Michael Browning, Glynn County Commission
It was in Glynn County, Georgia that three men stalked and killed Ahmaud Arbery. One of the men documented the killing on video. But, when police from the Glynn County Police Department arrived at the scene of the murder, they made no arrests. One of the three men, Gregory McMichaels, is a former police officer and investigator for the Glynn County DA’s office. Gregory McMichaels, his son Travis, and a neighbor who filmed the murder were allowed to go home after pretty much dictating the police report.
Later, another officer from the Glynnn County Police Department phoned the mother of jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, and told her that her son had been killed in a burglary. This was untrue.
The DA in the county promptly recused herself from the case giving as the reason that Gregory McMichael had worked as a police officer in the 1980s and in the district attorney’s office until 2019. She passed the case on to another DA who maintained that the two men were acting in self defense and should not be charged.
The case was later shifted to another DA.
Meanwhile, the Aubery family’s lawyer released the videotape of the killing and there was a public outcry as citizens watched these three men shoot and kill another man in broad daylight.
After bringing in investigators from the state, the three men were eventually charged, but only after a public outcry and national coverage of the murder.
Much of the attention in the case has been on the District Attorneys involved and their unwillingness to bring charges against the three men. What should also have been brought out was the history of the Glynn County Police Department which not only failed to make an arrest in the case, but for whom one of the assailants (Gregory McMichael) used to work as a police officer and investigator.
The Glynn County Police Department has a history and it is not a proud one. As Page Page, a criminal defense attorney in Glynn County stated in an interview, “There is not just one prior case. There are many prior cases. And each one is a separate Netflix episode.”
In 2018, Glynn County Police Lt. Robert Sasser killed his estranged wife and a man she had been seeing. He then took his own life. This final act followed a history of problematic behavior, much of it witnessed by members of the very police department he worked for. But, that police department failed to act.
The family of Sasser’s wife is now suing the police department arguing that the department’s failure to act led to their daughter’s death.
In 2010, Sasser and another officer were involved in a brutal police shooting of a woman who led them on a low-speed chase. The officers opened fire on her. Nevertheless, Sasser avoided any punishment for the act and remained on the force. The family of this woman is also taking legal action.
In 2018, the police department saw its certification with the state taken away because it did not meet basic police standards. Part of the report that led to the de-certification noted that even though African Americans make up 26% of the population in the county, they make up only %12 of the police force.
In 2019, the county’s drug task force was disbanded after a state-led investigation. This investigation found misconduct by Glynn County police officers, one of whom was having sex with an informant.
Then, Glynn County Police Chief John Powell, was indicted for perjury and witness tampering. This was four days after the Arbery shooting. This police chief remains on administrative leave.
County Commissioners have defended the police department handling of the Arbery case. They blamed the DA for the decision not to arrest the three. Commissioner Peter Murphy said that the police were told by the DA’s office not to make an arrest.
The DA, Jackie Johnson, says her office didn’t tell the police whether to make an arrest. Johnson maintained that the police and the county commission wanted to smear her.
“I think it’s retaliation for me being the whistleblower on their police department multiple times over the last year.”
We have no idea what this means.
In June of 2020, the Glynn County Commissioners (some of whom are lame ducks leaving office) met to approve creating a new job for the Police Chief, John Powell. Approximately $150,000 of county “reserve” funds were to be used to make a job for the indicted Police Chief.
But, the local newspaper, the Brunswick News, reported that the vote was to occur. When the County Commissioners met at a scheduled meeting all had agreed to, two of the members were missing. One of the Commissioners gave a statement to the local newspaper that it would be “unfair” for the Commission to go ahead without the missing two members.
I suspect that what he meant was that they didn’t want to go ahead unless all the Commissioners were implicated in the decision.
The members present voted to “defer” the decision about using county funds during a pandemic to create a job for the indicted police chief. The Commissioners failed to reveal when they planned on meeting again.
The outrage about the history of the Glynn County Police Department had led to a bill passed by the Georgia legislature allowing the citizens of Glynn County to vote on whether they wanted to dissolve the Police Department entirely.
The Glynn County Commissioners announced through one Michael Browning (one of the lame ducks) that the County Commission would hire lawyers and pay them with county funds to sue the state of Georgia if they went ahead with plans to allow the citizens of Glynn County to vote on dissolving the police department.