The following article is an editorialized opinion piece that reflects the views of only the author and not necessarily those of AllOnGeorgia.
Over the last week, I’ve published some rather damning articles about the City of Brooklet, a place I once called home. Prior to these articles, my coverage on the town was direct but unexciting. I’ve covered meetings for close to two years now and never had a true controversial article. You would also be hard-pressed to find a council member who would say I didn’t objectively cover every meeting, from those on fire ants and mosquito sprayers to the harder hitting ones like millage rate increases. The town is very special to me and I probably put more time and effort into objectivity than I did any other city or county I cover. (Brooklet is so special to me that I chronicled my journey living in the town.)
Having lived there and attended meetings for some time, the mayor and council were all aware of my occupation and coverage in other towns but never made mention of it. While my objectivity was vocally appreciated, I was also told that there was an expectation that I would cover Brooklet just as I would any other town should an incident present itself.
And present itself it did. More important than my love of my time there with the white picket fence and the perfect neighbors —in a shining community— is the integrity of my position at my job.
Over the last two years, in my capacity with AllOnGeorgia, I’ve received more complaints about the Brooklet Police Department than I have any other law enforcement agency in the southeast. Most of the complaints were by word of mouth and without documentation or by people who wanted to remain anonymous. That makes “exposure”’difficult, but nevertheless, I did bring up a few of the incidents to council members after a Council Meeting last fall. I wouldn’t say my inquiries were dismissed, but they were not a priority at the time and so I let it go, knowing that these things always have a way of coming around again.
When the videos of Cindy Lee on the roadside and at City Hall went viral, the opportunity for discussion returned.
Personally, I’m just disappointed and while I’ve done my best to keep that out of the actual articles, I’m sure it has bled through some. It is, without a doubt, the most egregious abuse of power I’ve ever uncovered.
But since we are talking about disappointment and this is an opinion piece, allow me to share why I’ve become so disappointed in the aftermath of sunshine on these events.
- Former Interim Chief Brian Mundy is not to blame for the articles or the “release” of documents. I filed an Open Records Request for complaints and for completed internal affairs investigations. I provided notarized documentation attesting that I would not release any sensitive information not permitted under law. Those two documents provided to him require him to comply with the Open Records Act, and he did. When I arrived to pick up the documents, I also requested the body camera footage in a verbal request, which is permissible under the law. The community should not accept the narrative that Council was not told of the wrongdoing during his tenure. They’re aware of the ongoing IA investigations called for by Mundy BECAUSE of what he found and the POST documentation snafu is all documented on paper. There’s a reason his exit letter oozes with disappointment for not restoring the public trust during his short tenure.
- I’m unsatisfied with the position that the situation has been handled because Baker and Meyer are gone. Financially, that’s not true. The idea that “no new information”’has been offered in AllOnGeorgia’s series isn’t just intellectually dishonest. It’s deflecting. There are more stories out there, more abhorrent than those I’ve reported. Attempting to label the series as irrelevant does a great disservice to the citizens and motorists who were wronged – and by “wronged,” I mean their rights were violated.
- Internal affairs investigations are still ongoing. The GBI has been called by a number of people and the City is on the radar of the Feds for a number of incidents. POST is still investigating both Meyer and Baker. And don’t forget at least two people have retained attorneys for civil rights violations.
- There is still a lack of focus on the fact that Meyer walked out the door with evidence to crimes and ethical violations. At what point will we see someone address that? I’ve seen so many citizens say, “Not another penny in retirement (or pension or severance or whatever you’d like to call it) until everything in the possession of Meyer is returned.
- I’m most disappointed that no one has said “sorry.” Given the legality that all of this, admitting wrongdoing would be stupid. But being “sorry” that so much occurred to damage the pure name of a town as close to Mayberry as one can get would probably be welcomed by citizens.
There comes a time in every investigation when the issue of “why” arises. The speculation by city employees, council members, and their families has been rampant. Wanting the clicks, desiring attention, enjoying sensationalizing it all. The only “why” that exists is the one that is answered with “to inform the public.”
You see, in most investigations, there is a point at which I feel guilty about the wrath brought upon the parties involved. Most of it’s because I’m not hardened to this job and I have a human side, but throughout the coverage of Brooklet, I’ve not felt bad or guilty for the heat that has ignited around city hall and the PD from within the community after the facts that came to light. Because my only goal is to inform the public, and that is what I have done.
To date, the justice system and the local government process has failed dozens of people. A new complaint system and a new employee policy have not “fixed” what has happened and to say people who are responsible have been held accountable is a joke. Good people were punished wrongfully. Not hardened criminals. The Brooklet Police Department was out of control and the city council is partly to blame.
I’ve long avoided writing about a single incident in a police officer’s career. My personal belief is that most people make mistakes in their careers and one should not place them on the chopping block in the court of public opinion for a single instance. This all came about because these incidents in the city of Brooklet were not isolated.
Part of being pro-law enforcement is pointing out the very worst of them in an effort to separate and defend the very best of them.
There is no joy in a “stoning in a public square” or embarrassing elected officials. Establishing a pattern is often mistaken as “piling on,” and questioning the integrity of those who have tried to do right seems easier than allowing it all to crumble and start fresh.
But the end goal is a better and more transparent place to live and that can’t be accomplished if the focus is outward on the messenger, the former interim chief, or on the angry public instead of inward on the reality of what people think of the city right now.
The peace of it all comes from public awareness, sunshine on the infestation of corruption, and a desire for people to control the destiny of their own communities.