BY ELLIE HENSLEY
If you spend any time in the district, you’ve likely noticed Midtown Blue Public Safety Officers (PSOs) patrolling the district on bikes, Trikkes and in vehicles. They supplement the Atlanta Police Department by monitoring safety cameras in the public right-of-way and providing incident response and community relations.
Although the public safety officers share the same job title, the program allows them to focus on areas they are passionate about. Some PSOs have focused on homelessness and helping people with job placement. Terry Sadler, who has worked at Midtown Blue for four years, is particularly dedicated to helping at-risk youth.
On June 26, we shadowed Sadler on one of his shifts to find out firsthand what it’s like to be the eyes and ears of Midtown. Read more below.
On the Job with Midtown Blue
Midtown Blue shifts center around working with the public, whether that’s giving directions, assisting people with parking, asking people not to ride bikes and scooters on the sidewalks or working with those experiencing homelessness.
“I like that you get to meet people on the job and help people out,” said Sadler. “You get the sense that people understand you genuinely care.”
One thing Sadler wishes more people understood about his job as a PSO is that it’s not the same as being a police officer. Midtown PSOs are unarmed and do not have powers of arrest, though Midtown Blue does work closely with APD and can call police officers to the scene quickly when they are needed.
During summer, when school is not in session, a daily part of Sadler’s patrols is talking to young kids and teens selling water by busy intersections, or even in traffic.
There are also other dangers involved — on June 27, an 18-year-old who is believed to have been with a group of teens selling water was shot and killed in Midtown.
When he sees a group lingering with bottles in their hands, Sadler pulls over and addresses them firmly, but kindly: "Why are you out here in the street where you could get hit on a dangerous expressway? Are you going to take your trash with you?"
Sadler explains many of these kids often only have their behavior corrected through yelling, and he doesn’t believe that’s the way to get through to them.
“Most kids want discipline and a lot of people don't understand that,” he said. “If you're talking to a kid and you're calm, they'll stay engaged. They'll hear what you have to say.”
A Full-Time Dedication to At-Risk Teens
Sadler works evening shifts at Midtown Blue because being a PSO is actually his extra job. During the day, he works in the criminal justice sector where he is a program administrator who sometimes travels to area high schools to speak to students about gang violence and the juvenile justice system. Previously, he was a probation officer and ran a diversion program for a teen court.
Sadler has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Alcorn State University and a Master of Science degree in Justice and Security from the University of Phoenix. He’s taken courses on how to recognize children from Amber alerts and spot the signs of human trafficking, and he volunteered with Team Atlanta during the 2019 Super Bowl.
“This is a big city and you have to know what signs to look for,” he said. “You never know when you may see a kid who has been reported missing or is being trafficked.”
His volunteer work includes mentoring kids for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He stays in touch with several of his former mentees, who have gone on to graduate from college.
“When I work with youth, I want them to understand that what they do can follow them for the rest of their life,” he said. “If I can get one of them to change, it’s worth it.”
Learn more about Midtown Blue here. In an emergency, always call 911 first. Then call Midtown Blue at 404-817-0500.