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Athens police chief answers questions about race relations in community forum

Several of the questions focused on race relations.

Posted: Apr 16, 2019 10:27 PM
Updated: Apr 17, 2019 9:19 AM

Dozens of people showed up to the Athens Boys and Girls Club Tuesday evening for a community forum with police Chief Floyd Johnson, and several people asked questions about race relations.

"Our people of color keep running into the same problems with the same police officers in the same police station," James Weaver said.

Weaver has lived in Athens for 25 years and was in the audience Tuesday night. He said he decided to speak up after seeing a video of a fight inside Athens High School that led to four people's arrests.

"It was just one incident in a million since I've been here that's happened, and it's all coming to a head now," Weaver said.

He and several others questioned police action against black people, not just during the fight but in the entire community. Chief Johnson reassured the audience he hires the best people to police the city. He said they're not perfect, and he's open to any suggestions that will make the force better. We tried to get further comment, but Johnson wouldn't speak on camera.

Duane LaRue with the Boys and Girls Club invited the chief to attend, and LaRue said race relations dominating the conversation wasn't the plan.

"I didn't want it to turn into that, but I felt like it was respectable," LaRue said.

After hearing students talk about the police response to last week's fight, LaRue felt the timing of Tuesday's forum was perfect. Weaver agrees.

"I think we need a lot more of this, a lot more of these discussions to keep going on," Weaver said.

Chief Johnson did not answer any questions about last week's fight at Athens High School. He said it would be irresponsible for him to comment during an ongoing investigation, but once the investigation is complete, he said he'd be happy to come back to the Boys and Girls Club to explain the department's findings.

An audience question did lead Chief Johnson to share a new piece of information in the ongoing high school fight investigation. He said the investigation is internal, and right now, he doesn't see a need to bring in a third party to conduct the investigation.

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