The Georgia Police Department That Led Arbery Shooting Case Has A Troubled Past The Glynn County Police Department was the initial investigative agency in Ahmaud Arbery's killing. The department had a tangled history of corruption and scandals long before the Arbery case.
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The Georgia Police Department That Led Arbery Shooting Case Has A Troubled Past

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The Georgia Police Department That Led Arbery Shooting Case Has A Troubled Past

The Georgia Police Department That Led Arbery Shooting Case Has A Troubled Past

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As the Georgia Bureau of Investigation takes over the controversial shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery. Questions remain about the initial response by the Glynn County police - in particular, why were there no arrests for months in the black jogger's killing? Emily Green of member station WABE reports that the police department's past is awash in problems.

EMILY GREEN, BYLINE: Long before Ahmaud Arbery was shot while out running, the Glynn County Police Department had a tangled history of corruption and scandals. Page Pate is an attorney in Glynn County.

PAGE PATE: There's not just one prior case. There are many prior cases. And each one is a separate, you know, Netflix episode.

GREEN: Here's a snapshot. In 2018, a Glynn County police officer murdered his estranged wife and her friend. The wife's family is now suing the police department because they say authorities failed to intervene before the murders. That same year, the department lost its certification with the state. The reason? It wasn't following proper protocols. In 2019, the county's drug task force was disbanded. A state-led investigation found extensive misconduct by Glynn County police officers. That included sex with a confidential informant. And then, things got worse.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: New tonight, two Georgia police chiefs and two officers turn themselves in after being indicted. The officers are facing more than a dozen charges, all stemming from an investigation into their dissolved narcotics team.

GREEN: That's from TV station WJXT in March. Glynn County Police Chief John Powell was indicted for perjury and witness tampering four days after the Arbery shooting. The police chief remains on administrative leave.

NEWELL HAMILTON JR: We have a history of protecting our own within the legal system. That applies across the board to Glynn County law enforcement with covering up misdeeds or looking the other way.

GREEN: That's the assessment of Newell Hamilton Jr. (ph), a criminal defense attorney in Glynn County. And he says that's also true for the Arbery shooting. There is no dispute a former Glynn police officer and his son were involved in his death, and that the son shot Arbery. County commissioners are defending the police department. They blame the local district attorney's office for the decision not to arrest the father and son. The father had also worked for the DA. Here's Commissioner Peter Murphy talking to WJXT.

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PETER MURPHY: I don't see how they expect the police to go cuff these men up when they've been told directly on Sunday and on Monday by the district attorney's offices not to arrest anybody.

GREEN: But District Attorney Jackie Johnson says neither she, nor her office advised the police on whether or not to make an arrest. She appeared Monday on radio station WIFO.

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JACKIE JOHNSON: That's so far from the truth. It's just a straight-up lie.

GREEN: Johnson says the police and the county commission want to smear her.

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JOHNSON: I think it's retaliation for me being the whistleblower on their police department multiple times over the last year.

GREEN: But Ahmaud Arbery's family says Johnson's decision to recuse herself from the case before an arrest was a cop - out. The Glynn County Police Department declined to answer questions for this story. Arbery's mom, Wanda Cooper-Jones, vividly remembers what police told her the day her son died - that he had been involved in a burglary and the homeowner confronted him.

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WANDA COOPER-JONES: I didn't question that at that time because the way that I live, if authority came and told you anything, you didn't question that because that was authority, and they were put in place to be trusted.

GREEN: There is no evidence to suggest Arbery robbed anyone. Meanwhile, the Georgia attorney general has asked federal officials to investigate how the case was handled. For NPR News, I'm Emily Green in Atlanta.

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