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Georgia House votes nearly unanimously in favor of bill that could shutter county police departments

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In response to the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, Georgia’s GOP-led state House voted 152-3 on Friday in favor of a bill that could potentially lead to the disbandment of all of the state’s county police departments.

The bill would specifically “allow voters to decide to eliminate their county police departments, moving authority to county sheriff’s offices,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“There are several county police departments in Georgia, including in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. In counties where there are two agencies, the county police handle the enforcement of state and local laws while the sheriff’s office manages the jail,” AJC reported.

In Atlanta, for instance, there are at least three law enforcement agencies operational: the Atlanta Police Department, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office the Fulton County Police Department.

But if the House bill passed Friday eventually makes it to law, the residents in Fulton County would have the option to eliminate the latter agency.

The bill’s primary target is Glynn County, which is where Arbery was shot and killed in January, in part because of the incompetence of the Glynn County Police Department.

Sometime last year, a Glynn County resident contacted the county police to complain about strangers trespassing on a home under construction that he owns.

In response, the department made the stunningly improper decision to tell the man to contact a nearby neighbor named Gregory McMichael for help with the situation.

“Elizabeth Graddy, an attorney for the homeowner, Larry English, said the text exchange occurred on December 20, 2019,” CNN reported last month.

“In it, English sends a video clip from his surveillance camera to the police officer. The officer responded, telling English that one of English’s neighbors is Gregory McMichael, a retired police officer and retired investigator in the local district attorney’s office.”

The keyword here is retired. The department should have never looked to a retired cop turned regular citizen to do their jobs for them.

Months later in February of this year, McMichael and his son, Travis, confronting Arbery after catching him trespassing on Graddy’s property, and during the ensuing altercation Arbery wound up dead.

Arbery’s shooting has since been used to justify the extremist claim that black men are being hunted down for execution. But as noted by conservative activist Candace Owens, the reality is that he was a black criminal suspect who shouldn’t have been trespassing on Graddy’s property, but who by the same token hadn’t deserved to die.

Ahmed’s death, coupled with the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, has spurred a growing movement across the country to reform (and in some cases eliminate) police departments.

In Georgia, meanwhile, the goal is only to remove some police –namely county police services, particularly those in Glynn County.

“There have been too many missteps over there,” state Rep. Al Williams, a Democrat, reportedly said about the Glynn County Police Department. “It’s time to be going in a different direction.”

The bill isn’t new, though. An original version of it was initially introduced in the Georgia Senate back in January, a month before Arbery’s death, in response to “years of alleged problems,” according to AJC.

However, it was only after Arbery’s death that the bill was “revived” in the House and formally voted on Friday.

With the bill having made it through the Georgia House, it now reportedly heads to the Georgia Senate for further consideration.

Vivek Saxena

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