top of page

ACC commissioners begin to reimagine policing

From:Melissa Link

Sent:Thursday, June 18, 2020 2:24 PM

To:Kelly Girtz <>; Blaine Williams <>; Russell Edwards <>; Andrew Herod <>; Mike Hamby <>; Ovita Thornton <>; Tim Denson <>; Allison Wright <>; Mariah Parker <>; Patrick Davenport <>

Subject:Safe Communities plan

Please see the attached document that I've been working on to develop a consensus budget proposal addressing the public safety & mental health/social services proposals presented in the Parker/Denson & START plans. Thanks to Mariah, Tim, Russell, Mike, Ovita, Allison, & Kelly for all the extensive input on this. I hope this is something we can all get behind to build a safer & more equitable community for all.


Melissa (District 3 county commissioner)

Public Safety & Community Building Task Force


For decades, our society has saddled the police with the responsibility to be first responders for all of society’s ills (homelessness, poverty, mental health crises, substance abuse…) Over the last 20 years, Athens-Clarke County has taken steps to begin to overcome this. FY20 ACC Mayor & Commission Goals & Objectives include: “Foster a criminal justice system focused on rehabilitation and prevention, both in collaboration with community partners, rather than incarceration. This could involve changing policy around arrests for low-level crime, eliminating cash bail, phasing out inmate labor-for-free program, expanding accountability courts, and matching funding (from grants) to programs serving youth and people with behavior disorders” and “Identify programs to improve outcomes and coordinate service delivery amongst community partners involved with mental health and substance abuse.” We have instituted and funded accountability courts, the Diversion Center, stronger pre-trial monitoring, Mental Health Co-Responder Units pairing social workers with officers, as well as preventative measures supporting neighborhood health and youth development. Recent efforts have eliminated cash bail, and eliminated mandatory arrest for nonviolent misdemeanors such as marijuana possession, shoplifting, and trespassing. But there is much more to be done to create a truly safe, just, and equitable community for all in Athens.


Partner with Clarke County School District and others in implementing a community-based, transparent, & democratic process to develop a compassionate, expansive approach to public safety by investing in projects and programs to achieve wellbeing and promote a just and equitable community; assess the calls received by police and how they might be answered more effectively by other entities (ACC is already invested in this via Mental Health Co-Responders); evaluate appropriate funding levels for ACCPD and other potentially new public safety and social services entities; eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline; and explore the reallocation of resources to prioritize community-based alternatives to policing that enhance health and safety.


Commit $350,000 to fund a comprehensive community-involved process spearheaded by a Public Safety & Community Building Task Force. In 2008, a Criminal Justice Task Force recommended the Mayor & Commission in their final report that just such a standing committee be created, then called the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. An expanded version of this committee will conduct community outreach, review research and data, commission appropriate studies, and produce actionable recommendations and timelines for transforming policing, criminal justice, and mental health and social services in Athens. Action and recommendations upon initiatives & goals should be expected by June 1, 2021.


The Public Safety & Community Building Task Force should be in partnership with Clarke County School District and include as stakeholders representing a broad array of public safety, mental health, and social service entities such as: ACC Commission, ACC Police Department, Public Defenders, DA/Solicitor’s office, Municipal & Juvenile Court judges, Accountability Courts rep, Probation Services, Correctional Center rep, Sherriff’s Dept, ACC Housing & Community Development Dept, ACC Economic Development Dept, ACC Leisure Services, Clarke County School District, Advantage Behavioral Health, DFACS, CASA, Athens Area Homeless Coalition, representatives from the drug treatment/recovery community, Athens Housing Authority, EADC, HCDC, Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition, Religious leaders, UGA School of Social Work, UGA College of Public Health, legal scholars, and other community members with appropriate experience. This committee should include at least 2 at-large members appointed by the Commission.

Public Safety Community Communications Liaison

This position shall be part of the Public Safety & Community Building Task Force & act as primary liaison between this committee, ACCPD, & the general public. They will also be responsible for initiating community outreach & direct communication with representatives of community groups, nonprofit organizations, advocates, and activists, as well as assisting with public messaging of public safety issues via contemporary communications means (social media, memes, videos, community participation/partnership, education/outreach campaigns). They shall have an extensive background in community outreach & marketing/communications.

Police Citizen Oversight Committee

A committee to ensure greater accountability among ACCPD, advise on policy, & improve public communication. This committee should intersect regularly with the work of the Public Safety & Community Building Task Force Establishment of this committee is in process. Details to come…


  • Direct funds to social programs with the intention of reducing violent and nonviolent crime by at least 50% over the next five years

  • Reduce the need for armed response by law enforcement officers

  • Eliminate disparities in policing and criminal justice response based on race or ethnicity

  • Immediately eliminate militarization of our Police Department through equipment acquisition and training protocols

  • Immediately review and amend use-of-force policies to reduce or eliminate the opportunity for injury and risk for the public and law enforcement officers

Additional FY21 Budget Allocations to enable fulfillment of the mission of the Public Safety & Community Building Task Force:

388 views0 comments


bottom of page