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Precinct remains priority in Covington's West Ward
Community offers city leaders guidance on crime issues at ‘take back’ rally
Kenneth Morgan
Covington City Councilman Kenneth Morgan speaks to a crowd of residents gathered in the Nelson Heights community for a “Takin’ Back Our Community –West Ward” rally on Saturday, April 2. The rally was held to “build camaraderie” and “take back the fear” in response to a recent wave of gun violence in the area. - photo by Special Photo

COVINGTON, Ga. — Residents of the Nelson Heights community want a Covington Police Department precinct in the neighborhood, Councilman Kenneth Morgan said.

Morgan said this was one of many things the community members voiced during a “Takin’ Back Our Community - West Ward” rally held Saturday, April 2, in the neighborhood. 

The event was organized by Morgan and others in response to a recent wave of gun violence that had been taking place there — an issue Morgan has publicly said he took personally. The goal was to “build camaraderie” and, most importantly, “take back the fear.”

“Everything went really well,” Morgan said during a city council meeting Monday, April 4. “It was a real, real good event.

“Council, I will tell you, they do want a precinct in that neighborhood,” he continued. “They were like, ‘Can we have it today?’ But I told them there were things we’d have to talk through.”

Before the event, Morgan had spoken publicly about his personal belief a precinct was needed in the area, despite some apparent pushback.

“I know people don’t want police precincts in their neighborhood, but let me tell you something,” Morgan reportedly said during a meeting last month. “As a West Ward candidate, I will be the first one to say that if it comes to the point that we have to put a police precinct in Nelson Heights and the Green Acres area, I will be one of the first ones to do it, and you know why? First of all, because I have been elected as a West Ward candidate and, whether people want things in their neighborhood or not, it is my responsibility to make sure that those people who are trying to do right are protected from the people that are trying to destroy those neighborhoods. And if people don’t like what I say, when I say it, my seat comes up in two years. You have the opportunity to vote me right on out in 2024.”

In a recent interview for The Covington News’ upcoming “Visions” magazine, Police Chief Stacey Cotton said he was open-minded to considering the case for adding a precinct, but the community’s expectation and city’s ability to fund everything that comes with a precinct would play a big role in whatever action is taken.

“I think oftentimes we hear precinct as a quick fix, but that’s not necessarily so,” Cotton said. “And it may, but I always ask people, ‘What are your expectations?’ Because, do you want a police officer or two sitting in a building, or would you rather see a police officer or two riding in your neighborhood in the car being seen by everybody? Because they can ride by everybody’s house, not just sit in a building. 

“So, if your expectation is to see officers out on the street, then we don’t necessarily need a precinct,” he said. “But if your expectation is that you want to see police officers in a building, then we can talk about that. Or, if you want, increase my staff to where we can have officers in the building and out on the street, which to me would be the perfect world. But that’s what I think people need to understand … Big police departments, like Atlanta, are able do that. But we’re not at that size.”

Moving forward, Morgan said the plan was to continue hosting similar “take back” rallies in other areas within the city, including Green Acres, Jefferson Village and “any area where there is crime that is going on in our city.” 

Councilwoman Charika Davis voiced her appreciation to city staff, including police and fire departments, as well as City Manager Scott Andrews, for helping host the “awesome” event Saturday, and to the community members for attending and participating.

“Thank you, Nelson Heights community, for coming out,” she said Monday. “You gave us feedback on what we can do to help make that community better.”