Capt. Gary McConathy is retiring from the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department this year. He shared with us some of his thoughts and experiences on nearly three decades of law enforcement service.
How long have you worked in law enforcement? 27½ years.
How long with the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department? 27½ years.
What inspired you to pursue a career in law enforcement? My brother James, who recently retired from the Georgia State Patrol, was the reason I started in law enforcement.
Please share your law enforcement history. My entire career has been at Fort Oglethorpe. I started as a patrol officer in 1991. In 1996, I worked on a grant with then-chief Wyrick for a traffic safety unit. Later that year, I was assigned to supervise the traffic safety unit. I was promoted to sergeant on July 21, 1997 and to Lieutenant on January 1, 2000. I supervised a watch, handled all training and supervised the traffic division, which had been increased to four units. On March 14, 2013, I was promoted to captain. Between 2005 and 2013, I was assigned to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety as the coordinator of the Mountain Area Traffic Enforcement Network, which covers ten counties: Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Murray, Polk, Walker and Whitfield.
I am a master instructor trainer with specialty certifications in firearms, defensive tactics, emergency vehicle operations, radar, lidar, standardized field sobriety testing and Taser. I have taught over 1000 students from 78 agencies across the state.
I have two first-place awards and one second place in the Governor’s Challenge (as a network coordinator). I won Officer of the Year in 2015 for the Mountain Area Traffic Enforcement Network and Ringgold Police Department Officer of the Year in 2011 (I was working there part time). I’ve also received multiple certificates of appreciation from Governors Perdue and Deal.
Please share a highlight from your career. The planning of the funeral service and later the Purple Heart Ceremony for Petty Officer Randall Smith. I was called to the city manager’s office and told to organize the service. There was so much networking and cooperation between the United States Navy and multiple agencies from Georgia and Tennessee.
What is the most frightening experience you’ve had as an officer? Of everything I have seen in my career, which includes a barricaded gunman and being shot at, the most frightening experience involved the killing of a pit bull dog. This occurred while I was working part-time at Ringgold PD. The dog was terrorizing a neighborhood and the police were called. I arrived shortly after Tom Evans and as I got out of my patrol car I saw the dog running toward Tom. I remember it looking like slow motion as the dog ran with its ears laid back and its jaws snapping. It looked like a demon. I watched as Tom pulled his weapon and started shooting at the dog. I could see the dirt flying but never heard the gunshots or even the dog barking. The dog was not fazed by anything. I couldn’t do anything because there were people in the direction I would have been shooting. Tom finally hit the dog on one of its legs and it paused long enough for me to get closer to Tom so I could actually help. The dog started toward Tom again and we were able to put it down. In my heart, I know there was no other solution. I remember trying to call the chief and let him know what had happened. I say trying because my hands were shaking so much I couldn’t push the buttons on my phone.
What advice would you give someone thinking about going into law enforcement? They should always remember that law enforcement is service-oriented. There is no “us versus them.” We are all citizens whether we carry a badge or not. We should work cooperatively with the community because to be effective we must have the trust of our community.
What is something many people might not know about you? I’m afraid of flying and I hate clowns.