Officers honored

From right, Sgt. John Stringer, Officer Brock Avera, Investigators Mitch Blakeney and Seth Crabtree, and Officer Michael Washington receive commendations from Mayor Johnny Magee. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

 

Two men saved are black, four officers white

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Five Laurel police officers were honored for their efforts in saving the lives of two people who were dying of a drug overdose on 1st Avenue last month.

Sgt. John Stringer, Investigators Seth Crabtree and Mitch Blakeney and Officers Brock Avera and Michael Washington all received certificates of commendation from Mayor Johnny Magee and a round of applause from the City Council and audience at Tuesday morning’s meeting.

“There’s a lot of discontent around the country right now,” Magee said, referring to racial strife that’s being reported between white officers and black people in communities across the country, “but the City of Laurel has an excellent police force and disciplined officers.”

The incident the officers were commended for occurred on May 30 — five days after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer set off riots and calls for police reform in response.

The five Laurel officers were called to the 1100 block of North 1st Avenue just before 5:30 that afternoon for a medical distress call in which “multiple individuals had overdosed on a narcotic,” according to the commendation. It was believed that the substance was fentanyl or another narcotic laced with fentanyl, sources with knowledge of the incident said.

The officers administered Narcan and CPR to save the lives of two men — both of whom were black, Magee noted. Four of the five officers who assisted are white. A Choctaw woman died in the incident despite the officers’ efforts, Magee said. 

The officers were credited with keeping the men alive until EMServ Ambulance arrived and transported the patients to South Central Regional Medical Center. Narcan is a substance that reverses the effects of narcotics when individuals are overdosing.

“Because of these officers’ tireless dedication and quick reaction to the incident, two citizens are alive today,” the commendation continued. “Because of these factors, these officers are to be commended for a job well done. A job of the highest quality and in keeping with the fine traditions of the Laurel Police Department and the Law Enforcement Profession.”

Later in the meeting, Kim Page spoke out during the Citizens’ Forum with a wide range of complaints and suggestions, including several directed at the LPD. She said they should do “more policing and less roadblocks” and “to stop harassing the people of Queensburg.” She said officers should “be friendly” and any who use excessive force “should be fired immediately.” 

“No-knock warrants” should be eliminated, she said, and there should be more investigations into unsolved murders. Page also called for the removal of all state flags in the city and county, the requirement of masks for people in public and the delay of school until 2021. She also called for the resignation of Magee because he “failed the community,” she said. That’s when council President Tony Thaxton stopped her, saying that the forum wasn’t for calling out individuals like that. 

A letter that was submitted to be read at the forum also asked for similar sweeping changes at the LPD, including one that would require black officers to respond to scenes with white officers.

The call for more black officers is a source of frustration for Magee, he said after the meeting

“When people talk about us needing more black officers, I tell them all they have to do is pass the test … and go through the academy,” he said. “We have slots open right now.

“I don’t condone misconduct by any officer. I have fired officers and suspended officers for that.”

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