BRUNSWICK, Ga. – A Georgia judge ruled Friday that a referendum the legislature added to the November ballot asking voters if they wanted to abolish the Glynn County Police Department is unconstitutional.
Atlantic Judicial Circuit Judge Charles Rose Jr. issued an injunction to keep the referendum off the ballot. While the Glynn County Board of Elections or the Georgia Secretary of State could appeal the ruling, there the deadline to add or remove items to the Glynn County ballot is Friday. The election schedule calls for requested mail-in ballots to begin going out on Tuesday.
“The county has prevailed and we felt very confident that we would,” Glynn County Commission Vice Chairman Bill Brunson told The Brunswick News.
The Glynn County Board of Commissioners challenged the constitutionality of the Senate Bills 38 and 509, which were passed by the Georgia General Assembly in June and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in August.
SB 38 allows the state to abolish a county police department if the voters choose to do so, and SB 509 contains the wording of a binding referendum on abolishing the Glynn County Police Department and transferring the agency’s operations and assets to the Glynn County sheriff.
The laws specified that the assets of the police department would be transferred through “an unlawful referendum and election process,” which the county says would be a violation of the Georgia Constitution and state election law.
“This lawsuit does not seek to litigate any question related to the merits of abolishing the Glynn County Police Department, or the reasons that motivated the passage and enactment of these bills. This lawsuit also does not seek to question the ability of the current Sheriff to provide law enforcement services in Glynn County.”
READ: Glynn County lawsuit
Efforts to abolish the Glynn County Police Department were motivated by a series of scandals, including the deaths of three people who died in shootings involving one Glynn County officer. The effort gained momentum after Ahmaud Arbery was fatally shot and a former police officer and district attorney investigator, his son and one other man were charged with murder in his death.
The lawsuit was heard in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit rather than the Brunswick Circuit to avoid any conflicts of interest.