Activists want Cobb police to ‘bridge the gap’ with minority communities

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Following the outcry over fatal police shootings of black people in Cobb County and across the country, a local organization is asking law enforcement agencies to do more to build trust with the communities of color they serve.

The New Order National Human Rights Organization has started a campaign to meet with police departments around metro Atlanta. Its first meeting was held Tuesday with Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox where a spokesman for the organization said he expressed concerns about the department’s handling of the shooting death of Vincent Truitt, a black teenager who was shot twice in the back last summer by Cobb police.

Gerald Rose, president of New Order, said Cox listened to his concerns “about the issues going on here in Cobb County.” He also said he’s met with Marietta Deputy Police Chief Marty Ferrell. Neither Cox nor Ferrell responded to requests for comment for this article.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Rose said conversations with both chiefs were, at times, uncomfortable when the subject of race was brought up. Some people of color do not view the police as men and women who protect and serve, but believe police “look at us as the enemy,” which Rose said points to a disconnect between officers and minorities.

“We’ve got to reconnect with the police, and right now some of us are afraid of the police,” he said. “That’s why we are trying to bridge this gap.”

Truitt, 17, was shot twice in the back July 13 after getting out of a stolen car following a chase on Riverside Parkway near Austell, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. He was one of three teens inside the vehicle that was spotted by police about 11:20 p.m. He later died at Grady Memorial Hospital, one day before his mother’s birthday.

The family of Vincent Truitt, which has been trying for months to get the police department and the Cobb district attorney’s office to release the officer’s body camera footage, announced last week that they intend to file a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit.

Kymberly Hartfield, another member of New Order, also said the group has filed an open records request with Cobb County to get information on how many use of force incidents the department has had in the last 10 years, the race and ethnicity of officers involved and the neighborhoods where these incidents occurred.

Last year’s deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of officers have reignited conversations about the deadly use of force in black and other communities of color across the country. Hartfield said police departments around the country have to gain the trust of citizens who don’t want their loved ones’ names to become another social media hashtag.

“We have to get over the initial defensiveness … to let it be known that it’s a systemic issue that’s happening not only in Cobb County or Marietta or Fulton or DeKalb, but nationwide,” she said.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Shaddi Abusaid contributed to this report.