WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF COMMUNITY POLICING FOR ATHENS FOLLOWING CHIEF FREEMAN DEPARTURE?

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018

ATHENS IMMIGRANT RIGHTS COALITION, ATHENS ANTI-DISCRIMINATION MOVEMENT, ATHENS FOR EVERYONE DEMANDS CLARITY.

Athens, Ga-September 13, 2018, Athens Clarke County residents unexpectedly discovered that Chief Freeman would no longer serve as the Chief of Police.  The abrupt departure of Chief Freeman as a “resignation” or “termination” made without preamble or any advance indication, under the vague auspices of “pursuing other opportunities”  is concerning. We are dismayed by County Manager Blaine Williams’s decision and lack of transparency, both with the public and with the Mayor and Commission he is supposed to serve.

For three years, he has guided the Athens-Clarke County Police Department in a program of community-based and humane protection and defense of the common good. We find it especially symbolic that Chief Freeman was allegedly terminated hours before his scheduled appearance at a public forum to address police relations in the Athens community. Our organizations “ATHENS IMMIGRANT RIGHTS COALITION, ATHENS ANTI-DISCRIMINATION MOVEMENT, ATHENS FOR EVERYONE” and the community as a whole deserves and demands an accurate account to the precipitous and dubious exit of our police chief, Scott Freeman.

The fact that Mayor Nancy Denson was quoted in Online Athens stating Freeman was “terminated” on account of alleged high turnover within the police force during his tenure, obviates Williams’ own, later characterization of Freeman’s leave-taking as having willingly resigned.

This community and its members greets the news of his allegedly willing departure with skepticism. Given the contradictory messages regarding the nature and reasons for Freeman’s vacating of his position, we the undersigned remain deeply underwhelmed by the official explanation for this startling turn of events. And it is for these reasons we submit the following demands:

  1. We demand more information — a full and honest reporting on what precipitated Freeman’s firing, who made these decisions, why the community was not brought into the process, and how city officials justify this firing as a net-positive for the ACC community.

  2. We demand community input forums, scheduled immediately, to speak into the process regarding who will replace Freeman, and to account for how the community policing and other vital programs Freeman nurtured will be carried through this leadership transition, and how their continuation by Freeman’s successor will be guaranteed.

  3. We demand full disclosure of all communications — digital and paper correspondence — related to this abrupt action, made unilaterally and without material demonstration of its benefit to our city and community, nor without input from the Commission by the end of this calendar month.

  4. Discussions moving forward should include how to improve local governance. We need to discuss how and why the Mayor and Commission should have the resources necessary to be part of the hiring and firing of key positions such as Chief of Police.

In an effort to gain mutual understanding and to start a much-needed conversation about sound governance, we will host a town hall meeting Oct 3rd, 2018 6-8 pm at ACC Library 2025 Baxter Street (Room A). To gain clarity we will invite the County Manager Blaine Williams, ACCUG Mayor and Commission and various stakeholders involved. In hopes of “peace and reconciliation,” we hope that they will accept this invitation.

For more information feel free to contact  AIRC athensimmigrantrights@gmail.com, AADM athensantidiscrimination@gmail.com or contact 706 389 4129.