Project Change: Lowndes County Advisory Board
By Brandy Sumner
Valdosta's Project Change, one of only four such programs set up in the nation was established in 1991 in order to help combat friction between different racial and ethnic groups. The program has several projects within the Valdosta area to enhance the lives of Valdosta's citizens and to promote the growth and well being of the community. These projects are designed to offer service and protection in all areas of citizen life from education to buying homes to assuring protection by law enforcement. This last service came in the shape of the Lowndes County Advisory Board established in January 1999.
After the questionable death of Willie James Williams in 1998 while in police custody, Project Change set up the Lowndes County Sheriff's Advisory Board. The Board, a small group composed to reflect as nearly as possible the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of Lowndes County Jail's inmate population, was established in order to ensure that the police and law enforcement officials of Lowndes County do not discriminate against certain groups. The Advisory Board meets at least once a year to review arrest procedures, hiring and firing procedures, and any alleged misconduct by officers or jail employees. The group also advises the sheriff on any areas of police policies that are considered unfair to people of a certain race or gender.
Many critics of citizen review boards claim the boards are limited in their power because of police mentality towards the review boards. Police as a whole believe citizens are unaware of what it is like to be a law enforcement official and therefore should not be allowed to help in the decision and policy-making concerning standard procedure. Also, citizen review boards usually do not possess enough power to be efficient. The Lowndes County Sheriff's Advisory Board is still quite young. The next few years will be key in determining its impact in Valdosta.
Bennett, George. Personal Interview. 19 April 2000.
"Recent and Upcoming Activities of Project Change Valdosta." Cambio. Summer 1999: 11.
Online. Internet. April 2000. http://www.projectchange.org
Power to be efficient. The Lowndes County Sheriff's Advisory Board is still quite young.