Last year, East Dublin, GA police officer Jeffrey Deal pulled into a driveway behind the parked car of one Melvin Williams. Deal’s police dashboard video shows no evidence of the traffic violation the officer claims Williams committed, nor anything like a pursuit. It does show the officer running to the drivers side of the parked car, and shouting just off camera. Williams backs into the picture, throwing punches at the officer. The officer backs out of camera range. Williams follows. A shot is heard. Williams falls, the top of his head coming to rest just inside the frame. Officer Deal is heard saying “I shot one.”
The local district attorney quickly ruled the killing justifiable. But emerging facts around the police killing of Williams, a young and unarmed black man, have called into question the police powers and legal status of hundreds of Georgia officers and could pave the way for legal challenges leading to thousands of their arrests.
Like most states, Georgia requires police officers to complete yearly trainings in the use of deadly force and other subjects to retain their police powers. An investigation by Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of TOPS, The Ordinary Peoples Society, on behalf of the victim’s family discovered that Officer Deal and most of his department, including Chief William Leutke had legally forfeited their police powers due to non-compliance with these laws.
“We kept after the local DA,” Glasgow told The Atlanta Post, “until he called in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. GBI confirmed that five of East Dublin’s 8 police officers, including its chief were out of compliance with state training requirements, some of them for all of 2010 and years at a time before that. Chief Leutke turned out to be a habitual offender, either violating or requesting waivers from the law five or six times since the 1980s.
“When officers are out of compliance the beginning of a calendar year, they lose their police powers,” Glasgow pointed out. “They ought to lose public confidence and trust as well. We take this very seriously.”
So did Georgia’s Peace Officer Standards Training Council (POST), the agency that enforces police training requirements. At a September 7 hearing, Chief Leutke offered a litany of excuses for himself and his officers. “We’re just an eight man department,” he testified under oath, “not even a secretary to help out…” Some of the paperwork certifying his and his subordinates’ coursework, he claimed, had been mailed on time, even if POST received it far too late. When an incredulous hearing officer asked if the chief was saying his stuff got lost in the mail, Leutke’s attorney doubled down on his client’s childish excuse.
“With the US Postal Service,” he offered, palms up, “anything is possible.”