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Valdosta City Council hears first reading for citizens engagement board

Posted at 12:15 AM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 00:15:43-04

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — Justice for Antonio Arnelo Smith won't be complete until the City of Valdosta forms a citizen's engagement board to help prevent future cases of police excessive force.

Valdosta Police arrested Smith on Feb. 8, 2020, while looking for a suspect in a panhandling investigation. They later realized he was not the suspect they were looking for, even after they broke his wrist during the arrest.

The city settled the resulting lawsuit by paying Smith $350,000 and promising to create the citizen engagement board that city council members discussed Thursday.

"It's going to be policy with the city of Valdosta forevermore to have that, another layer to look into any use of force with our police department," said Valdosta Mayor Scott Matheson.

Mayor Matheson and each council member will be able to nominate a member to the new board. The board will then review footage from police body cameras following use of force incidents and make recommendations for improvements.

Community members like Andrea Jones say it could help prevent costly and harmful mistakes.

"I ain't got nothin' against police officers," said Jones, "and I know they're here to perform a job, but sometimes the police officers could consider some heart or consideration to understand what's really going on, or to take their time when they go to arrest someone, cause sometimes when you grab somebody, you can injure them, even if they don't mean to."

Council members will hear one more reading of the proposal before taking a final vote on its implementation.