Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson is also not a fan. In a letter to the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, the sheriff says the bill would sap resources, "overstretch" Fulton County's already crowded jail, and serves no "useful purpose" in fighting crime:
Senator Don Balfour
453 State Capitol Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Dear Senator Balfour:
I am writing you to express my concerns about Senate Bill 469. It is my belief, that this bill poses the potential to further overburden an already stressed prison system and would divert badly-needed resources away from protecting Fulton County’s residents.
The problems facing our state’s prison system are immense, particularly in Fulton County. As you know, we are making great strides in solving the problems of overcrowding in Fulton County. We are working closely with county leaders to corne up with ways to lower our jail population. However, if this bill is enacted, it could set this effort back by forcing law enforcement officers to arrest and jail Georgians for participating in civic protests of a specific kind, which would overstretch our already crowded jail.
I am also concerned this bill would divert time and resources away from the vital services we provide protecting communities in Fulton County and turn our role into a political one, where we would have to determine what protests do and do not fall under the definition of unlawful picketing under the bill.
The role of law enforcement shouldn’t be to police free speech but the intent of this bill seems to be just that. By targeting only protests dealing with labor disputes, you are putting police officers in the difficult position of silencing the voices of Georgians and, in the process, setting us up to face potential lawsuits that would ultimately be paid for by taxpayers.
Finally, I believe this bill serves no useful purpose in fighting crime. Working daily throughout the communities of Fulton County gives me the opportunity to interact with varied segments of the population and see firsthand how citizens are suffering under the sluggish economy. Our state has an unemployment rate close to 10%, which is higher than the national average, while ranking last in job growth.
These, among other reasons, are why we need to focus on legislation that will help get Georgians back to work, unlike legislation such as SB 469 that do nothing to create jobs and would stretch already overtaxed publie safety resources.
I urge you to drop this legislation.
Theodore "Ted" Jackson
Sheriff of Fulton County
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