On April 20, sheriffs’ deputies in Georgia pulled over a bus transporting the women’s lacrosse team from Delaware State University, a historically Black university, and without probable cause brought in drug-sniffing dogs and hand-searched the women’s personal belongings. The officers were white, and almost all of the female athletes and staff Black.
Read a student’s account of what happened here (includes video).
Statement of Common Cause Census and Mass Incarceration Project Manager Keshia Morris Desir
Nearly two years after people from all walks of life called for police reform after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, our lawmakers still have not done nearly enough to increase transparency and accountability of law enforcement. The actions of Liberty County deputies in Georgia are just one example in a very long tradition of law enforcement abusing their power. Common Cause joins advocates and police reform experts calling for changes in state laws and police procedures.
Statement of Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Aunna Dennis
Almost exactly a month ago, Georgia’s Legislature chose to create a new law enforcement bureaucracy and spend almost $580,000 a year chasing rumors about our elections system.
What a difference it could have made, if that money had been spent providing our law enforcement agencies with implicit bias training, instead.
Over-policing is not the answer to any of the problems Georgians really care about. It doesn’t fix our state’s economy or create jobs. It doesn’t fix our healthcare system or our public school system.
But it does set up situations that end up in the headlines – and that could have ended horribly. Delaware’s lacrosse team should have felt welcomed to our state. They should have been able to feel safe in our state. They should not have had to shoulder the responsibility of trying to defuse the situation – a situation that was created and escalated by law enforcement officers.
How our legislature spends our tax dollars tells us a lot about what leadership’s priorities are – and they’re clearly not the same priorities that the rest of us have.
Making sure that other states’ college students aren’t afraid to come to Georgia should be a priority. Making sure that our local law enforcement has implicit bias training should be a priority. Making sure that this sort of thing never happens again should be a priority.
We hope that these national headlines will help legislative leadership take a second look at their priorities.
Statement of Common Cause Delaware Executive Director Claire Snyder-Hall
All across Delaware, people are outraged by the way some of our top student athletes were treated by Georgia law enforcement. However, it must be said that Delaware has its own problems with police misconduct; yet, right now, our ‘Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights’ renders all police misconduct investigations completely secret – making Delaware one of the worst states in the country when it comes to police accountability.
In the First State, police disciplinary records are kept hidden from criminal defense counsel, the media, and the public. This lack of any oversight or transparency is why there has been no justice for Leroy Blanding, Jeremy McDole, or Lymond Moses – all of whom were tragically killed by Delaware police who have still faced no accountability, despite repeated pleas from the victims’ families.
Legislation to reform the law died in the state senate earlier this year.
We hope that this out-of-state incident will prompt our legislative leaders to take a new view of the need for police reform. These were Delaware’s college students, placed in a dangerous situation by police in another state. We are relieved that the situation ended without tragedy – it could have gone the other way, all too easily.
It also, all-too-easily, could have happened here in Delaware. We need our General Assembly to start viewing police accountability and transparency as the crisis that it is.