Future of Police Oversight Office uncertain

Athens-Clarke Commissioner Russell Edwards recently said that he has not heard from citizens who support a proposed Community Police Oversight Office as much as he has heard from those who oppose its creation. As a result, Edwards has questioned the wisdom of moving forward with the proposal which developed in response to 2018 incidents of police officer use of force and concerns by many in marginalized communities about how the incidents were handled.

Commissioners will vote at their November 2 meeting whether to create the office, which would consist of a government staff auditor and a Civilian Oversight Board to promote accountability and transparency in law enforcement actions, as well as work to foster understanding between law enforcement and the community.

The Racial Justice Task Force of Oconee Street United Methodist Church (RJTF) supported our community partner Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement and others as part of a Police Advisory Task Force that Mayor Girtz appointed almost two years ago. By consulting with a national organization, supporters of the oversight board crafted recommendations tailored to Athens Clarke County. The those recommendations were approved by the city’s Government Operations Committee.

Robert Foster, chair of the Racial Justice Task Force, describes the events that led to the proposed Civilian Oversight Office and appeals for Athens Clarke County citizens to make their voices heard.

Citizens who marched for Black Lives Matter in 2020 can advocate for this specific change by writing to the mayor and commission, telling a friend to do the same and showing up at City Hall on November 2.

For more information about the proposal, see AADM’s explanation: https://www.aadmovement.org/civilian-police-oversight-board-explained.

Email addresses for the mayor and county commissioners: