Athens-Clarke citizens thank police chief for outreach

The Athens-Clarke County Police Department hosted its second town hall with Chief Scott Freeman on Thursday at Chase Street Elementary School, in front of an audience that was appreciative of the effort at community outreach.

 

Former Mayor Gwen O’Looney echoed a sentiment from most of the audience.

“I applaud the Athens-Clarke County Police for their great work, and I hope that this reaching out into the community will continue,” said former Athens-Clarke County Mayor Gwen O’Looney, who attended the meeting.

A major theme of the event was voicing support for the police department’s stand on immigration. At a town hall meeting earlier in the week, Freeman said his department will not cooperate with any federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement effort to round up local residents based on their immigration status.

“We are not immigration enforcement. That is a federal responsibility,” Freeman said at the Tuesday forum at Gaines Elementary School. Freeman went on Tuesday to pledge that the police department will not investigate an individual’s citizenship status unless it relates to an alleged crime.

That stance was praised at Thursday’s town hall, with Maria Bermudez, a human development and family science professor at the University of Georgia, saying, “I’m so glad to see that the police department’s policies on immigration are consistent with ‘protect and serve.’

“I am thankful to be in Athens,” she continued. “I would hate to be part of a community where the police inspire fear and worry.”

Tony Eubanks, a longtime local activist, said Thursday, “I think the chief’s stance on immigration is really brave. It’s also great to see him making the effort to get out and listen to people.”

In addition to thanking Freeman for his stance on immigration and outreach to the community, the nearly 30 citizens in attendance were interested in learning how they could help police department initiatives be successful.

“If you like the direction that the police department is heading, if you like the philosophy we have in place, if you are happy with the service we are providing, you need to reach out and tell the mayor and county commissioners — it’s their job to listen to you,” Freeman said.

In addition, interested community members can also become involved with the recently created Athens-Clarke Police Foundation, which has donated nearly $10,000 to the police department already this year for community initiatives.

Another way to get involved, Freeman said, is to participate in the Citizen Police Academy, a way to get an up-close look at what police officers do in Athens-Clarke County, and how they do it. The program, in place for 20 years, has had nearly 700 participants.

Thursday’s meeting was not all praise, however. Several participants were concerned with the police department’s apparent failure to enforce the noise ordinance at fraternity and sorority events.

“Loud fraternity parties make our lives miserable,” Mike Moran, who lives in the Bloomfield area off of Milledge Avenue, said. “I’ve been here for 30 years, and I’ve noticed that there has been a fall in the policing of the noise ordinance.”

Freeman countered that there is progress on the issue.

“The last time I met with them [University of Georgia Greek life representatives], we actually saw that the number of calls for noise related complaints has decreased,” he said.

There are no town hall meetings scheduled for the near future, but citizens can go online to accpd.com and complete a survey regarding quality of life issues and the delivery of police services in their neighborhoods.

 

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