Deputy Chief Gina Hawkins Goes to Israel with GILEE.

Article by · January 7, 2015

With college football season fast approaching there is no disguising Clayton County Police Department Deputy Chief in charge of the Field Operations Command Gina V. Hawkins’ allegiance to the Ohio State University. Upon entering her office at the Clayton County Police Headquarters Building in Jonesboro you immediately notice the only sports memorabilia belongs to the Buckeyes. The Columbus, Ohio native was even born in Ohio State University Hospital (now known as the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center). Hawkins has spent her entire 27-year law enforcement career as a loyal and staunch team player and continues to serve the public as such.
    Ever the student-Hawkins holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Georgia State University and a Master of Science in Management degree from John Hopkins University’s Public Safety Leadership Program-there was always a next level, a new journey for her to take throughout her career. Starting in 1988 as a rookie Atlanta Police Department through numerous promotions, retirement from the A.P.D. as Assistant Zone Commander of Zone Three Precinct on to the newly assembled Sandy Springs Police Department in 2006 where she held the rank of Lieutenant before joining the Clayton County Police Department. Already having graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) National Associates Academy (Class #252) and from the Senior Management Institute for Police in Boston, the mother of two daughters decided to apply for the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE). The best leaders are always looking to expand on their craft through training.
   “I have been in law enforcement since 1988 and have become wise enough to understand I can always learn something new from someone else’s experience and challenges,” said Hawkins. Those new lessons would come from the Israeli Police.
   The GILEE was established in 1992 for the initial purpose of protecting the patrons of the 1996 Olympic Games which were set to be held in Atlanta. Following the 9-11 atrocities the program took on another mission entirely; to exchange public safety information and training between Georgia local, state, and federal law enforcement entities and international law agencies. The program’s director Dr. Robert Friedman, Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at Georgia State University, believes the program has an even greater mission.
   “The idea is to have peer to peer on-site training”, said Friedman who along with his other duties is as an author of five books on criminal justice and policing including Community Policing: Comparative Perspectives and Prospects (1992, St. Martin’s Press)  was readily available to speak to this reporter about the program. “We are trying to develop the next generation of law enforcement leadership. We hope that some of this training filters down to our guests,” said Dr. Friedman.
   One of the key benefits of being selected to the GILEE, now in its 23rd year of existence, is the annual two-week trip to Israel. Deputy Chief Hawkins and the other applicants from law enforcement agencies all over Georgia have more than just some paperwork to fill out in order to get the process underway.
   “The application for GILEE was not an easy fill in the blank submission form,” said Hawkins. The GILEE only accepts 20 percent of the submitted applications and only supervisorial level applicants need to apply. With her reputation as good as any out there, Deputy Chief Hawkins was  “sincerely hoping to be chosen to be a part of the delegation.
   “I received a personal phone call from Dr. Robert Friedman to congratulate me on being chosen to be a part of the 23rd GILEE delegation,” said Hawkins. “I was at work at the time and did everything possible to contain my excitement.”
   The program’s founder and director Dr. Friedman was familiar with Hawkins “from her time with the Atlanta Police Department and when she was with the Sandy Springs Police Department” and figured her application might cross his desk. “She was accepted in a very competitive process and to her credit behaved as expected; professionally,” said Friedman. “She was just a pleasure to have on the trip.”
   Policing in the United States of America, a democratic country, is a world away from the militaristic style of the Israeli Police but the ultimate goals are the same for both departments: Public security, maintaining law and order, and fighting crime. There was plenty Hawkins and her classmates could learn from their host. Hawkins was on a mission to do that and much, much more and she came to the Middle East prepared.
       “Prior to the trip I wanted to focus on the ability of the Israeli Police to effectively communicate its safety and security mission to 35,000 total employees and the country as a whole,” said Hawkins. I learned the law enforcement community in the State of Israel have the same challenges as we have in the United States and are under more stressful conditions.”
   Ultimately Deputy Chief Hawkins and her constituents are overseas exchanging ideas with their foreign counterparts. Relationships are formed and techniques are learned that will be potentially implemented into the law enforcement agencies here in the states. In keeping up with the times and recent police/community debate topics, Hawkins believes there is definitely one tactic that needs to look into. “[They] use less-lethal weapons and more hand to hand techniques to diffuse and it’s something we should do more research on.”
   She continued, “there were many other highlights I learned during this time period which I will be able to reflect on throughout my remaining professional law enforcement career.”  
    The world’s only Jewish-majority state, Israel has a population of a little over 8 million people and a unified police force. Imagine the entire state of Georgia has one police department instead of unique law enforcement agencies based in separate communities. The training the members of the 23rd GILEE class got while in Israel will stay with them forever. The differences between the two countries’ law enforcement systems don’t stop at the uniforms, however. The environment in the State of Israel immediately put the blessing that is democracy in proper perspective for Hawkins.
  “The main difference between the Israeli Police force and American law enforcement is the constant state of war readiness,” said Hawkins. “Although as a nation we have become trained and prepared for homeland security issues, comparatively there are many communities in the United States in which we are not in a constant state of actual war readiness. The Israeli Police leaders demonstrated their professional dedication to serve and protect their community under very tough conditions and affirmed our commonalities of providing the quality public service expected from our community.”
    Due to that constant state of war readiness, the GILEE contingent rarely wore their law enforcement uniforms on their trips through the many cities they visited during the two weeks in-country. The better to not draw attention from someone looking to make a name for themselves by targeting an American high ranking law enforcement officer. “We were transported by Israeli Police everywhere we went,” said Hawkins. “We have the privilege of freedom in the United States in our mindset and in what we do in comparison to Israel.”
     Despite the high-intensity environment, there was a little time to tour the country and visit some of the world’s oldest tourist sites such as the Old City of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee and Mount Tabor, respectively.
    Israel remains on Hawkins’ list of her favorite places to visit. This opportunity was her first time but won’t be her last. “[We] traveled the entire country during our two weeks there,” said Hawkins. “I definitely consider Israel a bucket list destination for everyone.”
   Deputy Chief Hawkins looks to take all she learned overseas and feels it will better serve her in her capacity here in Clayton County. She’ll need all the patience and skill she can muster for the big day coming this fall. What big day do you ask? Well, November 28 of course. That’s when the Ohio State Buckeyes reigning National Champion football team travels up to Ann Arbor to face Michigan. Ever the team player we all know who she’ll be pulling for.

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