Some headers just write themselves. But I digress.
You see, the Georgia legislature actually did something sensible. It passed a law that gave amnesty from arrest in cases where an underage drinker got so sick they needed medical help.
But the legislature didn’t count on one Jimmy Williamson.
And that brings us back to that Friday night in the parking lot in front of Reed Hall. An 18-year-old student is taken away by ambulance. But Officer Park is still ordered to charge her with underage drinking because to qualify for amnesty, he’s told she had to be the one to call for help, instead of her friend.
“Captain’s interpretation made absolutely no sense. I told them it made no sense.” Park said to FOX 5 I-Team reporter Randy Travis.
His supervisors told him they’d have a meeting Monday to consult with local prosecutors and figure out how they should handle amnesty cases. But before his Saturday midnight shift, Park decided on his own to call a judge and two state lawmakers for advice, including the state senator who proposed the underage drinking amnesty law.
“I think initially even law enforcement in Athens was confused,” said state senator Bill Cowsert of Athens.
Senator, you see that as a bug. Ol’ Jimmy sees that as a feature.
“I’m a police officer. My sgt’s telling me to get an arrest warrant for someone where I know I’m not supposed to. What am I supposed to do?” Park said later.
Park went back to the station and then went home. On Monday, chief Jimmy Williamson called him back in and told the five-year veteran he was fired for calling outsiders on his own to ask about the amnesty law.
“He never came to me about his concerns or confusion about what was going on in shift,” chief Williamson explained.
“Sounds like he was being a lot more liberal with the law than you wanted him to be,” said Randy.
“I don’t have any problem with him questioning. That’s not the issue.”
Park’s personnel file shows an earlier reprimand for going outside the chain of command. As for the amnesty law, Williamson says they were initially unclear about how to handle cases where the caller doesn’t ask for medical assistance… but just reports a drunk person.
Chief: Amnesty doesn’t apply if we are required to get EMS involved.
Randy: So the caller has to use the magic words “I want an ambulance” for the amnesty to apply in that situation?
Chief: I think when it says seeking medical help, that’s kind of how we’re looking at it.
Well, that’s nice. If not consistent.
Up until that Tennessee game last fall, UGA police had not granted amnesty for a single underage drinking case. Compare that number… zero… to how many amnesty cases have happened since Park’s firing: 38 through the end of February, including those two cases that originally got him in so much trouble on the Tennessee game weekend. Those students were ultimately not charged.
Maybe Jimmy’s trying to prove he’s not out to get just student-athletes.