After 35 years working with the Cobb County, Ga., Police, Pittman and his wife, Melanie, settled down in the Alabama town where she had grown up. For Pittman, it was a chance to get away from the suburban Atlanta county of 600,000 where he had lived all his life and to experience small-town living.
“The traffic jam here is when you got a line of three cars at a red light,” Pittman, 59, said with a laugh. “I like the little community.”
But he didn’t like retirement too much, which is why last month the former police major took over as Heflin’s new police chief, filling a position that had been vacant for two months.
“After 10 months, I just missed law enforcement,” said Pittman, who started his new job on March 19. “I missed being involved in the community, knowing what’s going on in the community.”
Heflin’s community is a bit smaller than he’s used to. Cobb County had a department of more than 600 officers covering a suburban area north of Atlanta with more than 600,000 residents. Heflin has about 3,000 residents, and Pittman oversees a force of 12 sworn officers.
“Things move a little slower here,” he said from his office Tuesday.
And though the job might be a little different, Pittman said that doesn’t make the work his officers do any less important.
“A lot of officers take pride in things like just going to schools and talking to kids,” he said. “You can be just as proud of that as a guy from a big department who deals with 60 homicides a year.”
And working for the community is the emphasis Pittman wants to instill in his department.
“We’re not just here for law enforcement,” he said. “We’re part of the community, we’re involved in that, and we need to take part of that and not just for law enforcement.”
Working with Heflin Mayor Anna Berry, Pittman said he hopes to increase training for the small staff of mostly younger officers. Berry said Pittman’s experience made him a standout for the job, and believes it’ll rub off on the department.
“We already had a great force here,” she said. “Now we’re going to take his experience and bring us to the next level.”
Berry said she hopes to work with Pittman on code enforcement and local ordinance issues. In the long term, she hopes they can collaborate on getting a new building for the police department. The department is in the basement of the mayor’s office, and she said more space is needed.
Pittman said his decision to come out of retirement wasn’t a tough one, not even from a financial standpoint. At retirement his Georgia paycheck was $96,000 a year; in Heflin his salary is around $60,000. Rather, when the job opened up, he said, he knew it was a chance to rejoin the ranks that he missed dearly.
“It’s camaraderie,” Pittman said, about working in law enforcement. “You depend on each other so much, you become more than friends. You’re more like a family.”
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star