During the 2020 elections, defunding the police became a contentious political issue that was used by the Republicans as a political weapon to instill fear and distract concerned citizens from the truth. The truth is I fully support reallocating funding. “Defunding the police” was never my slogan nor intended to leave law enforcement officers unprotected and underpaid or departments understaffed. The goal is to ensure that funding is being reallocated to support our community and improve public safety. It means allowing your local government to redistribute funds towards essential social services that are often underfunded, such as housing, education, employment and mental health.
While police brutality and racial tensions continue to rise, we must seek ways to repair our justice system. We need leaders who will propose solutions such as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act if we want to address police brutality head-on. Unfortunately, Athens’ own Houston Gaines is proposing a bill that would take away local control over how our tax dollars get spent in ways that negatively impact our community. This bill will not improve public safety, nor address the killings of Black people at the hands of law enforcement. It will not decrease mass incarceration or crime rates. Simply stated, this bill will only prevent local governments from allocating funds toward already underfunded areas like mental health services and homelessness.
While Republicans such as Gaines continue to use fear-mongering tactics to gain support and maintain power, the most marginalized members of our community are left without sufficient protection and support in an economic and public health crisis. Police reform and reallocation of funds are what we need to maintain public safety.
The real issues at hand are poverty, racial discrimination, untreated mental health issues and homelessness, all of which can lead to increased interactions between law enforcement officers and vulnerable community members. This is not just a racial issue, this is a social and public safety issue that must be addressed through police reform and restorative justice.
If we the people do not stand up and speak out, corrupt state legislators will continue to protect bad officers. We need leaders who are more concerned about creating a restorative justice system and ensuring that officers are properly trained, paid and unbiased. We need real solutions, and that’s why despite Gaines’ effort to sabotage our local work towards cash bail reform, police reform, voting rights and controlling local government spending, I will continue advocate for ways to protect our children and citizens, such as advocating for a police civilian oversight board and juvenile diversion programs, and by hosting community dialogues to educate the general public.
Unfortunately, Rep. Gaines and various others have been absent from these conversations and now want to push a dangerous and divisive agenda on our community. Gaines’ legislation is unconstitutional, and it is opposed by the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, meaning local governments across the state share my concerns. We the people cannot allow House Bill 286 to pass through the Senate and become law. This is a call to take action: please write and call your representatives. For more information on House Bill 286, upcoming events or my position, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com.
Johnson ran as a Democrat in 2020 against Gaines in District 117.
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