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Local leader takes on statewide campaign

A Henry County minister, moved by what he and his organization see as a wrongful death in a police-involved shooting of an unarmed man, will protest the action today (Wednesday) at the State Capitol.

The Rev. Daniel Edwards, of the Greater New Hope Christian Assembly in Stockbridge, said the shooting death of Melvin Williams, of East Dublin, Ga., calls into question whether police departments statewide are adhering to their state-required training.

Edwards said he is pressing the issue to prevent future shootings by officers who fail to maintain verifiable police training with P.O.S.T. — the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council. It qualifies law enforcement officers on how to do their jobs ethically, and competently.

Williams, in his twenties, was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop on Buckeye Road in East Dublin, Ga., near his home on Boat Ramp Road. He allegedly ran a stop sign on a rural two-lane road near his house.

A police officer followed Williams to his residence, ordered him out of his vehicle, and the two were involved in what turned into a deadly fray. Video from the police cruiser following Williams, shows Williams and officer Jason Deal in a brief scuffle.

In the video, Deal pulled his gun and shot Williams fatally in the stomach. The videotaped fight is at the center of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Williams’ family.

“Shooting him in the stomach should have been the last resort. But it was the first thing he did," Williams’ mother, Lena, told the Associated Press.

Edwards has aligned himself with many in Williams’ rural hometown, who remain incensed after a state investigation found that the police officer, who shot Williams in 2010, should not have been patrolling the streets because he lacked the required state training.

Rev. Edwards, who is a former president of the Henry County Branch of the NAACP, said he plans to meet with local chiefs of police soon to encourage them to maintain P.O.S.T. certification.

“I want to encourage police chiefs across the region to get this training,” said Edwards. “The effectiveness of law enforcement is dictated by the relationship law enforcement has with the community.”

Edwards is calling into question the training of not only the officer and others involved in the East Dublin shooting, but police officers statewide. He said the failure to have P.O.S.T. training limits the ability of an officer to properly perform his duties. He said it is his understanding that the absence of P.O.S.T. certification hinders a lawman’s authority to make arrests anywhere in the state. The difference, he noted, is that in other jurisdictions, such arrests may be illegal, but not deadly.

Today, Edwards will call attention to his concerns and those of others during a press conference, from 11 a.m., until 1 p.m., at the State Capitol in downtown Atlanta.

“This does not only violate the public’s trust, but being a former military police officer, it violates the officers’ code of conduct as well, making good cops look bad,” said Edwards. “It, therefore, hinders our work across the country of building a cohesion between communities and law enforcement.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.