Griffin PD restructuring plan approved by 6-1 vote

SHEILA MATHEWS :::

The Griffin Police Department restructuring plan proposed by City Manager Kenny Smith was on Tuesday approved by the Board of Commissioners. Outgoing Commissioner Shaheer Beyah was the lone dissenting vote.

Commissioner Ryan McLemore requested discussion on the proposal, and that began with Smith laying out his plan.

As he had previously stated, Smith said BoC members during their February retreat had expressed a desire for him to devise a plan to clean up the city. In addition, he said the plan was developed to address the PD’s rank structure –which he said was top heavy – as well as the budget.

According to Smith, the PD’s budget is higher than those of other departments in municipalities of similar populations.

“We had thought that would correct itself through department attrition,” Smith said, adding that it has not yet been resolved.

Smith identified improving residents’ quality of life as the “first and foremost” goal and objective, and said the restructuring plan will allow positive strides made by the city’s recent Code Enforcement Task Force to be maintained by the creation of a new Code Enforcement officer position.

“By taking care of issues when they’re small, the tendency is that those problems don’t escalate,” Smith said, later adding, “Code Enforcement will continue to work with Development Services and the building inspector to alleviate substandard housing.”

Addressing the elimination of two police officers’ positions – Maj. Terry Brock and Capt. Dwayne Jones – Smith said it is unfortunate, but will not negatively impact the public’s safety.

“This in no way will affect the number of officers who patrol our streets or investigate our crimes,” he said.

Upon the conclusion of Smith’s statement, McLemore addressed those present, beginning by stating he had spent the previous five days “constantly thinking about it.”

He then spoke out in strong opposition to the negative criticism he had read in a number of Facebook comments regarding the restructuring proposal. In particular, McLemore said he was not appreciative of comments taken so far as to call Smith derogatory names.

For moving forward with the proposal amidst these personal attacks, he said, “I would like to describe him (Smith) as brave.”

He also stated that he had also taken the initiative to evaluate the GPD’s budget in comparison to the per capita costs of other cities, and said local expenses were higher.

McLemore said for him, the issue “came back to placing my trust in the person who’s worked with the department for 10 years…I will vote to give the restructuring plan a try.”

Commissioner Dick Morrow said the positions eliminated by the proposal do not stand alone, as the city’s workforce has been cut in recent years by approximately 10 percent.

“This board has made tough cut after tough cut to bring it down,” he said. “The Police Department is not being singled out; this is our latest round.”

Morrow also spoke of the city’s financial management when he said, “This board has never raised taxes while I’ve been here.”

He then said he supports Smith’s recommendation.

“We have a business to run on a budget and this seems like the best way to manage the problem,” Morrow said. “I support Kenny’s business acumen.”

Commission Chairman Joanne Todd said the restructuring plan will not result in increased danger for Griffin residents, but will instead make the community safer for some.

“We’re not sacrificing the safety of our citizens,” she said before she described the impact crime has on some areas in town. “That has to be a terrible situation to be afraid to leave your house.”

That the proposal will place one Code Enforcement officer in each of Zones 1-4 will address substandard housing and make the community safer.

“This has been a serious situation we’ve tried to administer and address,” said Todd, who later voted to approve the plan.

Although Beyah did not vote in favor of the restructuring plan, he did address those critical of Smith.

“I pray no one comes to me to say anything about Kenny because I don’t think I’d take that well,” he said.

Beyah said he believes the commissioners are there to represent the people, and that he has heard from and listened to his constituents.

“I just feel there are too many people who have concerns and I think they should be heard,” he said. “My heart won’t let me support this.”

A small number of those in attendance met this announcement with applause and cheers before hearing the final comments made on the subject.

Commissioner Cora Flowers said she regrets the jobs lost due to the restructuring plan, but said she supports the measure due to the benefit it will provide her constituents.

“If that means there’s going to be somebody else on the ground and the people in my district are going to receive services that haven’t been available to them, I’m going to support it,” she said.

Flowers said as a commissioner who represents 4,000 Griffin residents, she is in favor of the plan that she believes will increase their level of service.

“There’s not one person who’s more important than 4,000,” she said of the lost jobs. “He (Smith) says this plan is going to fix that (crime rate), so I’m going to support it.”

Earlier in the meeting, the floor was opened to public comment. One resident, Kerri Gebler, stepped forward, addressing the loss of Jones.

“With all due respect, I think our community would like to know exactly how it is that y’all, in your collective wisdom, decided that the qualities Capt. Jones has in abundance like experience, street smarts and concern for our community, amount to zero on a spreadsheet,” Gebler said. “Who decided that? Government organizations have been responsible for making some stupid decisions. How do y’all qualify this one? How are you going to replace that, or do you think we don’t need it?”

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Comments

  1. I would like to commend Mrs Sheila Mathews for her well written, unbiased and informative stories I find in The Grip. Thank you and Ms Jessica for your service to the community.

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