Support citizen oversight for Athens police

By Steve Williams

We need your help to “let justice run down like water” in Athens, Georgia. Over 65 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. invoked that imagery from the Bible (Amos 5:24) during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement. While much progress has been made since then, much remains to be done to make Dr. King’s “Beloved Community” a reality. 

If you are like me, you have been dismayed and troubled by the state of justice and policing in particular in America.  Racial bias in policing has been documented in study after study across the country but despite protests and demands for reform, we see the same tragic scenes repeated over and over. And, if you’re like me, you want to do something about it.

Here in Athens, we have an opportunity to let a little more justice run down like water with the creation of a Civilian Oversight Board and Auditor for the Athens Police Department. At present, the Government Operations Committee (GOC) of the Athens Clarke County Commission is considering the creation of such a board and auditor.             

The board would be an independent body of 13 volunteer members made up of people just like you and me, with the kind of diversity in its make-up that reflects all the residents of Athens. Along with a full time, experienced employee auditor, the board would review the work of ACC law enforcement, perform community outreach, disseminate information and make recommendations for improvements in police policy, procedure and practice. By regularly interacting with police and the community, the board and auditor can foster accountability, legitimacy, and transparency of police actions and build bridges between law enforcement and all members of our community.

Here are ways you can get involved:

  1. Learn more about the board and auditor by attending a town hall, sponsored by the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement (AADM), at the Athens Clarke County Public Library at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 15.
  2. Attend a rally organized by AADM to be held on the evening of July 19 at Athens City Hall (time to be determined).
  3. Contact the commissioners who are on the GOC and let them know that you support the creation of a Civilian Oversight Board and Auditor. The email addresses of the commissioners who are on the GOC are:
    – Mike Hamby, Chair, District 10,
    – Patrick Davenport, District 1,
    – Tim Denson, District 5,
    – Russell Edwards, District 7,
    – Melissa Link, District 3,
  4. Sign the AADM petition urging commissioners to pass the recommendations for creation of the board and auditor.
  5. Pass this along to friends and neighbors. 

Thank you for helping advance the cause of justice in Athens.  

Steve Williams is a member of Oconee Street UMC, a member of the Racial Justice Taskforce and a regular court-watcher.