The following is a message from Thomasville’s Mayor, City Council and Chief of Police:
As we continue to move forward together as a community, it is important that the City of Thomasville and the Thomasville Police Department communicate publicly when appropriate to ensure that accurate and correct information is shared. As Mayor, City Councilmembers and Chief of Police, we understand the frustration and questions you have as citizens. In light of the emotional elements, we would like to extend our gratitude to the community for choosing a respectful and peaceful path to voice your concerns as they relate to the recent shooting death of Mr. Herbert Gilbert.
We also understand the public’s desire for details regarding the incident and status, but please know that while the event occurred within the city limits of Thomasville, all factors of the incident fall under the full jurisdiction of the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office and its drug task force. We do not have access to details and, as a matter of law; the issue is under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The following are some facts that we believe will be helpful to our citizens:
- The Thomasville Police Department had no involvement in the incident that occurred on August 15, 2017.
- The Thomas County Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction county-wide, including within the city limits of Thomasville, was conducting operations with its drug task force.
- The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is conducting an investigation of the incident at the request of the Thomas County Sheriff’s Office.
- In spite of our non-involvement in this matter, the City of Thomasville understands and supports the community’s interest, perspective and need to congregate publicly. As such, we will provide a safe environment for those who wish to do so.
- Since 2014, the City of Thomasville has invested more than $400,000 in dashboard and body cameras and specialized training for its law enforcement officers to improve accountability and public trust in the police department.
- TPD has invested in professional training programs for its officers that included topics specific to cultural diversity, bias awareness and crisis intervention, believing de-escalation is the key in minimizing critical situations.
- The City has hosted public “Use of Force” training programs specifically to help educate the community about police protocols, tactics and the reasons behind them. These sessions were also designed to educate law enforcement officers about the public’s perception about police practices to provide officers with a new and meaningful perspective.
No matter the circumstances, loss of life is always devastating. As a City, Thomasville’s leadership has watched other similar-sized communities deal with the negative issues associated with poor race relations and the misunderstandings that occur when differences are ignored. The Thomasville Police Department has adopted the community policing philosophy since the early 1990's, and has held true to these values by building trust, partnerships and problem solving initiatives in our community. After witnessing activities in Ferguson, Missouri, TPD knew they had to do more to build confidence in police use-of-force issues. The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing was a driving force behind TPD’s initiative to build even greater trust and legitimacy in our community. In particular, TPD has worked strategically and actively to speak and listen to leadership from the African American community about our differences as well as our similarities. It is the only way that all of us can become better citizens.
Our intent is that in light of this recent incident, the leaders within our community will continue to be mindful and open about our differences. We hope to provide information as it becomes available to us, but we also encourage you to continue to stand together respectfully as one community so that we all continue to move forward together as citizens and neighbors.