Vienna citizens complain to city council about police activity

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Tabitha Carter, the first of five citizens that spoke to the Vienna City Council said a police roadblock caused her to lose $4,500. Photo by Neil McGahee

A big crowd waited outside Vienna City Hall as the city council met in executive session concerning the complaints about the police department. Photo by Neil McGahee

 

By Neil B. McGahee

Managing Editor

At a typical meeting of the Vienna City Council, there may be 10 citizens in the council chambers. Last night, however, more than 75 citizens jammed in the chambers, the hallways and front lawn.

They all had one thing in mind — get rid of newly hired Chief of Police Ketorie Sales.

Apparently citizens were riled up about several instances of what they perceived as police abuse.

“A few weeks back, the Police Dept. set up roadblocks,” said Vienna Mayor Eddie Daniels. “In conjunction with April Awareness and one person in particular lost about $4,500 due to the roadblocks. Then there was an Easter celebration where people were riding ATV’s on the street, which is illegal and they were ticketed. They were upset because some of them felt the police presence was a bit heavy-handed.

“My first issue is the police in Vienna,” said Tabitha Carter, the first of five citizens that spoke to the council. “I was born and raised in Vienna and have lived here all my life and I have never seen the police in the state that they are now. I spent $5,000 to hire a Deejay to start a business. At the start of the business, they (the police) took over Pine Street and 41. I asked to speak with the chief and asked him if he could do this elsewhere and he said he was going to do what he was hired to do and that’s patrol these streets.”

Carter said she would suggest the sheriff take over patrolling the city.

“What we got right now, somebody going to get killed,” she said, her voice rising with each word. “We don’t need that in Vienna. This is 20 years in the making and not anything has changed. That starts with the city council. If we got people on the council that just wants to carry their weight, then you need to go.”

The next speaker was Billy Granville.

“I want to talk about this police department you got here,” he said. “There needs to be something done about it and it needs to be done tonight. I had a talk with the Mission Man — that’s what we call him.

“I talked to him about the roadblock and he said it was his way or no way.

“He came here looking for a job; he needs to leave here looking for a job. When you finish your executive session, I challenge ya’ll to send him looking for a job.

“If ya’ll can’t do the job, then we are going to move you out.”

The next speaker, Diquita Mathis, said the chief was making illegal stops and he will tell you “you got a warrant” and when you ask to see it, he can’t produce it. He do whatever he want to do.

“The problem here is the city council — ya’ll need to go.”

Mathis alleged that Sales had hired an officer that had been terminated from the Cordele Police Dept. and he, Sales, had been under investigation and suspended. She also accused Major Leeanne Dabbes of being investigated several times.

“If ya’ll don’t rid of all of them,” she said. “You need to get rid of the head tonight.”

The council went into executive session and heard from two other speakers who had problems with specific officers. The meeting ended without any action taken.

Daniels said if any other action is taken, it will be under the purvey of Vienna City Administrator Michael Bowens.

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Beal-Shephard tries to weather the storm over City HallBy Neil B. McGahee Managing Editor Cordele City Commissioner Vesta Beal-Shephard was elected in 2001 to represent the people of Ward One. By all accounts, she has done a very good job of relating to the citizens living in her ward. Recently, however, a dark cloud has settled over City Hall. From the first day of his term, newly-elected commission chairman Joshua Antwan Deriso began taking verbal snipes on social media at some of the other commissioners. Shephard says she just ignored it at first but on April 9, Deriso posted on Facebook “…It was much anticipated for Comm. Rainey to be against change. Comission (sp) Shephard fights against me the hardest…does not know much about government at all…She needs to be voted out next year 2023.” A few days later, he posted live saying …“I am totally over the games, the political stuff…a lot of people want to make what I said about Commissioner Shephard something about disagreement with Commissioner Shephard. It was her ignorance and short-sightedness…not able to understand what we can do as a government. “When there were people in charge that didn’t look like us…white people… she didn’t question anything. Since I became chairman, she has blocked everything…you don’t know what you are doing; you don’t know what you are talking about.” Shephard winces as she listens to Deriso. “I don’t do drama and I don’t do pettiness,” she said. “I refute everything he has said about me. I’m not angry with Josh; I am somewhat disturbed that he has targeted me, a citizen of Cordele; a black female…he accused me of loving white folks. Well I do love white folks, and brown folks and black folks — Haitian, Jamaican, Indian, Cuban, Mexican — I have no discrimination to anyone. My job is to facilitate for people in this ward and when I vote, I vote my conviction.” Shephard said she doesn’t know why Deriso has such hard feelings against her. “It’s so sad, I have to say that I never saw it coming,” she said. ”But I have to voice my opinion.” But one sad thing has evolved from this. “This is the first time I have been discriminated against by a fellow commissioner,” she said. “I used to invite people to my home if they had a problem. But I had to stop that. If you want to meet with me, we will have to go to a public area or to my office at city hall. I am going to keep my distance for the simple reason that I don’t want to endanger myself.