Mayor, Council issues Statement on Feb 8 Incident
Valdosta Mayor Scott Matheson and City Councilmembers Vivian Miller – Cody, Sandra Tooley, Sonny Vickers, Eric Howard, Tim Carroll, Andy Gibbs and Ben Norton released the following statement on July 1, 2020 in regards to the February 8, 2020 incident involving Mr. Antonio Smith.
“Good morning, I am Scott James Matheson, the Mayor for the City of Valdosta. I am here today with the support of Council members Vivian Miller – Cody, Sandra Tooley, Sonny Vickers, Eric Howard, Tim Carroll, Andy Gibbs and Ben Norton.
The Mayor, Council and City of Valdosta is committed to providing a government for all the people, all the time.
We, as mayor and council, strive for our Police Department to be transparent and accountable. We hold our police department to the highest standards.
The Valdosta Police Department takes all use of force cases seriously. In 2019, our police department responded to more than 72,000 calls for service – and recorded 24 incidents where officers used force to overcome resistance while performing their lawful duties. The results show that in those calls for service, force was used in .0003(.03%) of police interaction.
During the year 2019, officers of Valdosta Police Department recorded 3,398 physical arrests which is a 14% decrease from 2018. The number of response to resistance situations in 2019 constitutes .007 (.7%) of the arrests resulted in some type of response to resistance being deployed.
However, we are here today, all of us, to say that anytime a citizen has an encounter with a Valdosta employee that results in an injury, we are truly sorry for that regardless of who is at fault. That includes the incident involving Mr. Antonio Smith. We can always do better and we are committed to doing so. However, progress requires moving forward together … elected officials, city staff, and most importantly, the citizens of Valdosta. That is why we are proud that we have been able to come together, meet and have honest and tough conversations.
At the City Council Meeting on June 11, City Manager Mark Barber introduced the idea of a revamped Citizen Review Board. The board would be a representation of our whole community, with one person appointed from each council district by their city council representative. These representatives would meet with the Police Chief and Mayor on a routine basis to discuss police department related topics.
We have had meetings with many of our local leaders within the African American Community in the past week wanting further explanation on the incident and to sit down and talk about their feelings on the issue. This kind of dialogue is not only important, it is critical. Those are the conversations that make will make difference and help us move forward … as a community, as a family … with the collective goal to make Valdosta an even better place to live for everyone.”