BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Days after activists demanded changes in the Glynn County Police Department, citing systemic issues, the county announced that a panel appointed by commissioners in April to review the department’s structure and operations has recommended “improvements and corrective action.”
The panel was created after a grand jury indicted Police Chief John Powell and three ex-officers following an investigation of the department’s narcotics unit.
A new permanent police chief has since been named to lead the embattled department.
At a rally Tuesday morning, activists said they want a Citizen Review Board to handle complaints against the police department and make recommendations to the county commission about how to hold officers accountable.
The community leaders pointed out that the department has never had a person of color as its police chief and they want to see the commission commit to changing that pattern to regain the trust and confidence of the community.
The panel’s recommendations did not include the creation of a specific Citizen Review Board but did address some policies related to the activists' concerns, including launching an online police reporting system for residents to use and a new system for tracking citizen complaints.
The panel also wants the department to have regular meetings with The Community Leaders Group. The idea would be to encourage open discussion and to help the department explore how to better recruit minorities, improve community relationships and increase transparency, the panel said.
The panel also recommended monthly, virtual Town Hall Meetings where citizens can ask questions of the Chief of Police and other officers.
The recommendations come after a judge ruled last week that voters cannot vote on a planned referendum that could have abolished the Glynn County Police Department altogether.
Superior Court Judge Charles Rose ruled the referendum was unconstitutional and ordered the measure be taken off the Nov. 3 ballot after state lawmakers passed the bill that created the referendum and Kemp signed it.
The Brunswick News reported that the Glynn County Supervisor of Elections said the board will not appeal the decision.
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.
According to the county’s news release Saturday, the police department has embraced the recommendations from the panel that were submitted to the Board of Commissioners and GCPD leadership.
Other recommended changes include:
- Modernization of the GCPD mission statement through lessons learned and innovation of communications through technology based on past and current needs of citizens and the department, including one-on-one meetings between officers and the Chief of Police.
- Assessment of the K-9 operations policy and enhancement of the standard county wide K-9 operations to allow for 24/7 coverage.
- Reviewing and revamping the traffic unit.
- Implementation of community policing through efforts to include: geographic policing, community meetings, intelligence led policing, and a Citizen’s Police Academy.
- Hiring a full-time crime analyst.
- Merging the Criminal Investigations Division with the Special Operations Division to improve communication and coordination.
- Improving the victim services liaison program.
- Adding two civilian positions: an evidence room technician and a crime scene technician.
- Establishing a new policy manual.
- Revising use of force policy and training.
- Creating a separate policy regarding unbiased equitable treatment of all persons.
- Developing and implementing an Early Warning System that requires a quarterly performance history audit for all sworn employees by immediate supervisors, which can help identify exceptional performance and professional or personal issues that may impact job performance. This process is designed to identify any issues that may be addressed by counseling, mentoring, training, or discipline.
- Implementing a progressive disciplinary matrix that supervisors use to ensure each disciplinary issue is properly reviewed, so that the necessary disciplinary measure for an individual’s action is consistent with similar offenses under similar circumstances throughout the department.
- Developing policies to ensure proper treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
- Revising field training, and developing a formal, strategic, and comprehensive agency training plan.
- Assessment of employee attrition, and developing formal recruiting, hiring, promotional, and transfer plans.
- Updating the performance appraisal system.
- Implementation of an Employee Relations Committee, consisting of one Sergeant and several officers.
- Progression towards implementation of 10-hour shifts for officers to replace the current 12-hourr shifts. The change to the 10-hour shift will allow officers two training days per month, 24 per year, which is a key to better community policing. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) offers several “train the trainer” programs such as a use of force class. Four GCPD instructors recently attended a two-week session on use of force at FLETC.
- Appointment of a permanent Chief of Police.
- Creating and implementing a take-home vehicle policy which allows officers that live outside of the County the opportunity to respond directly to the scene of a critical incident instead of going to headquarters first to get a car and the appropriate equipment before responding.