Grand jury suggests higher pay for police officers
by Geoff Folsom
gfolsom@mdjonline.com
January 10, 2012 01:19 AM | 7013 views | 69 69 comments | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — A Cobb County grand jury is recommending better pay and benefits for Cobb Police officers, but, with the county facing a tight budget, getting that might be an uphill battle.

After talking to representatives from Cobb Police, the county’s November-December Superior Court grand jury said work needed to be done to improve turnover in the department.

Local and federal agencies want to lure Cobb officers to their departments because their training in Cobb is considered outstanding, grand jurors said. Also, salaries must be more competitive with area police departments.

Cobb Police Chief John Houser, who met with the grand jury, said the 600-officer department’s turnover rate doubled between 2010 and 2011, with one precinct losing three officers in a week.

“We do a great job. Our citizens are safe,” Houser said. “What is concerning is the turnover with our officers leaving for departments with some of these other incentives.”

And when officers leave, it could take a year to replace them because of training requirements, Houser said.

Houser said officers are attracted to other departments that offer extra pay for college-educated officers and are not as restrictive on overtime as Cobb. The grand jury recommended that county provide incentives in these areas.

Houser said officers can be sent home if they receive overtime at the end of a pay period.

The grand jury also recommended that officers be allowed to take their cars home, which it said could improve safety in neighborhoods by making police more visible and also decrease downtime between shifts and allow shifts to overlap.

Any of these additions would require funding from the Cobb Board of Commissioners. And Commission Chairman Tim Lee said that will be a tough sell.

“We just have too many officers, and that’s too big of a capital investment to do that,” he said.

But Houser said allowing officers to take their cars home could eventually save money because the vehicles won’t have as many miles and officers will take better care of the cars because they feel more of a “buy-in” with them. This could allow the cars to have longer life spans and decreased maintenance costs.

“In the long term, I think the counties and the cities start recouping their investment and the department is more efficient,” he said.

While not making a recommendation, the grand jury said the police department is running out of operational space, meaning that a new and larger police headquarters will be needed.

Lee said commissioners will wait to see the final recommendations of the county’s Citizen Oversight Committee before making a decision on what to do with police compensation.

“Right now, we don’t have the money to give raises to anybody,” he said.

Northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham said the board will have to be careful in how it handles police pay.

“I do have a desire to be competitive in our pay scale, but there’s the practicality of ‘Do we have the money to address it?’” she said.
Comments
(69)
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About time
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January 21, 2012
If Gwinnett County can manage take home cars for all of their P.D. officers... Why can't Cobb??? Priorities!!! They simply choose not too. The depts are the same size in the same Metro Atlanta.

Cobb BOC talks out of one side of their mouth about how they love public safety, then turn around fail to support them. They can talk the political talk, but fail to walk the walk everytime.

@Just Wondering, InTheRoom and Apublicservent - the roles of firefighters although very important are very different. One example is that a single police officer has to make multiple decisions a day reguarding a person's rights, arrest and deadly force all areas of serious liablity. A firefighter is always in a group of four or more with a Lt. Engineer or Battalian Comander to made decisions by a text book. Police don't have that luxury. You are solo with the dreds of society, with your knowledge, training, wits and a gun to serve the community to the best of your ability.

Cobb needs to get public safety off parity. That alone could save money. The fire dept is very top heavy.
Really?!?
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January 23, 2012
What parity? Over a 30 year career, FD works 24,000 more hours than PD for the same retirement. Before you tell me about the "sleep" FD gets paid for, educate yourself regarding the sleep deprivation and resulting health risks associated with FD jobs- it's real. There is no parity- the jobs are too different. I'm okay with that- it's my chosen profession, but it seems to me that Police and Fire should drop the nitpicking and work towards a common goal.
Yeppp
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January 24, 2012
Agree with what the fireman said. We should all get treated better. I am tired of PD wanting special treatment. Yet another reason for a merger between them and the SO.

About time
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January 24, 2012
So you speak about sleep deprivation and health risks for firefighters having to answer a call at night time... Some nights there aren't any calls in certin areas of the county and FD gets a full night sleep. The PD has a group of officers that work nights for years at a time, getting woke up for court multiple times a week. Why do you think PD guys leave to become firefighters... easier job and less stressful job plain and simple. I have never seen a FD guy, switch to PD. It's a harder job, more stressful job... period. It's really not a debate.

Wait hold on... We're staged for P.D.

And for combining the S.O. and P.D. look at what Clayton County is going through with their S.O. You really want politics playing even more of a role in public safety?
Just wondering...
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January 19, 2012
if the police get to take home their cars; does that mean my husband can bring home his firetruck? ;)
anonymous
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March 06, 2012
Ha, sure, he should be able to do so if it will potentially deter someone from breaking into your neighbors house or stealing their car! Do people think before they post????
InTheRoom
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January 19, 2012
The Cobb PD isn't the only public safety department that has employees jumping ship. There's an average of 2 Cobb County firefighters resigning each month because they found a fire department with better pay and/or benefits.
Apublicservent
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January 17, 2012
The same thing is going on at the fire department. No one talks about it because they have no political clout.
About time
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January 16, 2012
At the rate the county is loosing P.D. officers the BOC are going to have to do something. The career of Law Enforcment is very competitive. Once state certified you can go anywhere. Why not leave for a better department if you aren't getting treated with respect? If you want the best most professional police, you have to be willing to pay for it. Otherwise Cobb will turn into Dekalb, Atlanta, Clayton... With a Police Dept that's in the news for negativity everyday.
Former Officer
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January 13, 2012
Some of the reasons why you would not or could not combine the SO & PD are below;

1. The PD has much higher physical & written testing requirements. These requirements are tested each year at annual cerification/training. Alot of the SO personnel are not required to maintain the same physical fitness or training standards. If they did and we combibned the two, you would loose alot of the personnel from the SO.

2. Alot of the SO cannot, will not or refuse to work traffick accidents, murders, armed robberies, doemstic dispute cases or traffick enforcement. The certified deputies are purely capable by certification to do so now, but they dont!! Why?? Knowbdy knows. KENNESAW VOTER is so vocal & pro-Sheriff.........But he has probably not had the opportunity to really look into both sides or visited both sides to see the functions they perform.

3. If you ask PD personnel they would rather work calls for service and if there was a merger they would work the jails. If you ask a deputy the majority went to the SO because they did not want to maintain the standards the PD has in place or could not meet the standards (I'm just keeping it real).

4. Even if you do not want to pay higher taxes as a citizen of Cobb, Cobb employees still deserve a COST OF LIVING ALLOWANCE/RAISE. In the (5) years of no raises the price of food, gas, clothing, taxes have gone up and the county has done nothing to off-set that.

5. There is so much mis-information on these posts from the uninformed it is a comedy at times. Some of that misinformation includes officers/deputies pay, amount of vacation time, benefits....etc.

You can sit & do nothing and rant/rave..........but when your county goes to hell and you need or want quality service.......your not going to get it or expect it!! You will get a half-wit that was hired on sub-par benefits/pay and end up costing you in the long run!!
Retired SO
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January 13, 2012
Come on if you are indeed a former PD officer you should know why the deputies don't work traffic. The PD has a division that is primarily traffic enforcement. The SO has a division that primarily serves warrants. They do not have enough deputies to do traffic and warrants. The SO has more deputies working the jail than any other division. They also have to work in the courts, serve warrants, work fraud, fugitive, drug enforcement and domestic(surprise). The PD has their own specialized units that you stated above. The PD is no better than the SO and the SO has the same training standards as the PD. I was and still am in great shape. I also have know quite a few deputies that could out run a jack rabbit in heat. And that statement that your standards are just too tough for deputies, what a bunch of BS. Talk about misinformation, no wonder there is still so much animosity between the two departments with guys like you still spreading this crap. And, as a former supervisor, I give you a F on report writing, your spelling and grammar are atrocious! Guess all that super training you received didn't include this area of expertise.
Former Cobb Officer
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January 13, 2012
The reason the S.O. doesn't do traffic is that at one point (not sure if its still true), they had to write a report justifying every citation they wrote. Why? Because every citation they wrote is to a voter who might not vote for the Sheriff next time around. But Retired SO is right, that is not the primary function of Cobb's SO.

If there was a merger between the PD and SO, the SO would be the overtaking agency, thus requiring those in the PD to work in the jail. If that was done, you'd have a mass exodus of experienced officers.
Not so
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January 16, 2012
Please explain all the 300lb officers I have seen in zone 5 lately. I don't think the pt requirement between the two is anything special. I would love to see some pd officers handle a6 on any give day with 60 murders and nothing but a pair of fists. That will make a man outta you. A merger would be good, the jail could simply be staffed by detention officers. The deputies that work the jail want to because of the pay. A lot are experienced correction officers that jumped at a 20k raise. The ones that want to be deputies and work the road do. I spent more than a decade serving warrant sand chasing down all those murders and rapists. Once it is reported to the police they are done. The so hunts these monsters where ever they go because the pd can't work in the cities or leave the county like a deputy can. The so has more statutory duties than the pd. let's be serious the pd exists with consent of the sheriff. They were created by the sheriff to pick up the crappy ticket writing duties. I would rather serve a felony warrant than work traffic, talk about risking your life! They should be merged then everyone could benefit just as duval county, Vegas, nypd etc etc. Have done, less division means less room for bad guys and that is what it is all about.
Serrrrriously.
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January 16, 2012
Great traing on spelling. I'm not impressed pd guy.
Former Cobb Officer
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January 12, 2012
I'm one of the officers who has left the county for another department with better pay and benefits. I feel like a guy who didn't get on the titanic because he saw the iceberg from the dock. Here's a breakdown of where other officers are going and why:

Dunwoody - better pay, take home car, cheaper benefits benefits

Sandy Springs - better pay, take home car, cheaper benefits

Alpharetta - better pay, take home car, cheaper benefits

Smyrna - comparable pay, take home car, cheaper benefits

Kennesaw - comparable pay, take home car, cheaper benefits

GSP - less pay, take home car, comparable benefits

Private Sector - the PD lost someone to Waffle House!

I don't know about you, but I'm seeing a trend in most of the departments that are taking the county's veteran officers. Not to mention there are many more officers that wish they could leave, but they're vested and it would be detrimental to their retirement to leave. There are also new recruits who plan on training with Cobb since they still have top notch training and going elsewhere after the 2 year commitment, especially since former Cobb Officers are pushed to the top of the list at many agencies.

On a side note, I wasn't with the county 15-20 years ago, but the stories I've heard about the inner workings of the county itself worry me. I can't substantiate any of them, but when you hear the same story for multiple people, there might be some truth. All I can say is that you can only keep things up for so long before it comes crashing down or someone in the know decides to say something.
RETIRED SO
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January 14, 2012
@ Former Officer... you are right about those citations. Back when Sheriff Hudson was in office HE discourage deputies from making traffic stops, even DUI's. We were told "get a tag number and call the PD". This was very embarrassing, not to mention a danger to the public. If stops were made reports were written and deputies were chewed out. Sounds ridiculous I know. Political you bet!! All of this changed when Sheriff Warren took office, no reports and traffic stops were no longer discouraged. Several PD officers did tell me they would leave if the SO and PD was combined because they did not want to work the jail. What they didn't know was that because of their road experience most would have remained where they were.The real fear was that some of the higher ranking officers would be forced into retirement, demoted or transferred. These were the ones who really fought hard against a merger. On a positive note, one of the best days for the SO and the county was when Sheriff Hudson retired!! His retaliations against deputies who dared speak up against some of his arbitrary policies are well know. He cost the county quite a lot of money in law suits alone. Guess we all have to take the good with the bad when in law enforcement.
RTOL
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January 12, 2012
I read this article and all the comments. I think everyone should know that the fines brought in by the citations written by police go into the general fund of the county. As politicians go.... The sheriff is just that a politician hand picked by the previous sheriff.....no free choice there.....sheriff wants to get re-elected so he does not allow his deputies to enforce traffic laws. Most laws violated are traffic and guess what politicians made the laws. Why so many laws to govern movement...easy money for politicians. Politicians vote for pay raises for whom....mostly politicians...Why does Cobb pay the Commision Chair a salary for fulltime work and a County Manager....save money cut one of the positions...if county commisioner can't do the business of the county fire him and elect somebody who can....Also are your deputies trained as well as your police.....if not you'll need to bring them on par before you put them on the road......I do not remeber ever seeing a deputy working wrecks in the rain, snow or sunshine...I heard they call for the police......is this because they are tained the same....As parent it is my responsibility to ensure my children know right from wrong. Not our teachers. If my child miss behaves the teachers should send me a note and I should sit my child down and take corrective action....teachers need to teach not be the parents. Parents must remember it's their responsibility to instill proper behaviour from the beginning of their childs life until no longer in their hosue...... oops sorry for the long post but......if the glove fits you cannot aquit...hmmm just random thoughts out loud
Hrmmmm
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January 13, 2012
Well the Sheriff's Office takes the nurses and docs to the hospitals, the judges to the courts etc. during these storms. I have never seen a pd officer do that. The S.O. serves all the warrants for the county, they even run the fugitive unit who hunts the murders, rapist etc..even out of county where the precious pd cant go. I have never seen the PD do that. It takes 20 of them to serves a warrant on the very rare occassion that they do, it is hilarious. The SO has to handle civil papers, courts, jail, the narcotics unit for the county, all warrant service and on and on. The SO has more duties by law than the PD, they have to cover the entire county. They also handle all the white collar crime for the whole county. They do enforce traffic laws. I was a deputy and I wrote a ton of tickets. We just dont have time to prop up on the side of the road and sit there all day. The Deputies dont write BS tickets, like no blinker or rolling a stop sign at 2am on Christmas day. Both agencies are well trained. CCPD officers seem to have a habit of comparing themselves to jail staff...jail staff is a million miles away from a road deputy and most people know this.
tired of it
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January 11, 2012
If you give the Police a raise you need to give all county employee's a raise. none of us except for Hankerson has had a raise in 4 years. If you do for one you need to do for ALL!
Kennesaw Voter
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January 11, 2012
That's right the Sheriff is a politician but he is directly elected by the voter and he should have all police operations under his supervision. Give us one good reason why Cobb separates police work from the Sheriff...they do it for control reasons and it costs the taxpayer big money....the Cobb County police chief is appointed and answers to a politician. The Sheriff should run the whole shabang....I am just a taxpayer who wants efficient government ...Cobb does not need BIG FAT Budgets for public service workers....if they don't like the pay and bennies they can go some place else...some of the idiots posting on here think that jobs paying tons of money are just falling out of the trees and our police are quitting and grabbing them...yeah, thats funny...those jobs are not out there and if they were our police and teachers would not leave because the pay and bennies are too good here in Cobb...STOP abusing taxpayers by high taxation.
CHECK IT OUT
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January 12, 2012
For those of you who may not know it the Cobb commissions years ago in the 1990's brought the idea of combining the PD with the SO, leaving just the Sheriff's Office. When then Sheriff Hudson told them he would do it but would have to cut some of the "dead wood" ( and we all know what that means), the uproar was so great that the commissioners backed off. Guess the boys and girls in blue didn't want to wear brown. Check it out MDJ it is absolutely true!!
Hey meh
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January 10, 2012
Can you guys do an article on how, when and why we have a county police and sheriff and the costs for merging the two? This is the only place I have ever lived without centralized efficient law enforcement services. Did you know if your wallet is stolen and your credit card is used you have to report the theft to the Cobb police, then drive over to the sheriffs office to report the credit card fraud. That is silly and inefficient. One law enforcement agency would be best.
DENIAL
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January 10, 2012
I am NOT in denial about how stressful police/fire persons jobs are, but try going into a classroom and you may want to strap on a vest. Give the teachers props because without them, where would you be? Or your children?
Pat H
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January 11, 2012
You only work 9 months a year. In bad weather, you get to stay home, warm and safe. You work no holidays, no weekends.

I never worked for a PD, but educated my children in private school. Some of the best students are home schooled.

Next time there is a gunman on the loose, maybe you might give your phone number so we can call you to solve the problem.

I would hate to pay any additional taxes but feel that our police and fire should be level with other departments. There is so much waste in our county that we could pay a fair wage to essential personnel such as police and fire. Why does Cobb need a spokesman?
Kennesaw Voter
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January 10, 2012
BTW, consolidating the Cobb County Police and Cobb County Sheriff is the right thing to do...the only counties that separate them out like this are the ones who have BIG FAT BLOATED BUDGETS and the don't care that they are jacking the taxpayer for the extra money it takes to run 2 separate departments....why do some counties do it (like Cobb County)?? They do it because the politician wants to control the police and their investigations, enforcement, etc...if that part of law enforcement stayed under the Sheriff....the politicians would not control it...it would be controlled by the Sheriff....thus, they keep it separate and make the taxpayer pay through the nose for it.
J.C. Blue
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January 10, 2012
@ Kennesaw Voter:

The sheriff IS a politician.

That being said, PLEASE keep posting your nonsense. Your silly comments have been making other MDJ readers feel smarter and better about themselves for years.
Really...
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January 11, 2012
I hate to break it to you but the Sheriff's position is an ELECTED position thus making whomever holds that position a POLITICIAN!!!
Retired old timer
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January 12, 2012
Combining would only work with good leadership....last sheriff that wanted to try this......Victor Hill Clayton County.....I think I like the separation just fine.
Bean Counter
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January 10, 2012
I do think that if you don't have the money, you can't give raises, but the situation with CCPD is more complicated that just "spending more money on raises". Despite no pay raises; Teachers, Firefighters, and other county workers are not leaving their jobs. CCPD Police Officers are leaving by the bus load because they CAN and DO get more money, better benefits, and less abuse elsewhere in the Law Enforcement profession.

Also, a CCPD trainee is paid 1 and a half years salary ($60,000) plus health, pension, payroll tax, etc ($8,000???), and training costs ($20,000???). Total approx $88,000! This is before they can actually police on their own and fill a beat. The county requires a two year commitment from a new hire from their hire date, which equates to 6 months of an officer filling a beat.

If an extra $2,000 heck, even $4,000 keeps those officers on the job, isn't that cheaper than paying to train and prepare people to work elsewhere? I guarantee you that anyone that is not within 10 years of retirement is keeping their eyes open for something better.
Kennesaw Voter
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January 10, 2012
Every person who has any ambition and personal drive is going to be "keeping their eyes open for something better"....so that arguement does not hold any water or as they say down here...THAT DOG DON'T HUNT!!....
Bean Counter
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January 11, 2012
What about the FACT that it costs $88,000 to replace every officer that leaves? I am saying that retaining people could be the way to save more money. It's the old "tripping over a dollar to pick up a dime"
Bean Counter
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January 11, 2012
I would say "THAT DOG DOES HUNT" because it is a FACT that Officers are leaving every week. It is a FACT that it costs $88,000 to replace them. Why stay where you are not rewarded for performance? There are better jobs posted every day and CCPD officers are trained, providing their new employers with excellent value.
Kennesaw Voter
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January 10, 2012
@Marietta Voter = Hey bud, I am laughing...at your logic for saving money by giving every officer a car to drive home instead of sharing a car with other officers...if you can't see how costly that would be...you best go back to school....btw, don't become a budget office type dude and by all means please stay out of politics too.
Clownfighting
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January 10, 2012
Why not consolidate the police and sheriff. The Sheriff is elected, we dont like the way he runs things, he is out, with the Police we have to put up with secret ways of doing things and the police being bullied by the comissioners. Consolidating them would provide better, more efficent service to the people of Cobb County.
ALL 4 IT
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January 10, 2012
AS LONG AS THE SCHOOL TEACHERS ARE INCLUDED.
Just me
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January 10, 2012
Wrong area of the government, as I agree teachers need a raise, our police have had to endure more crud and still maintain a good front.
johncd
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January 10, 2012
The BOC does not control the School Board budget.
Kennesaw Voter
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January 10, 2012
A sure fire way to keep up the pressure to give out raises is to always use the "compared to other departments" method for arguing to give out raises because when one department gives a raise then all the others claim they need to give one to be competitive and thus....the upward spiral continues...UNABATED!!! STOP the nonsense. Tough times means no raise. We don't have the money to fund higher and higher pay which also rolls into higher and higher retirement costs. It is a LOUSEY argument. Additionally, DO NOT allow Cobb County police officers to drive their police cars home because it will end up costing the taxpayer more money....IN EVERY WAY CONCIEVABLE. What idiot thinks the cost will go down??? Ha, if you believe that, please get out of any type of management job because you don't know squat about determining costs.
Marietta Voter
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January 10, 2012
Obviously, YOU do not know anything about determining costs or anything about running a public safety entity. Please allow me to drive your car 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and let's see how long it will last. There are 2011 cars with 170,000 miles on them. You don't think there's a safety issue there? So now we have to replace a car that is barely a year old with a brand new car, which will only last a year or so. Let's compare that to one new car being assigned to one person who driver it for 8 to 10 hrs a day, 4 - 5 days a week. That car will last 5 years or more before needing to be replaced. Seems like simple math to me. Next time you decide to say something, make sure you have the facts before you say something.
alwaystell
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January 10, 2012
I hope everyone knows that the state of GA's whole judiciary system is under fed. investigation.
anonymous
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January 10, 2012
Gee, that's a stunner! Investigated by an administration full of union hacks who are at war with the its own citizenry. George Orwell saw this one coming.
wowesv0
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January 10, 2012
I hope you know Santa is putting you on the naughty list.
1122weer
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January 10, 2012
I was reporting drug related assualt crimes a bunch of white people were doing and some white cops tried to harrass me so that I would not tell anyone else about the white people who were doing the crimes that I actually witnessed. I just told other people on the internet and others verbally about what I saw and told DC gov about it also. I also reported this as a race crime by marietta police to FTC
Marietta Voter
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January 10, 2012
Really? It's 2012. Get over yourself.
Are u fur real
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January 10, 2012
White crime is out of control. We should free all the black people and focus on white crime. We would be able to reduce our police for to like 2 people. I vote for that.
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