Americus City Council has its say on the recent shootings
Published 11:06 am Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Tracy K. Hall
Because of inclement weather the agenda setting meeting was canceled and the City of Americus Mayor and Council combined their efforts into one regular meeting held on January 19, 2023. Present was Mayor Kinnamon, Nelson Brown, Charles Christmas, Kelvin Pless and Daryl Dowdell. Absent was Juanita Wilson and Nicole Smith.
Daryl Dowdell of District 6 chose Marvin D. Harris to serve as the honorary council member and Chris Wooden to give the invocation.
By the time of the meeting, the Americus Police Department had worked 4 separate shooting cases. As of 3pm Monday, all four cases have an identified person of interest. APD responded to calls on Cherokee Street, Green Street, Town Creek Circle, Lonnie Lane, and Jefferson Street. One gunshot victim had recently been making terroristic threats to another person and was “completely uncooperative.” The victim has been giving untruths, to include descriptions and locations, and how he got to hospital. Meanwhile, witnesses have given descriptions and a police dog had tracked the shooter to another location before the shooter evaded. Hospital camera footage clearly showed the victim arriving at the hospital in a different manner than the victim told APD. There are no reports of tying the four crimes together. Chief Mark Scott reports most of the people of interest are in their teens. Much of the evening’s conversation was around law enforcement’s efforts. As a matter of agenda Chief Scott was to appear before the council to take care of usual APD business. The council took advantage of him being present to have an update on the unfolding investigations. While some council members questioned the chief on the progress of the investigations, some added their concern over citizen perception and how violence impacts this community. Others wanted answers to the problem, while others voiced frustration with APD. Nelson Brown had scheduled an executive session for personnel reasons and when further pressed stated he wanted to discuss crime. He was informed such was an inappropriate use of executive session and he reported he would say what he wanted to say in open session.
Under the city manager updates, Diadra Powell started the conversation about the interventions planned to address the crime. Some of the ideas she presented included “getting the faith based community involved.” Powell reports wanting to identify “children who are susceptible to doing these types of things” and “we are trying to put people in place or face that they know.” “We are not sitting still doing nothing.” She went on to say that school personnel would by identified. Powell also stated she was planning “some sort of summit” which would pull elected officials, citizens, youth,, parents, school teachers to brainstorm on “how to best reach our students.” “It is not a black/white problem it is a City of Americus issue that needs to be addressed. We are talking about economic development, we are talking about moving the city forward, we have got to get a handle on our children.” She went on further to say, the “children” might not be coming from two parent households, but they do have teachers that have taught them. “They know and trust some of those individuals. So the people they trust are the individuals we need at the table. They aren’t going to listen to a person in blue, even if they don’t have a relationship. I’m just being real. They aren’t going to listen to an individual who is standing there and has arrested their dad and their mom or whomever. There is a difference between fire and police. When they see the fire department, the children run towards them. When they see the police what they see in their heads is the person who arrested my mama, my cousin, my daddy, my whoever; so one, we have to make sure we are doing our job, but also trying to reach these children before they get to what we have today.”
Chief Scott reports the sheriff and superintendent will be meeting tomorrow (Friday) to address violence. Scott went on to report he and the sheriff have been working with One Sumter for a year and a half putting together a summit scheduled on February 3rd. The Fanning Institute and UGA will be facilitating. The focus is on awareness and receiving ideas from stakeholders in the community. Chief stated “changing the mindset of our young people” is what will be explored. In chief’s 34 years of policing, he reports the past five years have been different. Teenagers have guns, “and they seem to have the idea that all problems can be solved by shooting each other.” Scott listed off shots fired in air, drive by shootings and shootings into homes have all increased over the past five years. While this trend is nationwide, his focus must remain on Americus. Chief reports needing ideas on “how do we change the mindset of our young people that this is not the way to solve problems.”
Dowdell reports he has brought ideas for a “stop the violence” event or a press conference prior to this incident. He reports someone needs to focus on comforting the public. He reports none of his constituents have seen a press release and it’s “unacceptable.” He suggests the mayor address it and if he can’t, then get the city manager to do it. Dowdell reports that media should be involved. Chief Scott reports when there is a significant issue a press release goes out to all papers and local television. Dowdell says, “should have done this long ago.” A press release was sent out prior to the meeting, and at time of meeting, Scott had an interview planned with an Albany television station.
Mayor Kinnamon wanted to know if the actions were connected and wanted to know if retaliatory behaviors would take place. Scott reports there is nothing tying them together, but he reported the people in the report all likely know each other. “It’s the same players we deal with over and over again. Most are teenagers and we get zero cooperation from parents.” He then reported APD, the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies were in full force. Kinnamon went on to say he was shocked by how brazen the shootings are in public places in daylight. Kinnamon warns against boiling down such complex situations into simple actions, called on citizens to remain calm and be aware of what they are posting on social media.
Charles Christmas remarked his wife asked if it was safe for her to walk the dog. He noted that other citizens had to have the same concern. He reports being disturbed by the ages of the perpetrators. “Something has to take place, I agree with that.” He thanked the chief for the quick reactions of the APD.
Kelvin Pless reports “this is not a political, police, or faith based issue–it’s all hands on deck.” He reports this can get “real uncomfortable” in trying to address. Being employed in the field, he reports this type of work is “not for everybody.” He seconded it was a complex issue, and it is not on any one group to solve.
Then Nelson Brown took the floor. He kept saying the word trust and continued to pontificate upon the idea. He said it was everybody’s responsibility and not a race issue. He pointed out two officers in the room and said, “I’m not saying every officer is untrustworthy, that’s all I am saying.” “Law enforcement got to get together. We got to hold law enforcement accountable.” He wanted to know what the plan was. “Its got something to do with trust, from the supervisor all the way down.” After giving instruction to the local paper and radio to mark down his words, he instructed them to research. “All you got to help.” He then digressed into the executive session he was unable to hold under Georgia law and making sports analogies. “Working together that’s what it’s going to take.” He began giving advice to all groups of law enforcement from local to state and federal levels. “It takes a village but you got to go to the roots.” “We can put a big dent in this if we work together.” “Trust. You got to trust.” He then attempted to make a point about the city attorney as well as showing Mr. Pless respect. The flow of thought went into “organized crime” and “it will take you out, and you out.” Further he stated “black people don’t think they matter that much” and eventually told the crowd to fact check him. He moved on to city employees and the work they do downtown. “Earn your money, love these citizens” is what he suggested to law enforcement. Later he made comments on suffering and the military. “These people are in fear.” “I don’t see 2% of what needs to be said tonight.” “Start at the top, start telling these supervisors to do your job.” He then said the “small people” are the key to solving the crime. He gave several instructs to media about what to report, but he wanted the word “trust” to be prominent.
In other business of the night, all the agenda items, except a payment on police radio systems was unanimously approved. On the police radios which will allow the APD to be in line with the rest of the state for communication, Dowdell voted against the item.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of council will be February 16, 2023 at 6pm in the public safety building on Lee Street. The meeting is open to the public and is also streamed online via zoom. For the meeting ID number and the passcode visit americusga.gov.