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‘HISTORIC’: Covington council officially moves to establish Citizen Review Board
Seven-member group to operate as oversight committee; develop transparency within city police department
Historic - Covington to establish Citizen Review Board
The Covington City Council approved the final reading of an ordinance that establishes a Citizen Review Board for the Covington Police Department on Monday, April 5, 2021. Pictured, from left, are Councilman Don Floyd, Rev. Harold Cobb, Police Chief Stacey Cotton, Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams, City Manager Scott Andrews, Rev. William Gaither, Rev. Dwayne Stephens, Mayor Steve Horton, Councilman Anthony Henderson, Assistant City Manager Freddy Morgan and Councilwoman Fleeta Baggett. (Special to The Covington News)

COVINGTON, Ga. — City leaders unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance to establish a Citizen Review Board for the Covington Police Department on Monday — an action Mayor Steve Horton called “historic.”

The Citizen Review Board will operate similarly to an oversight committee for the police department with the goal of cultivating trust and transparency.

“I’d like to say this is a historic moment for our city and I’d like to thank Rev. Harold Cobb, Rev. Dwayne Stephens and Rev. William Gaither,” Horton said during the April 5 meeting. "They’re all with the Newton County Ministers Union and have worked diligently and tirelessly with [us] to come up with this ordinance and help carry it further down the road as well. Along with them, I’d also like to thank Councilman Kenneth Morgan, Police Chief Stacey Cotton, Assistant Police Chief Philip Bradford, City Manager Scott Andrews and City Attorney Frank Turner Jr. for their dedication, service and work toward this beneficial outcome.”

Talk of creating a Citizen Review Board for the police department first began nearly five years ago to encourage citizens to feel more comfortable in filing complaints against police officers, if necessary. 

Andrews said the idea resurfaced when Cobb, Stephens and Gaither approached Andrews and the city last summer. The city manager said the reverends played an instrumental role in drafting the ordinance. The first reading of the ordinance was approved March 15.

“We’d just like to thank those who worked with us,” Cobb said. “As someone said in the paper, it was not an easy job, but we thank God that we were able to come together to put everything together … We hope great things happen from this.

“We love this city and we want to see this city reach higher levels,” he added. “We thank everyone who worked with us. And again, as we’ve said to ourselves, we’re not finished yet. We’ve got a long way to go.”

The council will next work to appoint board members, which Horton alluded could take a few weeks.

Per the ordinance, board members can not include the mayor or council, a city employee, an immediate family member of a city employee, currently working for a law enforcement agency, hold a political office or be campaigning for a political office or have any prior felony convictions or any conviction involving moral turpitude. No member other than the non-voting member appointed by the police chief shall have been previously employed by the Covington Police Department.

Members must be 18 years old and a current resident of Covington. Members would be required to complete a written application, pass a background heck with no felony convictions, successfully complete the Covington Police Department Citizens Academy and devote a minimum of nine hours to participate in a ride-along on patrol with the department.

In other business:

  • Horton proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
  • The council approved the final reading of an ordinance amendment concerning electric rates.
  • The council approved a $62,571 bid from Mason Tractor for a mini excavator for the Street Department.
  • The council approved a revision for the city’s garbage collection and sanitation service fees.
  • The council approved a resolution to appoint Mike Jewell as voting delegate and Freddy Morgan as alternate for the MGAG Annual Election.
  • The council approved MEAG Power’s 2020 Year-end settlement. The city will receive a $972,369 refund. Last year’s refund was $981,469.
  • The council approved MEAG Power’s Telecom Project 2020 Year-end settlement. The city will received a refund of $2,288. Last year’s refund was 2,511.
  • The council approved to send a letter for notice of nonrenewal for its electric service contract with General Mills with plans to draft a new, updated contract. The current contract has been in effect for more than 30 years.