The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any other county police departments in the state, following its handling of the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The House voted 152-3 to allow voters to decide whether to eliminate their county police departments, which would move authority to county sheriff’s offices.
There are seven state-certified county police departments in Georgia —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.
The vote comes after the shooting death of Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was killed in February while jogging near Brunswick. Three men, Travis and Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan, have each been charged with felony murder in the Arbery case, which has drawn national attention and sparked demonstrations along with the murder of George Floyd.
“There have been too many missteps over there,” said state Rep. Al Williams, a Democrat. “It’s time to be going in a different direction.”
A previous version of the legislation, Senate Bill 38, was initially introduced in January in response to years of alleged problems with the Glynn County Police Department. That bill didn’t advance, but it was revived after Arbery’s death.
Travis and Greg McMichael were charged with murder and aggravated assault in May after a video of the incident surfaced and the GBI opened an investigation. The police failed to arrest the McMichael’s at the scene of the crime.
“They should have arrested the McMichaels at the scene, and they did not,” said state Rep. Don Hogan, a Republican.
The bill amends the Georgia Code in order to “provide a method for the abolition of a county police department and 3 returning the law enforcement functions of such department to the sheriff of the county,” according to the bill’s text.
If the voters choose to eliminate their county police department, “the county police department shall be abolished 180 days following such referendum. At such time, all property, equipment, records, documents, funds, and other items in the possession or control of the county police department shall be transferred to the sheriff of the county.”
The legislation now moves to the state Senate for further consideration of the bill. The previous bill, Senate Bill 317 officials argued overstepped the authority of local governments to set their own laws.
Chairman of the Glynn County Board of Commissioners Michael Browning said the law violates Georgia’s home-rule law, which gives local governments the power to adopt laws to manage their own affairs.
“This is a local matter that should be handled at a local level, by those who are elected to conduct the day-to-day business of Glynn County,” Browning said.
Representatives from the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia agreed.
Glynn County is one of 14 counties in Georgia that operates under a commission-manager form of government, where the police department has to report to the county manager, who is the chief administrator, The Center Square reported.
This follows nine out of twelve members of the Minneapolis City Council have declared their support for disbanding and dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department. Georgia and Minneapolis aren’t the only cities there is a nationwide push to dismantle, defund and end police departments gaining steam as a result of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. For example, a New York councilman has called for a $1bn divestment from the NYPD. In Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, San Francisco, and other cities, local policymakers have started expressing support for some form of defunding or opposing police budget increases.