could definitely see the impact and the difference of when police officers have an opportunity to be able to know the folks.”

Rollins is co-founder of the Ke’nekt Cooperative, a collective of small businesses dedicated to fostering economic growth and independence in southwest Atlanta. She wants to see the next chief embrace de-escalation programs and work closer with the Policing Alternatives and Diversion Initiative

PAD’s staff works to reduce arrests for residents experiencing extreme poverty, substance use, or mental health concerns, while increasing supportive services in Atlanta and Fulton County. Rollins would like to see PAD extend its operating hours, which are currently 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

PAD Executive Director Moki Macias said she is glad to see that there was a survey for community input because it involves the public before the final candidate is chosen by the mayor. “I think it sets a different expectation with an incoming chief that the expectation is to listen to community members and to engage with community members,” Macias said.

She continued to say that it’s important for the public to be able to look at a potential new chief’s track record of leadership prior to coming to Atlanta.

“Community members need the opportunity to see — how did they handle issues of police accountability? How did they handle issues of community concerns? How well did they work with their citizen oversight board?” 

Before news of Schierbaum’s hiring, the mayor’s office declined to comment on the survey until they were finished collecting responses. It’s not clear how the feedback was incorporated into the hiring process.

This story was updated Oct. 31 to reflect Schierbaum’s appointment.