Cobb County puts police under review

A Cobb County Board of Commissioners vote scheduled for Tuesday that would determine whether or not The International Association of Chiefs of Police would be contracted to review the Cobb County Police Department was postponed.

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners instructed Director of Public Safety, Sam Heaton to review the practices, policies and procedures of the Cobb County Police Department after dash-cam video captured Cobb Co. Police Officer Maurice Lawson, accused of making racially charged comments.

In December Officer Lawson, who is white pulled over a teacher, Brian Baker who is black.  In the video you can hear Baker ask Officer Lawson if he can go. Officer Lawson said “Please go away.  Go to Fulton County. I don’t care about your people.”

“Anytime you have an incident like that, it sheds a bad light on any one of our agencies and no one wants that,” said Cobb County Director of Public Safety Sam Heaton. “I think we have an outstanding department and I think that was an isolated incident.”

The International Association of Chiefs of Police contract is $93,000, less than the $100,000 budget.  Heaton said is important to hire an outside agency in order to establish trust with the community.

“There were many in the community that felt there was a lack of trust between the community and the police department and to bring that forward, if we tried to investigate ourselves and look at ourselves some would say that was not quite fair,” said Heaton.   “To bring in an outside agency to look at you, a lot of people felt it would be non-bias and would be able to get a fair look at our organization.”

Commissioner Lisa Cupid agreed. Cupid said she had an encounter with Officer Lawson as well.

“I have had different constituents share different matters they have had with public safety, but it is very difficult to relate to those challenges unless you have been in their shoes,” said Commissioner Cupid.  “I was in a position to be in their shoes and make sure I was going to be an advocate in making sure we did a better job in addressing those concerns.”

The Cobb County chairman said Tuesday the vote was postponed because they had a few things to tighten up on the contract.  The vote is expected to take place in two weeks at the next Cobb County Commission meeting.  Once in place, the review is expected to take about six months.