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Georgia gets one step closer to abolishing county police departments with passage of House bill


Motivated by Ahmaud Arbery's death

Kevin Smith demonstrates outside the Glynn County courthouse during a court appearance by Gregory and Travis McMichael, two suspects in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, on June 4, 2020 in Brunswick, Georgia. Arbery was killed on February 23. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

An effort in Georgia to disband county police departments advanced Friday with the passage of a Georgia House bill that would allow voters to decide whether to keep those departments, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

House Bill 866 passed easily with a 152-3 vote Friday and will now advance to the state Senate for further consideration.

The bill aims "to provide a method for the abolition of a county police department and returning the law enforcement functions of such department to the sheriff of the county."

Glynn, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties in the Atlanta metro area have county police departments. In counties were there are two law enforcement agencies in Georgia, the sheriff's office manages the jail while the county police department enforces state and local laws.

The primary motivation behind this version of the bill, which has failed in the past, is the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in February and the handling of that situation by the Glynn County Police Department. A similar Senate bill, authored in response to alleged issues with Glynn County PD, failed in January.

Arbery was killed on February 23. He was suspected by residents in Brunswick, Georgia, of trespassing and potentially burglarizing a vacant home that was still under construction. Travis McMichael, his father Gregory, and their friend William Bryan pursued Arbery in vehicles.

Bryan recorded some of the pursuit on his phone while also attempting to cut Arbery off. When the McMichaels succeeded in blocking Arbery, Travis got out of his truck with a shotgun and shot Arbery during the ensuing altercation.

No arrests were made in the killing until video of the incident became public in May, even though the Glynn County Police Department had the cell phone video of the killing on the day it happened.

The video was released on May 5, and the McMichaels were arrested on May 7 and charged with murder and aggravated assault. Bryan was arrested and charged with felony murder on May 21. Gregory McMichael is a former Glynn County Police Department officer.

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