Macon City Council is moving toward adding civilian oversight -- and officers from other departments -- to Macon Police Department disciplinary proceedings.
The councils Public Safety Committee voted 4-1 Monday afternoon for an ordinance to change the makeup of the hearing board for police and firefighters. It was prompted, said the author, Councilman Henry Gibson, by the large number of officers whove received many complaints from civilians yet faced little or no action.
We are at a point where were kind of backed against a wall, he said. The public is demanding elected officials to act.
Macon residents lack confidence in police, Gibson said. Macon has an excellent department, and many officers themselves have voiced their unease with disciplinary procedures, he said.
As a 35-year veteran of the department himself, Gibson said hes ashamed to hear repeated stories of public complaints drawing no action -- especially in the wake of several incidents involving Macon officers, such as the fatal Dec. 21 shooting of Sammie Junebug Davis Jr. and the arrest of two officers on theft charges.
You think I want to hear people say theyre afraid to call police because their house might be burglarized? You think I like to hear that people are afraid they might be shot by police? Gibson asked.
The ordinance is not a political move on his part, he said, since council will dissolve in 10 months as a consolidated city-county government forms, and hes unlikely to run for a seat on the new countywide commission.
A memo from Assistant City Attorney Stuart Morelli identifies the ordinance as Gibsons proposal. Council members Elaine Lucas, James Timley and Virgil Watkins are listed as co-sponsors.
Watkins, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said the ordinance seeks to do three things: bring interim Chief Administrative Officer Dale Walker closer to the police disciplinary process, by having Internal Affairs report directly to him; increase outside involvement, particularly by civilians, in disciplinary hearings; and speed up the turnover of Internal Affairs directors, replacing them every six months instead of every three years.
The ordinance states any police internal review board must include two civilians and members of two outside police agencies as voting members.
It also requires Internal Affairs reports on disciplinary complaints to automatically go to a review board. Currently, they only go for further review if the complainant specifically files an appeal.
Councilman Larry Schlesinger asked Walker what he thought about having police disciplinary review tacked on to his duties.
Its one more thing added to the plate, but if thats the choice this body wants to do, we can carry that out, Walker replied.
Councilwoman Nancy White said she strongly supports the idea in principle, but she wants to hear directly from police on the subject.
No police department representatives were at Mondays meeting.
She sought to postpone the ordinance for two weeks until police could be summoned for comment, but her motion failed, supported only by Schlesinger.
Community activist Al Tillman spoke in favor of the ordinance. It passed 4-1, with White opposed, though she said her no vote was only because her concern for including police hadnt been addressed.
The committee unanimously passed a resolution to renew the citys contract with Ackerman Wrecker Service to provide citywide towing and lease the city impound lot.
For that privilege, Ackerman will pay $16,000 per month, Watkins said. Thats a $1,000 per month increase from the previous contract, according to Morelli.
Both items are due for a vote by full council March 19.
To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.