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Saturday 23 February 2019
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Pooler Native Christopher Dotson Serves City On The Force He Grew Up Admiring

Story by JEFF WHITTEN

Photos by NATALIE TURNER

Growing up, Christopher Dotson never lacked for hustle or energy or
work ethic, which means his story could have turned out completely
different and it would still be a fine story.

You know, local kid born and raised in Pooler grows up and stays
at home. He becomes a part of the fabric of the community while
raising a family, building a successful business and making a good
life for himself and others.

Early on, it maybe even looked like Dotson’s story would turn out
that way. He built his own thriving landscaping business while still a
kid, and later, as he attended Savannah Tech, Dotson got on with FedEx
Ground, and by the time he was done was working part time and going to
class and still became a manager. Dotson probably could have made a
career out of it, climbed the corporate ladder and who knows where he
might have wound up, had it been that important to him.

“I was good at it,” Dotson says. “But it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

Instead, Dotson did what he really wanted to do, which was first
put himself through the Police Academy at Savannah Tech. And then
Dotson got hired as a police officer at Georgia Southern University,
before finally getting the chance to join the Pooler Police
Department, the place he’d long wanted to be.

“I enjoyed (serving at Georgia Southern), but it wasn’t where my
heart was,” said Dotson, who spent eighteen months as an officer with
the Statesboro school and years before and during that trying to get
on with PPD.

Then, in 2011, he was hired by Pooler Police Chief Mark Revenew
— a move Dotson said might have been made out of exasperation with
this kid who wouldn’t stop asking to join up.

“I truly think Chief Revenew got sick of seeing my name come
across his desk,” Dotson said.

Or maybe it was more a case of a smart police chief recognizing
that Dotson was so bound and determined to become a police officer,
he’d just have to make a good one. It turned out the chief was right:
In December, Dotson was named the department’s 2014 Police Officer of
the Year, an award given out annually by the Pooler Chamber of
Commerce and Visitor’s Center to honor Pooler’s top cop.

“Chris is exactly what we look for when hiring an officer,”
Revenew said. “First of all he grew up in Pooler, and wants to give
back to his community through his service. Since Chris joined the
department he has always treated everyone respectfully and fairly. But
he takes his responsibility to making Pooler a better place very
seriously.”

What’s more, Dotson’s small frame – he’s about 5-foot-7 – isn’t a
shortcoming in a line of work where size can be an asset, but heart
matters most.

“Despite his modest stature, he is always quick to respond to a
problem and the first one to jump into a fracas or a chaotic
situation,” Revenew said. “I’ve seen him arrest  a violent offender
much bigger than him who struck him,  kicked him several times, and
messed up his uniform, and he shrugged it off and finished his shift
like nothing happened.”

Equally important, Dotson seems to be all in, the kind of officer
you’d want advertising your police force. A role model, if you will.

“He is every Chief’s ideal officer in that he comes to work every day
with a pleasant disposition and aggressively patrols the city trying
to determine how to make his community a better place each and every
day,” said Revenew, a former patrol officer himself.

Yet it’s not really work to Dotson, who is 28 and as fired up
today to get out there and police Pooler as he was the day he was
hired.

“I feel like God has called me to this profession,” said Dotson,
who is devoutly religious. “So when I come in I am on the job for Him
first. Not all people can say they are fulfilling their calling.”

If there’s a certain nobility to that statement, there’s also
this oft-quoted gem, which Dotson says applies to him as well. “As a
great teacher once said, ‘love what you do and you’ll never work a day
in your life.’ That kind of sums it up. Even during tragedies, knowing
I was able to treat people courteously and respectfully gives me a
strong sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.”

Growing Up In Pooler

The bio might go something like this, if Advanced Patrol Officer
Chris Dotson had one.

For starters, he grew up in Garden Acres, from proud roots. “My
dad was an HVAC technician and my mother was a full time homemaker and
a part-time house cleaner. They put both my brother and I in private
schools so that we could obtain the best education possible,” he said.
“They both worked extremely hard and that helped shape my work ethic.”

By the time he was “12 or 13” Dotson said he had a small
landscape business going. “It grew to be fairly large by the time I
was 16, and I was doing business in bulk with a local house builder
and other businessmen and landlords.”

Still, Dotson wanted more stable income when he started taking
classes at Savannah Tech, hence the decision to get a part time job
and the time spent with FedEx Ground, which helped pay his way through
the police academy and, well, you know the rest of that part of
Dotson’s story, and how he decided what he really wanted to do was be
a police officer in Pooler.

Here’s where that desire came from:

“As a young person in Garden Acres, I saw the police who came
through the neighborhood and saw them as role models. I had several
bicycles stolen, and a young female officer took one of those
reports,” Dotson recalls. “She actually lived a few houses down from
me on an adjacent street, so she was familiar with who I was. She,
along with a couple of other officers, got together and bought me a
new bicycle.”

That not so random act of kindness made its impact on Dotson.
“That was my first sense of seeing a police officer as a part of the
community and the public service that went along with it. Our families
became friends and she was an integral part of what gave me
perspective of the police.”

Over time, Dotson began to interact with area police officers and
“they further imbedded that sense of community, and what they did for
work seemed exciting and fulfilling.”

From such a small beginning sprang a love affair between a man
and his chosen profession, one that includes mentors such as Det.
Jason Parrish, who was Dotson’s training officer, Lt. Karen Zantow,
Dotson first shift supervisor, and Revenew, who is not only police
chief but also taught Dotson at St. Leo’s, where Dotson recently
finished up his Bachelor’s in criminal justice.

All together, they’ve helped mold a good police officer. Dotson
sees himself as a public servant with “the ability to make a tangible
difference locally in the community,” he said.

Police, like firefighters and paramedics and emergency medical
technicians, often see people in distress. It can take the wind out
your sails as easily as it can make you want to help. It makes Dotson
want to help

“Often, I am seeing people in their worst state,” he said. “And
often times their concerns are the biggest problem in their life at
that time. Things like domestic violence situations, and  drugs and
alcohol can cripple families and children. So when I arrest an
offender from a violent domestic situation, I know, at least for a
while, that that family will have peace from the issue.”

Now a veteran officer, Dotson has responded to hundreds, if not
thousands, of calls. Some stand out, among them the time he caught an
identity thief from out of town at Copper Village. Another time,
Dotson helped put a pimp out of business and free two women from a bad
situation.

“The identity thief had more than 60 identifications, stolen
mail, even a stolen water meter,” Dotson said. “Then, not long after
that, I got a kidnapping call. Two women, one being juvenile, were
being sexually trafficked at a local hotel by a pimp. They ran away to
a construction site and called police. I had seen this guy in town
twice before and I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t quite
have legal grounds to arrest him and he wasn’t going to help me. Third
time is the charm. The detectives came out and and helped piece the
case together, and putting the handcuffs on him and watching the women
being able to live a free life with choices again was rewarding.”

Family Man

If you’ve read this far, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise
that Dotson is a family man who married his high school sweetheart.

“I am married to the love of my life, Jacqueline, and she and I
have a beautiful 19-month-old daughter, Catherine.”

Jacqueline grew up in Gleason Heights, just across the railroad
tracks from Garden Acres, and the two met in high school, started
dating and married in 2010. She is a community based special-ed
teacher for preschool intervention, working with inner-city Savannah
special needs pre-school kids either in their homes or in daycares,
and both Dotson and his wife attend Gateway Community Church.

“My faith in Jesus Christ and my family are important to me,”
Dotson said. “At the end of life, nothing else really is as important
as that.”

But there’s always the job, which seems as much an avocation as
it is a vocation for Dotson, who hopes to “rise through the ranks and
spend some time in investigations,” then “be a part of what leads the
department into the next generation of professional officers while
continuing the small town atmosphere.”

Now that he’s on the force, Dotson said he’d advise future
officers to study. Study life and go to college. Knowledge is key.

“Law enforcement is becoming more and more a competitive, professional
career,” he said. “People expect when they call for the police they
will receive an educted officer with common sense.”

At the same time, Dotson thinks some folks tend to paint all
police officers with the same broad brush, especially when law
enforcement officers make news for abusing their power or worse.

“My main pet peeve is that people perceive that we are power
hungry, enjoy the use of force and are robots,” he said. “Let’s face
it, as long as we have humans doing the job, there will be bad apples
and mistakes made. However, when you compare law enforcement to other
career fields, even doctors, police are statsically far less likely to
be unethical. We are people, we go home to families, too.”

Dotson thinks more communication, along with education and the
power of relationships, are key to bridging gaps between the public
and those sworn to protect it. He’s a believer in community oriented
policing, and sees an ever-growing community out there to serve.

“Man, has Pooler changed,” Dotson said. “When I grew up it was
Lovezolla’s Pizza and the Gate station. Pooler’s growth has brought
opportunities for many families, and we may have more people, stores
and streets, but the heart of Pooler hasn’t changed. It still has that
small town charm it always has. There’s no place like home, and I’m
proud to be from here, and proud to be here.”




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