In This Town, Every Criminal Justice Leader is a Black Female
What would happen if the entire criminal justice system were run by minority women? Thanks to one southern town, we’re about to find out.
In Georgia’s newest municipality, South Fulton, every one -- and we mean every one -- of its law enforcement leaders is a black female: the head judge, the solicitor, the law clerks, the public defender, and even the police chief. It’s believed to be a national first.
This wasn’t part of some grand experiment, although it may be shaping up that way. All of the women were hired after the town’s 2017 incorporation based on merit and experience. They just happened to be women. The town is about 90% African American, so the racial makeup was less of a surprise.
It didn’t take long for the media to pick up on what was going on in South Fulton. Residents noticed too. Officials say people have brought their young daughters into court just to see the women in action.
Now the question on everyone’s minds: how will the demographic makeup of South Fulton’s criminal justice system affect the delineation of justice?
The women say they still pursue the law just as any other man or woman of any race would do. But they do think they bring a different perspective to the table.
"We are wives, we are mothers, we are daughters, we are sisters, and we bring those experiences with us," said Chief Judge Tiffany Carter Sellers. They’re also intimately familiar with the longstanding tensions between law enforcement and the black community.
What it all means, generally, is a little more empathy in the courtroom. For instance, the municipal court has implemented a pretrial diversion program known as “Second Chance South Fulton.” The city is also placing a bigger emphasis on educating citizens about the laws they must abide by. Additionally, it requires a public defender to accompany defendants at all first court appearances unlike many other parts of the state.
At the end of the day, the biggest impact may be on the young women watching the making of history in this town of 90,000.
"I've seen a lot of posts in social media, and it's quite moving and I got chills," said interim Police Chief Sheila Rogers. "If people can connect with what we look like, and then go beyond to understand what we do and find out they can do it too, it's very inspiring."