Democratic DeKalb County Commission candidate under fire for ‘racial uprising’ commentsMarch 4, 2022. Decatur, GA. Michelle Long Spears. Photo by Michael A. Schwarz
DeKalb County, GA — A candidate for DeKalb County Commission District 2 is under fire for recent comments she made about the 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd by a police officer.
Michelle Long Spears, who is running in the May 24 Democratic primary, made the comments during a forum on April 19. A video clip of the forum featuring Spears’ comments began circulating on April 21. The video doesn’t show the question Spears’ was answering at the time.
“Law enforcement is absolutely critical in our community,” Spears said. “But it is a challenge. It’s expensive. It’s hard right now to even find law enforcement. One of my clients … I’m actually doing an American Rescue Plan project in a municipality. Prior to the racial uprisings, they would get roughly about a hundred applications. A hundred per month. When the racial uprisings happened, and they were demoralizing and demeaning, officers were just getting attacked and people saying mean things to them, do you know how many they got? Zero. For several months.
“When I talked to the chief of police, you know what he said to me? ‘Michelle, everyone’s focusing on defund the police. They’re focusing on the fact that, you know, these uprisings have happened, what they don’t realize is that no one anymore wants to be a police officer. They don’t pay them well. They put their lives at risk every minute of every day that they’re out there protecting us. And then they don’t get the respect from the citizens?’ I mean, how would that make you feel? So, law enforcement is a challenge. And also law enforcement … they show up on a scene and are expected to be the savior and the persecutor. They’re expected to be there to enforce the law and then if someone’s having some type of a breakdown, or they’re unfortunately not in a good mental state of mind, as a protector as well. … That is incredibly difficult to serve in those roles.”
Spears was sitting next to fellow Democratic candidate Lauren Alexander, who is Black, during the forum. She said her comments were taken out of context.
“It’s unfortunate that the video does not capture the question I was responding to, which was about how I would address challenges the county is facing with law enforcement and public safety, and I apologize if my comments were triggering or hurtful in any way or appeared to undermine the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement – that was truly not my intention and my stance on public safety is that brutality, racism, and abuse of power have no place in our police force,” Spears said. “As District 2 Commissioner, I would support policies that address this including a top-down review of police use of force policies and procedures, creating a civilian review board, investing in the expansion of the DeKalb Community Service Board’s (CSB) mental health co-responder program and working to create a 21st-century approach to public safety with equity and restorative justice as guiding principles. ”
Here is the full video:
DeKalb County Democratic Party Chair John Jackson denounced Spears’ comments and rescinded his endorsement of her.
“She referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a racial uprising and defended the fragility that police often show against accountability,” Jackson said. “We have enough law and order Democrats in office. They aren’t solving problems.”
Attempts to reach Alexander for comment were unsuccessful. Marshall Orson, the other Democratic candidate on the May 24 ballot, declined to comment.
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