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Judge: Voters can't abolish embattled GA police department

FILE - In this Thursday, June 4, 2020, file photo, a group of protesters gather outside the Glynn County Courthouse while a preliminary hearing is being held inside for Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan, in Brunswick, Ga. The three are accused of shooting of Ahmaud Arbery while he ran through their neighborhood in February. The Glynn County commissioners are suing to stop a referendum on abolishing the county police department. State lawmakers approved the binding referendum  in the spring after the February shooting death of Arbery. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, June 4, 2020, file photo, a group of protesters gather outside the Glynn County Courthouse while a preliminary hearing is being held inside for Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William Bryan, in Brunswick, Ga. The three are accused of shooting of Ahmaud Arbery while he ran through their neighborhood in February. The Glynn County commissioners are suing to stop a referendum on abolishing the county police department. State lawmakers approved the binding referendum in the spring after the February shooting death of Arbery. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Voters can't try to abolish an embattled Georgia police department that was wrapped in controversy even before the department oversaw the initial investigation into the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a judge ruled Friday.

Superior Court Judge Charles Paul Rose ruled that the referendum on abolishing the Glynn County Police Department is unconstitutional. He also issued an injunction keeping the measure off the Nov. 3 ballot. County election supervisor Chris Channell told The Brunswick News the elections board would not appeal the decision.

State lawmakers passed the referendum and Gov. Brian Kemp signed the measure amid troubled times for Glynn County police. The department's chief and three former high-ranking officers were indicted in March on charges that they ignored an officer consorting with a drug dealer. And Glynn County officers brought no charges in February after Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by white men who armed themselves and pursued him after spotting Arbery running in their neighborhood.

Charges in Arbery's killing came two months later after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case.

The referendum would have let voters decide whether to dissolve the Glynn County police and turn its responsibilities over to Sheriff Neal Jump, who currently oversees the county jail and security for the courthouse.

Glynn County commissioners filed suit to stop the vote, saying it infringed on their authority under Georgia's constitution to provide police services.