Georgia judge blocks vote to abolish the Glynn County police department2 min read

By- Divya Makanaboina

Voters cannot vote to dismantle a troubled Georgia police force that had been caught up in turmoil well before the department undertook the initial investigation into Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting, a judge ruled Friday. The drive to abolish the Glynn County Police Department was spurred on by Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting death, 25, by two white men, including a former police officer. The murder took place in February but the suspects were charged only after two months later state authorities became involved.

Superior Court Judge Charles Paul Rose ruled the Glynn County Police Department’s dissolution referendum is unconstitutional. He also received an injunction that kept the bill off the November 3 ballot. The chairman of the Glynn County Board of Commissioners, Michael Browning, said it was the correct decision. “From the get-go, it was illegal,” said Browning who pushed for the lawsuit to stop the referendum. State Senator William Ligon, who was proposing the ballot initiative, was not available for comment immediately. The state legislature passed the referendum in June and it was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp in August, triggering a complaint by the county commission.

State legislators approved the referendum and Governor Brian Kemp signed the Glynn County Police bill amid difficult times. In March the director of the department and three other high-ranking officers were arrested on charges of denying an officer consorting with a drug dealer. Glynn County police brought no charges in February following the fatal shooting of Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, by white men who armed themselves and chased him after seeing Arbery running in their neighborhood.

In the Arbery case, a former police officer in Glynn County, Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, were charged with murder and aggravated assault. Police say Gregory McMichael saw Arbery jogging outside of Brunswick through his neighborhood and said he thought Arbery appeared like a perpetrator of a burglary. The elder McMichael called his son and the two armed themselves and accompanied Arbery on his way. The cell phone video reveals Arbery has been chased and shot with a shotgun. The department of justice is prosecuting the police department regarding the lag in filing charges. 

Charges in the killing of Arbery came two months later after the case was taken over by the Georgia Investigation Bureau. The referendum would have required voters to determine whether to dismantle the Glynn County police and hand over their duties to Sheriff Neal Jump, who currently oversees the county jail and court security. Glynn County commissioners filed a complaint to halt the vote, arguing it infringed their authority to provide police protection under Georgia’s constitution.