The Courier had a phone conversation with Flynn Broady, Democratic Party candidate for Cobb County District Attorney, where he discussed his plans for if he wins and recent protests surrounding police brutality.
Broady, currently a prosecutor in Cobb DUI court, is running to unseat incumbent Cobb DA Joyette Holmes, a Republican.
Holmes has received heightened attention in the media lately due to being appointed prosecutor by state Attorney General Chris Carr in the alleged racist killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was jogging in south Georgia.
Broady began by talking about his background.
Broady said he was born in New York and due to his father being in the U.S. Army he and his family traveled around the country a bit.
Broady said his family settled in Birmingham, Alabama, and that is where he attended high school.
From high school, he went on to attend Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, on a full academic scholarship in electrical engineering.
“ … at that time I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I had always thought that I wanted to be in the military,” Broady said. “So, I ended up joining the Army after a year at Tennessee State.”
Broady said he spent 26 years in the Army as an infantryman.
“I saw combat in Iraq and also had the opportunity to teach ROTC and be a recruiter at some point in time,” Broady said.
After he came back from Iraq, Broady finished law school at the Seton Hall University School of Law and “from there I came to Cobb County and started working as an Assistant Solicitor General under Barry Morgan,” he said. “And I’ve been here in Cobb County ever since.”
Why he’s running for district attorney
Broady said that the DA plays a very important role in the lives of residents, whether they realize it or not.
“When we start looking at crime and what criminal justice reform should look like, “ he said. “The first question you need to take a look at is your district attorney because he’s usually the person who’s in charge of who gets indicted, who goes to trial, who gets released, who gets diversion, who gets another pretrial program.”
“The district attorney is the one who makes most of those decisions.”
Broady said that he saw a void within courtrooms that he wanted to fill.
“ … when I walked in a courtroom as a prosecutor, the courtroom looked too much like me,” he said. “And by that, I mean mostly minorities. And lots of times the minorities were there because they weren’t able to get representation, they didn’t understand how the legal system was to work and they really needed someone who was going to be fair, who’s always going to do what’s right.”
“Throughout my career in the military, in the solicitor general’s office, that’s what I’ve been all about,” he said. “is always doing what’s right, making sure I quote the highest morals and integrity and make sure that in all things that I’m seeking justice and not convictions.”
“Not only in Cobb County, but if you look throughout our nation, one of the biggest problems that minorities will tell you is that sentencing is not fair,” Broady said. “That when two people of different ethnicities have the same charge, those of the majority tend to get much lighter sentences than those of the minority.”
“When we first look at equality in the United States,” he said. “The very first place that we have to look is into the courtroom, into our criminal justice system, because there you can see where the criminal justice system throughout our history has been used to hold down minorities, keep them from making a better life for themselves.”
Broady said the community must start looking to make sure there’s equity in courtrooms and the criminal justice system.
Broady said he supports taking more restorative justice measures rather than punitive justice.
“Restorative justice looks like to me is basically when we have somebody that’s an offender, we take a look at that person and we look at the value that they can give to the community, and then we do everything we can to raise that value,” he said.
“My thought process is in this, if we raise the lowest among us, all we do is push everybody up and that’s the way we need to look at it, instead of trying to hold people down, which holds all of us down, we need to raise those people up,” Broady said.
Broady said as DA he would increase access to diversion programs with a focus on people with substance addictions.
“Those diversion programs basically provide the treatment, the accountability and the ability for someone to know their triggers to keep them away from addiction and keep them in a position in life where they can continue to move forward without those things happening,” he said.
“Most addictions result in us trying to live an alternative or seek an alternative life than what we’re actually leading, so we need to uncover why do we need that alternative life and by uncovering those things we can make sure we can let [people] know what their triggers are, how to stay away from those triggers, how to de-escalate the triggers and make sure that they can handle those things that are coming when life hits them and hits them hard,” he said.
“We also have to look at our accountability courts, we have to look at our pretrial diversion,” Broady said. “Everything that we can do to make sure that we do everything short of putting somebody in jail. Making sure that we are putting them in a position where they can basically continue to live their life without such disruption that we have them taking ten steps back before we can even think about taking one step forward.”
On the differences between him and Holmes
“The biggest thing is just the basic overall philosophies of a progressive prosecutor versus somebody who’s been representing the Republican Party,” Broady said.
“If we look at both Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “We look at criminal justice reform and we look at those who are truly trying to help and lift people up versus those that are trying to hold people down.”
“Throughout the Republican [party], especially [during] this administration right now you’ll see that most help that we’ve seen in this pandemic, in this crisis, has gone to those who already have and not the have-nots,” Broady said. “We have not done enough for the have-nots to help them to get over a lot of these things that are happening now.”
He mentioned the backlog of eviction cases, and said he was glad evictions were delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“I’m a landlord myself and my tenant actually lost his job due to COVID, but we knew that happened to him, so we worked with him … ” he said. “We need more landlords that are willing to do that. We need more policies in place that can help people do that. That’s not coming forward from our Republican Party.”
“What I’m saying is we keep seeing promises of how we’re going to help the underdog, how we’re going to help the underprivileged, but those policies are not helping those who they were intended to help,” he said. “Because those policies are helping the top one percent and are not trickling down to the people that really need the help, and that’s where I think I differ from my opponent.”
Broady said he has grown up in an environment that allowed him to see underprivileged people and what they needed to do to get by. He also saw underprivileged people while being an Army recruiter.
Furthermore, Broady said as DA he would like to look at not convicting simple drug possession.
“The first thing many people say is ‘well what are you going to do then if you’re not going to convict them?’ Well what we’re going to do is we’re going to take them through a course of treatment to get them off their addictions like I talked about before, find their triggers, find out why they’re resulting to drugs and return them back to the community,” he said.
“When we use programs like that we reduce our recidivism rate,” he said. “We put people back into the community as tax-paying citizens and once again we uplift the community versus pushing people down. And I think that’s the biggest differences between me and [Holmes].”
“Because the things that she’s talking about, she had an opportunity to do a lot of those things as a magistrate court judge, which was another position she had been appointed to, but those things didn’t come to fruition,” he said.
“I’m not just talking to talk,” Broady said. “The things that I want to do, we’re going to do and I think that’s going to be the difference between me and her.”
On the Ahmaud Arbery killing
Broady said he wanted to see the three men charged with Arbery’s killing, Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddy” Bryan, convicted of murder.
“And the reason for that is just for the fact that they hunted him down,” Broady said. “Their claim of making a citizen’s arrest is not valid in the least because they did not witness a crime.”
“People go through open homes all the time to look at the construction, to look at the layouts of the homes … me and my wife love to go look at open houses and houses that are being built,” he said. “There’s no crime in that, he did not take anything, which was obvious because they could see he was in shorts and a T-shirt so he didn’t have anything that he could’ve taken from the home that would cause them to make a citizen’s arrest.”
“They hunted him down, they tracked him and then they assaulted him, which ended up in his death,” he said. “That is a case of murder. And all three of the men should be convicted of murder.”
On the deaths in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center
All deaths have occurred under the leadership of Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren.
Broady described two possible scenarios that will occur if he wins in November.
“The first scenario is if Major Craig Owens is elected sheriff,” Broady said. “He has told me that he will do an internal investigation to address any issues of procedures, the way they do things to make sure that does not happen again.”
“If he is elected, I will give [Owens] 90 days to do his internal investigation, his internal assessment, ask him for that assessment, and see what needs to be done from that point forward,” Broady said. “If the issues are addressed, and there’s no other problems, then I will not have to do anything as a district attorney.”
“If Mr. Warren is re-elected, I would immediately ask the commissioners to institute a grand jury investigation of the jail, because this situation at the jail is leaving the county up to big-time lawsuits for these deaths,” he said. “And going to jail should not be a death sentence, especially when you’re not even convicted or indicted of any crime at the present time.”
“Just because you’re arrested does not institute a death sentence and we need to make sure that is not the case,” he said.
“Now I understand Mr. Warren has a law firm investigating the situation,” Broady said. “We won’t know when those results will be out but that also will be part of my decision as far as where to go from there.”
“But it’s critical that we have some kind of investigation, come to some kind of determination, put the procedures in place to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, because not only does it leave the county liable,” he said. “But we have a right as a district attorney, as prosecutors, not only to protect the victims but also to protect the offenders.”
Connecting youth and law enforcement
According to Broady’s campaign website, he mentions holding programs to better connect and create relationships between law enforcement and the community.
One idea he got from his time doing Army recruitment in high schools.
“When I was on recruiting duty one of the things that we used to do is every high school, every middle school has a day where the eigth graders actually go to the high school for orientation into the high school,” he said. “This would be the perfect day for the law enforcement, the prosecutors, the fire department, our health departments to be at the school to introduce themselves and get to know the students, before they come into the school.
“It’s an opportunity where one, they’re already all there,” he said. “Two, we bring in the local law enforcement community to meet [students]. And I think by doing this, we can get rid of some of that fear.”
“The fear that the local community has against law enforcement and the fear law enforcement has against the community,” he said. “But we can also do this at the elementary to middle school levels. And all of this is done in order to help us reach these kids before they become part of the criminal justice system, to reach them before they become part of the gangs, to set up mentor programs so we make sure that these young men and women do not become part of that culture that is going to lead to a destructive life.”
“We have to do a better job as a community of reaching our youth before they come to the courthouse because most of the time when they finally get to the courthouse, it may be too late,” he said. “So we’ve got to figure a way to make it better and to reach them sooner to make sure that they never get to the courthouse and that way they can go on to be productive citizens.”
On Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality
Broady said he sees the protests in support of racial justice from multiple perspectives.
“I’m on both sides,” Broady said. “As far as police officers, I know they’re 99 percent good police officers, but there are some who are a little overboard and go beyond the scope of their duties.”
“I think more often than not it ends up that a minority community are the ones that face those officers,” he said. “And a lot of that has to go back to what we were just talking about how law enforcement is afraid of the community and the community’s afraid of law enforcement. So that’s one way we can work on that, by getting to know each other.”
Broady said he also believes Cobb police need to have more de-escalation training and it needs to be more in-depth.
“I was looking at a case not too long ago of a young man that was killed here in Cobb at the hotel when the police officers stopped at a hotel and were detaining him, trying to see if there were drugs on him,” Broady said.
Broady is talking about the 2018 case of Sanchez Lowe, a Black man killed by Cobb police in Austell.
“The young man was killed and I looked at the officer’s training records and he had one hour of de-escalation training when he completed his post training,” Broady said. “And that is not enough. It’s not enough [training] for an officer to be able to make a grand assessment, be able to understand his own self-controls and be able to read defendants so that way he doesn’t escalate his actions to the point where somebody dies.”
“This person that was shot, did not have any weapons, did not have any drugs on him,” he said. “So we’re asking, why did it escalate to deadly force?”
“Now as far as Black Lives Matter, I think somebody wrote this in a meme,” he said. “It said some people have a problem with the word ‘all.’ When you want to say ‘all lives matter’ you have to say all matter but for some reason, too many people are not including Black lives in that all.”
“We have to make sure that we understand that every individual is a valuable person,” he said. “Every individual has a right to life. Every individual has a right to not be assaulted by a police officer, or by any other individual for that fact. And until we do that and make the courts reflect that decision, it’s going to continue to happen.”
“For too long, especially here in the South,” he said. “People could go and beat up somebody and then have their case annulled by the courts because the jury looked like them. The time has got to change. We have to understand that for those people who choose to live their life like that, they need to go away. They need to be punished. They need to be jailed.”
Broady also condemned looting that has taken place at some of the protests.
“What we can’t do is we can’t use Black lives matter as a reason to loot. We can’t use Black lives matter as reason to destroy our community,” he said. “And we’ve got to make sure that those who are destroying the community are called out for their actions.”
“Cobb County — the protests that we’ve had have been peaceful, people have not done any looting, any destroying, but just raising their voice so their voice can be heard, and that’s what protesting is all about,” he said. “And I think that’s the essential message of Black Lives Matter, is to have peaceful protests and not to cause destruction or looting or anything like that, but there’s always going to be instigators.”
“But we have to stand up to those instigators and make sure that they’re called for their actions, and stick to the model of John Lewis — ‘good trouble’ — and not do the other stuff they’re doing,” he said.
Broady said he has seen some cases in his career where it seems like a person was racially profiled by police officers.
“When I’ve seen cases like that, I have dismissed them, because I’ve had that discretion,” he said. “But it always was a point where our officers here in Cobb County do a great job. I appreciate all the city police departments, the Cobb police department. I appreciate our sheriff’s office for those individuals doing the right thing all the time.”
“And as far as having bad apples,” he said. “In my time here I can only think of two officers, and I won’t mention by name, that I would say probably didn’t belong on the police force.”
Broady also answered questions about Fulton County DA Paul Howard’s decision to press charges against Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe, after Rolfe killed Rayshard Brooks, a Black man, in June.
Howard has been heavily criticized for his quickness in bringing charges against Rolfe.
“One, any officer-involved shooting we know the [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] does an investigation,” Broady said. “So there are processes in place to allow justice to be brought forward. And in Paul Howard’s case, I do believe he was hasty in taking out charges on Officer Rolfe.”
“And I say that because my point of view growing up in the military was, I’ve been shot at before,” he said. “And without knowing from the officer these questions, number one, did you know he had a weapon? Number two, was it your taser he took? And number three, when somebody turns and points at you and you see a flash of light … what’s the first thing you’re going to think is happening? Somebody is shooting at you.”
“And so the officer returned fire,” he said. “So my course of action would’ve been let the GBI do its investigation. … let them make that decision before I would have made any kind of move. Even if I had in my mind that I wanted to bring charges, I would’ve waited until they made their investigation so I would have a full plate of information to make my final decision.”
Asked if he would immediately press charges if a Cobb police officer killed someone, Broady said he would wait for the GBI’s investigation.
“We have to remember in Georgia, the GBI is going to investigate any officer-involved shooting,” he said. “And if our police forces here in Cobb do [kill someone] that would be the first step, to let the GBI fully do their investigation. And then once the GBI — which will be an independent group from many police units — completes their investigation, [I will] look at their recommendation and then move forward from there.”
“If for some reason we found something obviously out of tune with the investigation, yes, then we might bring charges if they didn’t recommend it,” he said. “But I would let them do a thorough investigation, let them do their thing, make their recommendation then move forward from there.”
On qualified immunity and defunding the police
Broady said he believes that qualified immunity for police officers has gone beyond its intended scope.
“I think for many of us, qualified immunity has taken on a scope much larger than it was meant to do,” he said. “And qualified immunity should be only for officers, who in the course of their duty, have complied with their training and their SOPs or standard operating procedures, in their actions.”
“If you go beyond that scope, then you should lose your qualified immunity,” Broady said.
“And when I say beyond the scope of that, if your SOP says you can only return the type of force that’s been used against you, the person doesn’t have a gun but you bring out your gun and you fire, you’ve gone beyond your standard operating procedures, beyond your training,” he said. “Now you’ve taken yourself outside your qualified immunity. As long as you stay in your training and your standard operating procedures, your qualified immunity should hold you and protect you.”
“But once you step out of that,” he said. “Then you’re basically saying, ‘I’m a rogue police officer, I’m going to do what I want to do.’ So now you’re outside your scope of your duties and so now you’ve lost your qualified immunity.”
“It’s something similar we’ve gone through as soldiers,” he said. “As soldiers, as long as you stay within the rules of engagement, you’re good if something happens. If you move outside those rules of engagement as a solider then you’re liable to get punished. And if it can happen in the military it should apply to our police forces here.”
Responding to national activist calls to defund the police, Broady offered an alternative.
“The biggest thing about the funding is not necessarily taking money from the police department but using that money in different places to better the police department,” he said. “To better the police training, to make sure that they’re complying with what the community would say would be good policing.”
“Change is on the ballot”
Broady said the biggest thing he wants voters to know is that change is on the ballot.
“There’s a host of Democratic candidates, from Cobb commissioner chair to the Cobb Sheriff’s Department, the House seats and Senate seats, that when you look across the board, that what we stand for, what we want to do, we are the change that this community needs,” Broady said.
“I feel that my leadership in the past, the military, every organization that I’ve been a part of, I have strengthened it, I have made it better, I have gone through many moral and ethical decisions and I’ve always maintained my morality, my ethics, my integrity and I think that’s what we need to stand for in this community for our district attorney’s office,” he said. “That’s what we need to model.”
“I believe by doing that we can bring equality, we can bring equity and we can bring justice to our minority communities, to our victims and ensure that our offenders are put in a position where they when they return to the community they’re productive citizens,” he said.
“By doing so, we reduce recidivism rates, we’re going to make our community safer, we’re going to make our community better,” he said.
“COVID has really stopped us and slowed us down but now that the primary and the runoffs are over with, we’re focused, we’re ramping up, we’re ready to get out and make sure that people know who we are, what we want to do and we’re going to make it happen,” he said.
“I truly believe that our race is an important race,” Broady said. “And everybody needs to know that and they need to understand what’s on the ballot. Like I said before, change is on the ballot and I think the change Cobb County needs is Flynn Broady for district attorney.”
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She also freelances for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and is the former president of KSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a former CNN intern. She enjoys music, reading, and live shows.