In South Fulton, Georgia, where Black women hold all top offices, can they set a new model for law enforcement?
A year after its creation, the city of South Fulton, Georgia has elected African American women at the top offices of all government departments.
Now the fifth largest city in the state, South Fulton has a Black city public defender (Viveca Famber Powell), female chief of police (Sheila Rogers), court administrator (Lakesiya Cofield), chief judge (Tiffany Carter Sellers), chief court clerk (Ramona Howard), and a city solicitor (LaDawn Jones).
The Atlanta Voice reports, “In the City of South Fulton’s justice system, African-Americans are far less likely to be arrested, prosecuted, or detained in custody because of incidents like those seen in recent news. These assurances help law-abiding citizens, particularly African-Americans, feel less tense when they see blue lights in their rearview.”
“Our goal is to ensure justice for everyone,” says Judge Sellers. “However, as African American women we are sensitive to the history of criminal justice in our country. We want to be an example of how to do things right.”
South Fulton started an operational diversion program called Second Chance South Fulton. The program’s objective ensures offenders maintain a clean record while they offer community services. They can also receive necessary counseling and educational courses where appropriate. The program’s development is uncommon for many American cities of this size.
“One of the primary purposes of laws is to protect citizens and the city,” Jones explained. “You can do that without sending everyone to jail or enforce high fees. Most people do better when they know better.”
Some recount the murder of a mentally ill Black, Somali Muslim woman, Shukri Ali, who was shot and killed by the nearby city of North Fulton police in April 2018. The officers are still on administrative leave.
Many are hopeful for South Fulton’s city operations and responses as Black women take the reins. Others remain anxious that this might be just another face of the same system that oppresses them. Time will tell.