City Commission revisits law enforcement effectiveness
By Neil B. McGahee
Tuesday’s Cordele City Commission meeting resurrected an idea that has been pitched several times over the years.
Commissioner Wesley Rainey, who has been calling for an ordinance that would limit the activity around public gatherings such as the street parties that happen every Easter and July 4., made a motion that the Crisp County Sheriff’s Department take over policing in the city.
Rainey showed photographs of the most recent party on April 4, Easter Sunday at the intersection of 24th Avenue and Joe Wright Drive, including photos of partiers, mostly African-American, cheering drivers in automobiles, as they performed “donuts,” and skidding to a halt just inches from the revelers.
“You can see how big the crowd was,” Rainey said. “The last two events ended with gunfire. Now I am pretty sure there are a large number of ordinances on the books that are not being policed. Until we address the policing of our ordinances, I don’t think we need another ordinance until we get the policing under control, I don’t know what it’s going to take to get this under control — maybe somebody has to get killed.
“Mr. Chairman, I am prepared to make a motion that we turn the police department over to the Sheriff’s department for management.”
There was no second to the motion, so the motion died, but not the controversy.
Commissioners Royce Reeves and Vesta Beal-Shepherd voiced their opposition to Rainey’s motion saying that any ordinance or even an enforcement agreement would unfairly single out a significant number of Cordele residents.
Commission Chair John Wiggins asked if there should be a work session to further study the problem.
“This is something I believe we need to talk about,” he said. “Unless there is some other way.”
Reeves said he heard the gunshots.
“He’s right. I live there,” Reeves said. “Both times these events ended in gunfire, but no one got shot And there are rumors that there were out-of-towners under cover were here and there was no way our police department based on what I heard, there was no way to prepare for it. Something does need to be done.”
Shepherd said she had no problem with sheriff’s deputies coming in to assist the police.
“But as far as turning the police department over to the sheriff’s department, I say ‘no,’” she said forcefully. “We don’t have enough officers to cover 5,000 people. We should consider hiring more officers and paying them a decent salary to keep them.”
Reeves said he is all for people to be able to assemble as is granted by the Constitution.
Wiggins said he wants the police chief and the sheriff to sit down and manage Crisp County and Cordele “because you simply can’t rule out one over the other.
“We can get more accomplished by working together to plan and manage and address this problem,” Wiggins said. “We have to face that we don’t have the manpower and don’t have the enforcement and we have address these problems.”
“Mr. Chairman,” Rainey said. “I intend to make this same motion at the next meeting and I urge citizens to call their commissioners and tell them how they feel about this.”
The Cordele City Commission will meet on Tuesday, May 18 at 5:30 pm at Cordele City Hall.