Police complaints prompt NAACP, residents to rally at Macon council meeting

hgoodridge@macon.comApril 16, 2013 

About 30 people gathered outside of Macon’s City Hall on Tuesday evening, standing with the NAACP to protest the lack of dialogue from the mayor about Sammie “Junebug” Davis Jr.’s shooting death last year outside the Pio Nono Avenue Kroger.

They held signs calling for the resignation of Police Chief Mike Burns and Mayor Robert Reichert. They chanted “No justice, no peace,” “Burns got to go” “Reichert got to go” and “Justice for Junebug.”

Bibb County District Attorney David Cooke ruled the Dec. 21 shooting by officer Clayton Sutton as justified.

A nine-member review board will look at evidence in the shooting Wednesday. Connie Cater, a former Board of Regents member, and Otis Scarbary, who retired as Bibb County solicitor last year, will join two law enforcement officers, four Macon police officers and Deputy Chief Henderson Carswell to review the case, Macon City Councilman Virgil Watkins said Tuesday.

Sutton has returned to work pending the outcome of the shooting review and the police department’s internal affairs investigation.

Gwenette Westbrooks, president of the Macon-Bibb County branch of the NAACP, said at the rally that complaints from residents to her office are mounting against the police department, which has acknowledged 52 percent more complaints in 2012 than 2011.

“We’re hoping city officials will recognize us and that there is a problem in our community with the police department,” she said.

Westbrooks said many of the complaints have come after Davis was killed.

“In order to move forward, we have to acknowledge there’s a problem,” she said.

On March 26, Reichert postponed a tentatively scheduled community forum during which he planned to discuss the Davis case and answer residents’ questions about the shooting.

The postponement by Reichert came the day after City Council changed the police department’s internal affairs process, including the shooting review board. After that occurs, the mayor’s office will reschedule the community forum, mayoral spokesman Chris Floore said this week.

Floore said when council made changes to the internal affairs process and made the Davis case part of that new process, that prevented Reichert from talking about the case as it’s still under review.

On Tuesday, Edward DuBose, Georgia State Conference NAACP president, said he was hoping to see improvements between police and residents after the Davis incident.

“There have been no positive outcomes with the death of Sammie,” he said. “We’re also here because our local branch said it’s still seeing cases of abuse of power (from police) and we’re calling on the police chief to resign.”

Davis’ sister, Cheryl Davis, attended the rally.

“I’m elated to see people out here,” she said. “I wish this place were crowded with people. For me it’s about Junebug. ... It’s for every son, daughter, sister, brother who have been and probably will be harmed by police.”

The group gathered outside of City Hall about 5 p.m. and crossed the street to enter the building and the City Council chamber in time for the council’s 6 p.m. meeting. A dozen or so of them signed up to speak during the public comments segment prior to the council’s meeting.

One of those speakers was Kimberly Smith, who lives on Buford Place. She said her family is the only black one within blocks of her home.

“My son was walking home and a police (officer) pulled his pistol on him and made him turn his pockets out,” she said, adding that police also questioned her husband when he was in front of their home, not realizing he lived there, telling him there have been robberies in the area.

“Why am I angry?” Smith asked the council. “Because I pay $1,800 (a month) and I’m being a harassed because I’m black.”

Writer Amy Leigh Womack and Telegraph archives contributed to this report. To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

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