One of the most fundamental rights of any citizen is the right to defend themselves or others. This legislation does not undermine or infringe on that sacred protection. Georgians can still defend themselves and their homes. Private business owners can still reasonably detain lawbreakers, and our heroes in law enforcement remain able to keep our communities safe, day or night.
For example: law enforcement officers may continue to perform arrests outside of their jurisdictions when a crime is committed in front of them, when they are in hot pursuit of an offender, or when assisting fellow officers in their duties.
This legislation also clearly allows business owners and their employees to detain individuals and turn them over to the authorities when crimes are committed on their premises – whether it be theft, attempts to “dine and dash,” or other acts of lawlessness – and it provides civil immunity to those who do so in accordance with the law.
Our bill to overhaul the citizen’s arrest statute is a balanced approach in protecting the lives and livelihoods of ourselves, friends, and neighbors, while also preventing rogue vigilantism from threatening the security and God-given potential of all Georgians.
Last year, Georgia made history by passing anti-hate crimes legislation on a bipartisan basis to send a clear message that our state is too great for hate.
Thanks to the hard work and determination of Lt. Gov. Duncan, House Speaker Ralston, Dean of the House Rep. Calvin Smyre, Rep. Chuck Efstration, Sen. Bill Cowsert, Sen. Harold Jones, and other legislative leaders, we came together – despite political differences – and did what was right.
That bipartisan accomplishment was certainly an important leap forward, but we know there is still more important work to be done.
Election year or not, there is no shortage of political preferences to be debated under the Gold Dome. However, in a national political climate where it often seems like no one can agree on anything, I am proud to say this bill has broad, bipartisan support in the General Assembly, in our law enforcement community, and with civil rights advocacy groups.
Like the anti-hate crimes legislation, reforming Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute is first and foremost about who we are as a state.
In Georgia, we value the life of our neighbor – regardless of their race, creed, or culture. We support the local businesses that are the backbone of our communities. We back the brave men and women in law enforcement. We stand up and speak out for what is right.
On the campaign trail, I told people I would put hardworking Georgians first – ahead of the status quo or what was politically convenient. As governor, I have worked across the aisle to tackle the tough issues and ensure a better, brighter future for our state.
I believe Republicans and Democrats can rise to the challenge again, put aside partisan politics, and support a balanced approach to overhauling Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law.
Brian P. Kemp is Georgia’s governor.