Outside the Athens-Clarke County Police Department East Precinct in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Tony Walsh)

On April 2 at a Mayor and Commission meeting, various community members stood alongside the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement (AADM) as they proposed to create a Community Police Advisory Board. With the help of the local government and police department, the AADM aimed to establish the board by July 2019. The program has not been created, but sits high atop the priorities of local commissioners, such as District 5 Commissioner Tim Denson.

“I think too often we feel like these kinds of issues are a community versus police kind of situation. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it,” Denson said. “I think this is will bring the community and the police department closer together and have a better working relationship.”

Part of AADM’s initial demand is for the board to have the ability to investigative events and recommend action to the government with the help of a budget. In addition, the board would comprise of community members most impacted by policing.

For the board to be effective, the board demands the “ability to subpoena witnesses” and to “receive input from individuals and organizations” as outlined in the project’s online petition.

The project’s online petition states that “by establishing a CPAB, everyone will have a seat at the table, especially those impacted the most by these issues. We see such a process and any resulting Community Board(s), as focused not just on responding to possible police misconduct, but also as actively promoting ways to increase the trust, transparency, and relations necessary to ensure a safe community for all members of Athens-Clarke County,” the petition reads.

Furthermore, it’s Denson’s goal to have the review board up and running before the Mayor and Commission vote on establishing the new justice center included in the Space Modernization Project as a part of the SPLOST referendum vote this coming November.

“We need to make sure we are building a new criminal justice system at the same time we’re building that center,” Denson said. “I feel assured that we are going to get to the point of having this kind of oversight committee put in place. It might take a little more time with the commission working on it and becoming comfortable with it and see how it works in the community. But I do feel that eventually here, sooner rather than later, we’ll have it in place.”

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