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Unity Project, police chart course for stronger ties

SoVaNow.com / September 21, 2020


Members of the Unity Project and local law enforcement met Thursday at the TJM Community Center in Cluster Springs to discuss plans for upcoming activities to strengthen police-community relations.

All local law enforcement agencies were represented at the meeting as participants discussed ideas for bridging gaps and breaking down barriers of distrust among police and local citizens.

“I know you all are good officers and we have to show that to our community,” said Everett Thomas, one of the co-founders of the Halifax South Boston Unity Project, which was formed to advocate for racial justice and equality. “We’ve got to show our town is not like the ones you see when you turn on the television.”

One of the ideas for building community relations is to create role-reversal videos to post on social media, showing how police and members of the public can better engage with each other. The group also discussed other ways to highlight positive interactions among Halifax County law enforcement and the community.

Part of the discussion turned to the recent controversy involving former South Boston Police Cpl. Jerome George, who retired from the force after drawing fire for Facebook posts that supported violent police actions against protestors for racial justice in U.S. cities. George, a veteran of nearly 26 years in law enforcement, wrote in one of the offending Facebook messages — which he posted under an assumed name — that Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old suspect accused of double homicide in the fatal shooting of two Kenosha, Wisc. protestors, was a “hero” for his actions.

Unity Project members have asked the SBPD to take action to decertify George to prevent him from taking any future work in law enforcement. While the police department is continuing to investigate George’s conduct, SBPD Capt. Dennis Barker said the department is not authorized to seek his professional decertification.

“His actions were not criminal, and [state] code does not allow us to pursue this step” of decertification, said Barker.

Code of Virginia, 15.2-1707 addresses decertification of law enforcement officers who have been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, sexual assault, domestic abuse, or failure to accept a drug screening. The code section also addresses decertification as a step for any officer who has “failed to comply with or maintain compliance with mandated training requirements” or for other “good cause.”

Blair Trent, another Unity Project co-founder and a local attorney, pointed to the relevant language — in subsection C — that allows “good cause” justification for decertification. “We were hoping the police department would be writing a letter to decertify Jerome George under section C for good cause shown.”

The General Assembly is also considering legislation that would make it easier to decertify a police officer based on misconduct, related to use of excessive force.

“Due to the factors we are facing in [George’s] case, there was no criminal act. There are potential changes to the code and we support those changes,” said Barker.

In a follow-up statement issued on behalf of the Unity Project, Thomas said, “I am saddened that Mr. George feels the way he does and that he isn’t sorry for his radical comments on social media …. He didn’t commit any crime so it’s a thin line to become decertified. But what Mr. George did do was let down his police department and the Town of South Boston. Law enforcement is having a hard time as it is without radical comments made from their fellow officers.

“Law enforcement has one of the hardest jobs in the world — not only that they have to remain neutral, protect and serve the innocent and the guilty. As I said earlier, Mr. George committed no crime but what he did state in his comments was morally wrong and any code of conduct should state that. His beliefs are not South Boston Police Department’s and The Town of South Boston. I think the turnout [at the meeting Thursday] truly represents that as a whole. I wish Mr. George great success as a security guard as he stated in an earlier interview. South Boston deserves and expects better.”

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Comments

Smoking Mirrors is all what the Unity Project is. A bunch of collaborators who support domestic terrorism, such as the BLM and ANIFA. And for Blair Trent one of the worst possible excuses as a lawyer anyone has seen inside a Courtroom. Does she try to improvise her incompetence as a Lawyer, by participating in rallies with the Unity Project. I seem to think so.


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