The protest and debate over the incident in which Thomaston Police Officer Philip Tobin tasered Kelsey Rockemore is continuing as the city waits for the investigation by the GBI into Tobin’s actions to be completed. The Times has tried to present the events as they have happened, while covering both sides of the issue in what we hope is a fair manner. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own opinions on some of the issues. Here are a few of my opinions. They are mine only, and do not represent the opinions of the newspaper or anyone else on the staff.
Is Vincent Fort abusing his elected office as a State Senator? Mr. Fort represents State Senate District 39, which covers Fulton County and parts of Atlanta and East Point. Yet he is down here in Thomaston, which is 64 miles away from Atlanta, in State Senate District 18, leading protests against Officer Tobin.
Mr. Fort was not elected to represent the people of Thomaston. State Senator Cecil Staton of Macon will be our State Senator until January, when John Kennedy, also of Macon, takes over as the District 18 State Senator. They are our elected State Senators. Down here, Vincent Fort is just another person on the street, with no more power or prestige than anyone else. Yet he is using his title as State Senator to request the Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) broaden its investigation from just Tobin to the entire department. That, I believe, is an abuse of his elected office.
Mr. Fort is welcome in Thomaston, as are the other activists who have come down, regardless of which side they are on, but I believe he should come down simply as a concerned citizen, not as a member of the Georgia General Assembly, because his title there has no meaning here.
I applaud the city and police department in the way they have handled this situation. When the first complaint about Tobin was received, Chief Greathouse immediately called in the GBI to handle the investigation. That is the proper way to do it, because it takes the onus off the city and the police department of having to investigate one of their own. And while it is frustrating sometimes to only hear one side of the issue, I agree that the city and department should not comment until the investigation is over. I also applaud the GBI in taking their time in completing the investigation, and not rushing it through just to please some people.
I also applaud Atlanta attorney Maluwi Mal Davis for his willingness to come to Thomaston and present a “Know Your Rights” seminar. He will deal with the rights all citizens have when they are confronted and/or arrested by police. It will avoid a lot of confusion and disagreement if people know their rights ahead of time. The seminar will be held at the St. Mary’s AME Church on Saturday, August 2, at 11 a.m.
Out of everything I’ve heard and read so far, the best thing to come out of this to date is a suggestion that an Ethics Committee be formed to review contested police incidents. I think that is an excellent idea. If the police are doing their jobs correctly and by the book, then they have nothing to fear from an Ethics Committee. And in turn, if the Ethics Committee finds nothing wrong, then they should show their support of the police, and having the support of a local group of citizens would go a long way in proving to the community that the police department is doing its job correctly.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.