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Riverdale still quiet on officer's demotion

By Billy Corriher

After a Riverdale police officer that alleged racial discrimination and harassment from other city employees was placed on administrative leave this weekend, city officials are refusing to discuss what happened.

Capt. Philip Neely was demoted to sergeant Friday evening, but his demotion was reversed on Saturday, when he was placed on administrative leave.

Neely is one of several city employees who have come forward recently with claims of racial discrimination and threats received from other city employees.

After publicly discussing discrimination in the police department, Neely claims a city employee told him his safety was in jeopardy if he came to work.

Chief Mike Edwards wouldn't comment on why he demoted Neely or why he was reinstated as a captain, saying he doesn't discuss personnel matters with the media.

But Edwards did say that Neely's demotion had nothing to do with the investigation into the death threats or the controversy in the police department.

"The action I took, as far as the original demotion, had nothing to do with the investigation," he said. "I will say this, I don't have to have a reason (to demote officers) under the city code."

Edwards said he has demoted officers, white and black, on several occasions.

Edwards said Neely's administrative leave was for an indefinite length of time.

After hearing about Neely's demotion, the Riverdale City Council called a meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss personnel matters.

Councilwoman Wanda Wallace said the council decided to ask City Manager Billy Beckett to look into Neely's situation.

"Once we get all the facts, we'll see where we go from there," she said.

Wallace said the council's feuding with Mayor Phaedra Graham could complicate efforts to remedy the situation.

Graham did not attend the hastily called meeting on Sunday.

"We were hoping she could give us some guidance on what to do," Wallace said.

Graham did not respond to messages left for her on Monday.

Wallace would not reveal any possible options the council discussed at their meeting, but said she has never had any concerns about Edwards' personnel decisions before.

Roberta Abdul-Salaam of the Clayton County NAACP said the organization was holding a rally today with Neely and other officers who have alleged discrimination.

The rally will be held at 4 p.m. in front of the Riverdale City Hall, and Abdul-Salaam said the NAACP is encouraging the public to come.