After four years as chief and 30 years of law enforcement service, West Point Police Chief Jeffery Cato is saying goodbye.
Cato announced his retirement in January and his last day will be June 1st, the same day he started in his position nearly four years ago.
“It’s just time. You gotta know when to hold ‘em and you gotta know when you have to fold ‘em,” Cato said.
Cato said his decision to retire was a combination of several factors but the large part of his decision was after 30 years of service, he wants to enjoy life, travel and play golf.
In his time at West Point, Cato has brought the emphasis back to the community. In 2011, he established an annual golf tournament, Friends of West Point, with all proceeds spent on the West Point youth and seniors.
Since the start of the golf tournament, over $140,000 has been raised, which Cato said has helped the community tremendously.
“That’s the most rewarding, giving back to the community,” he said.
Cato said his priority at the beginning of his post was to push the expectations of law enforcement past just enforcing the law, but giving back to the community.
In four years, Cato said he accomplished most of his goals he set out to do. He said some of his proudest accomplishments were hiring qualified and motivated officers and obtaining outside resources to purchase new equipment for the officers.
Cato was able to use $80,000 of seized funds to purchase body cameras, firearms, laptops, body microphones, tasers, two new 2014 SUVs and more.
Since announcing his retirement, co-workers have all expressed an overwhelming and unanimous wave of sadness.
Probation Officer, Yulanda Newton, said she had to fight back tears.
“It will be a sad day for the city of West Point for him to retire,” she said. “We’ve all asked him to stay.”
Clerk of Court, Paulette Hugeley, expressed those same sentiments and said she’s begged him not to retire.
“He’s going to be missed,” she said.
Patrol Officer Antwane Robinson said it was a joy to work under Cato.
“I really hate to see him go because he is a really proactive chief,” he said.
Cato said what he will miss the most is the support he received over his last four years from the community.
Cato said he hopes the next chief and the future of the police department continue to see growth.
“I would like to see the police department keep up with personnel, equipment and, most importantly, one day buy a real police department,” he said.
The current West Point Police Department is located in the basement of City Hall, which Cato said is not conducive.
“I hope the next person can fill his shoes or at least what he’s doing or more,” Newton said.
Moving on, Cato said he won’t forget the people.
“The most important thing are the relationships that I’ve developed with the fellow officers, councilmen, city manager and people in the community,” Cato said.
Cato was born in LaGrange in 1958, but grew up in DeKalb County. He joined the Marine Corps in 1979 and joined the DeKalb County Police Department in 1984 where he served for 16 years, working his way from patrol officer to detective and then up to a lieutenant ranking. He joined the DeKalb Sheriff’s Office in 2001 as a captain, obtaining the rank of major, and served there until 2010 when he retired. Cato was then appointed Chief of Police of West Point.
Two of Cato’s defining policies in his 30 years of service are the “broken window” theory and the concept of community policing.
The broken window theory states that property destruction and degradation, such as abandoned buildings, lead to crime activity.
The idea behind community policing is that crime can be controlled by interaction and support within a community.
Both of these practices were put into place during Cato’s four years in West Point.
Newton has lived in West Point her whole life and said since Cato has been chief, the city has changed dramatically, especially with community emphasis.
Cato currently lives in West Point, but said he is moving back to DeKalb County for the time being before he retires in Florida. Cato has three daughters, Jefandi, 33; Jenai, 25 and Jada, 19.
“I appreciate the support, the kindness, the friendship [and] the relationships that I’ve developed,” Cato said. “I will miss it.”