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Local NAACP backs Pembroke rally
Family says police abused them
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Civil rights have been trumped, according to the Liberty County NAACP, alleging that police misconduct in Bryan County was simply brushed off.
Anyone else alarmed by the April 14 incident involving alleged racial slurs and police brutality can join about 100 others for a protest rally and march 6 p.m. tomorrow in Pembroke.
Though it crosses county lines, Liberty County NAACP President Liston Singletary III sees the attack on one as an attack on all.
“It has a widespread effect,” Singletary said. “This is a culture of incidents that are occurring. We have to head it off at every junction.”
Singletary said supporters are also coming from McIntosh, Bulloch and Chatham counties.
Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden said allegations of police officers are not uncommon, but warned that various motives can spark an allegation.
“It can range from just a person not liking the fact that he or she is being taken into custody or investigated up to a serious crime being committed,” Durden said.
“When someone’s arrested for a crime, a common response is an objection to having their liberties taken away.”
The DA said he has prosecuted police officers and the outcome depends on the case’s merit. And those with enough back-up usually go to federal court.
The challenge comes in deciding whether the officer actually committed a crime or just violated professional conduct.
“If you’re going to be charged with a crime, the evidence has to show the elements of some criminal offense under Georgia law,” Durden said.
Lack of evidence kept the six plaintiffs in the Bryan County case from getting a temporary injunction from Superior Court Chief Judge David Cavender to suspend the officers involved, according to defending attorney Sage Brown.
“The whole purpose behind that lawsuit was simply to try to get Judge Cavender to issue an order to prevent the officers from patrolling,” Brown said. “But rather than just continue with permanent injunction, we made a decision we wanted to look at filing in federal court.”
“You have to prove they are harassing you and of course, that’s hard to prove [unless] we had more definitive evidence to substantiate,” Brown said of Cavender’s denial.
The seemingly racially-motivated case should not be seen an isolated incident, according to the attorney.
“You see it all the time. It’s fairly frequent,” Brown said, based on his 31 years of experience. “However, cases that are actionable — that you can document and seek some kind of relief — are not as frequent.”
Durden thought law enforcement is making strides in assuring officers remain a public servants.
“I do know, it just seems to me that reported allegations of police misconduct have, in fact, decreased,” Durden said, explaining how training and certification requirements have increased.
“As part of this, there’s been in the last several years more attention paid to more of this type of instruction.”
But that’s not enough for Singletary.
His ideal outcome is to have Pembroke Police Chief Mark Crowe removed from office and the sheriff department held accountable for not initiating an investigation.
“I do believe the city of Pembroke as well as the county commission need to offer an apology to that family,” Singletary said.
And Brown thinks there is enough evidence for justice to be served for his six plaintiffs.
“There’s absolutely no way, from my perspective, that I can justify what transpired,” Brown said. “The only thing I can say is man’s inhumanity to man.”
“I would hope we should be at this point where we recognize the rights of everyone,” Brown said. “But it’s just not that way.”
Singletary said the Bryan County confrontation resulted from racial profiling, which he called common in the area. Too few will speak out about the problem, he said.
“When you’re dealing with a community that does not have the knowledge base on how to proceed when rights are violated, they’re left there in a state of despair,” Singletary said.
“Part of the reason we’re seeing things like this is because, in our society, they are people who speak poor and are disenfranchised, but they refuse to speak out when they see these infractions because they’re comfortable,” Singletary explained. “It’s not affecting them.”
The local branch advised the alleged victims after the incident and explained what choices they had.

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