NAACP planning Riverdale protest

By Billy Corriher

With controversy still brewing over the suspension of Riverdale Police Capt. Philip Neely, the Clayton County NAACP is expecting hundreds of local residents to protest at the City Council meeting tonight.

Dexter Matthews, president of the local NAACP, plans to address the Riverdale City Council about taking action on getting Neely reinstated and addressing complaints from Neely and other officers about racism and harassment.

"We're not going to give up until we get some justice," he said. "We're going to keep showing up at the meetings until they make some changes."

At its meeting tonight, the council will be discussing personnel matters, which it also did in a hastily called meeting after Neely was suspended March 13. Councilwoman Michelle Bruce could not elaborate on what the council would discuss.

Matthews said the situation can't be resolved until Mayor Phaedra Graham and the council work out their issues. Graham and the council have not been communicating since taking office.

"For that city to move forward and clean up the Police Department, they have to work together," he said.

Matthews stopped short of calling for the resignation of Chief Mike Edwards, but did say Maj. Paul Weathers and any other officers who have used racial slurs should be dismissed.

"I would say the people making racial slurs, they should be terminated," Matthews said. "And I think that if (the department's leadership) can't run their department effectively, maybe they should step down or be replaced."

On March 13 Neely was placed on administrative leave weeks after he alleged that his life was threatened because he came forward with claims of racism and discrimination. Neely was initially demoted, then his demotion was reversed, and finally he was suspended.

Neely said he still hasn't heard from Edwards on when he will be reinstated or why he was suspended.

"Nobody's wanting to give me any answers," he said.

In an interview last week, Edwards would not elaborate on why Neely was suspended, only saying he had total discretion in placing officers on administrative leave or demoting officers.

"When I have a person that's not being a team player, not being the kind of leader we need, I have to make a change," he said.

Edwards said he has not made a decision on reinstating Neely, but he has concluded his investigation into the threats Neely received.

"I can't comment on the investigation," he said. "It's a personnel matter."

Edwards conducted an interview with Neely on Feb. 13 after his claim of a threat surfaced. During the interview, Neely at first refused to reveal the name of the person who told him of the threat, and he tried to downplay the incident.

"Right now I don't feel there is an issue," he told Edwards in the interview. "Now it is all blown out of proportion."

Neely said he tried to downplay the incident because he didn't want to involve the city employee who told him his safety could be in jeopardy.

According to a transcript, Edwards said he could put Neely on leave or fire him if he didn't give him the name of the employee.

Neely told Edwards that the city employee called him and said, "Everybody's upset (because of Neely's public allegations of racism) and I feel like if you come to the station your safety will be an issue."

In the interview, Neely recalled saying immediately after the incident, "I don't take it as a threat."

Neely said on Friday that even though he didn't receive a direct threat, he still felt his safety was in jeopardy.