UPDATE: County announces collaboration with community group, NOBLE on police chief search

Taylor Cooper, The Brunswick News, Ga.
·4 min read

Feb. 20—Glynn County Commissioners announced today a collaboration with Community First Planning Commission to address concerns raised by community members about the hiring process for a new Glynn County Police Chief.

One of the first fruits of that collaboration is the county commission's commitment to integrating the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, or NOBLE, into the hiring process. This comes after the commission voted last month to hire the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police to manage the candidate search and evaluation.

"We had agreed to go ahead and go with the (GACP), but we wanted to listen to (Community First) and continue our dialogue with them and bring NOBLE in to work in conjunction with the (GACP)," said Commission Chairman Wayne Neal.

The Community First Planning Commission is a network of local pastors and other leaders seeking to build a more healthy environment for all Glynn County and Brunswick residents.

The particulars of NOBLE's role in the hiring process are still being hammered out, said Commissioner David O'Quinn, who is also the commission's liaison on the Glynn County Police Advisory Panel.

"Where I see NOBLE's role is to help us evaluate the different candidates in regards to their understanding of the philosophy of community-based policing, and what strategies or initiatives they would bring into our community if they were made chief," O'Quinn said.

"NOBLE has done a good job of promoting that and implementing that, so I think they'll help us evaluate candidates in that regard."

Commissioners decided to tap GACP to handle the search over NOBLE, despite the latter's services coming with full funding from The Initiative, a nationwide organization dedicated to advancing the community policing philosophy in America.

Local Pastor Darren West, the chairman of Community First's legal committee, said he believes the group's offer still stands, and that NOBLE is eager to be involved in the search for a new head of the GCPD.

More is sure to come from the collaboration, Neal said. Both groups are "dedicated to restoring the confidence of the Black community in Glynn County by advancing institutional actions that encourage systemic transformation in the department," according to a statement from the commission.

Further, the GCPD "has committed to an ongoing, open dialogue with the Black community in an effort to ensure their concerns are heard and addressed on policing matters," which will also mean actively building a community policing attitude.

"Community-based policing is a philosophy that's been around since the 80s," O'Quinn said. "It's basically strategies and initiatives that help police be more involved on a day-to-day basis with neighborhoods and people throughout the community (and) the idea that their involvement helps deter crime and build trust among different people in the community toward the police department."

West is optimistic about the burgeoning partnership. "It seems like a good-faith effort in our talks, and we are moving forward with further talks later this month to continue those efforts," West said. "It looks promising, and we're going to go there with an open mind and open heart and do the best we can for the city."

Community First would hope to see the county implement a board composed of citizens to oversee and review the department's interactions with city and county residents.

"We are appreciative of Commissioner O'Quinn's willingness to work together on that, and his willingness to work on a citizens' review board," West said. "That's been in the talks, and we're appreciative of their willingness to continue those talks."

Neal said the timing of the announcement was not lost on commissioners. Before doing anything, every Glynn County resident needs to feel the local government is working in their best interest, and accounting for certain events over the last several years he understood some may need assurances of that.

"We're working to build cohesive unity in Glynn County. We're sensitive to this anniversary date," Neal said, referring to the date Ahmaud Arbery was killed in 2020.

Arbery, a Black man, was pursued and shot to death by White men in the Satilla Shores neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. Tuesday will mark one year since the date.

After the shooting, GCPD officers did not arrest Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael or William "Roddy" Brian, the three involved in the slaying. The county claims they were advised not to arrest the men by the office of former Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson, but Johnson denied the claim.

Nearly two months later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was asked to look into the case, arresting the McMichaels three days later. Both the McMichaels and Brian are on trial for the killing.

"I think it's a good day for Glynn County and trying to address concerns in the community and make sure we're hearing all voices," O'Quinn said.