By David Pendered
Three months after George Floyd died in police custody, Atlanta is seeking two young adults to serve on the city’s board that adjudicates citizen complaints against Atlanta police and corrections officers.
The two young adults are to provide a fresh perspective to a review board comprised of 13 members who skew to an older demographic. Sept. 14 is the first deadline in the process of appointing the two young members.
The young members – between ages 18 years and 30 years of age – are to represent concerns of a generation that interacts frequently with Atlanta police and corrections officers. The two positions for younger members bring the board to 15 members.
These new positions are part of the Atlanta City Council’s efforts to respond to concerns that gained voice during demonstrations over the deaths of Blacks who died during interactions with police, including Floyd, in Minneapolis; Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Ky.; and Rayshard Brooks, in Atlanta.
The council and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms have concurred on efforts to invigorate the Atlanta Citizens Review Board – including adding it to the city charter in order to, “further strengthen the role of the body.”
The board was established in 2007. Concerns have lingered over its authority, and board members haven’t consistently fulfilled their obligations to attend meetings.
Regarding the board’s authority, the council on July 6 adopted legislation that added some teeth to the board’s enforcement powers.
The board still cannot compel the chiefs of police and corrections to enforce a disciplinary action following a finding by the board. However, the chiefs are now compelled to follow department guidelines on disciplinary action; if a chief does not follow recommendation of the board, the board, by a two-thirds vote, now can request a chief to appear in person before the board and explain the decision. Public opinion could become an influencing factor at that point.
Regarding participation by board members, unexcused absences are now grounds for a member’s removal from the board. The workload is projected at 12 hours to 15 hours a month. Members are compensated $50 for each meeting or training session attended, according to a provision of city code. A member who skips out on the review of 80 percent of cases must document on or more of five excuses: unforeseen event; illness; travel; religious observance; and conflict of interest.
The age of existing members of the Atlanta Citizens Review Board reflects the entities that nominate them, which include the Atlanta and Gate City bar associations; League of Women Voters; Urban League; and the city’s formal system of neighborhood representation – NPUs, neighborhood planning units – according to the relevant city code.
The two young board members are to be nominated by organizations that serve young individuals in the city. Individuals cannot apply directly to the city to serve on the review board. The process is at its earliest stage.
Sept. 14 is the deadline for organizations to formally notify the city of their interest in nominating a member to the review board.
Letters of interest are to include the following four items about the organization:
- “Description of a brief history of the organization, mission, purpose, and activities;
- “Demonstrate existence in the Atlanta community for 7+ years;
- “Demonstrate access to a pool of Atlanta residents between the ages of 18 and 30 who are willing and able to commit to a three-year term;
- “Demonstrate a willingness to screen applicants for qualifications and suitability and make timely recommendations for appointments.”
Note to readers: Youth-oriented organizations can learn more about the process for nominating a member to the Atlanta Citizens Review Board from the city’s Public Notice.