Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore brings council into discussion about police reformOne passive technique Atlanta police use to defuse demonstrations is to place its reserve officers out of sight of protesters. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan
By David Pendered
Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore urged Wednesday for a reform of the Atlanta Police Department, not a dismantling of APD. Moore presented three specific recommendations that bring the Atlanta City Council squarely into the discussion about APD reform, along with the administration of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Moore said her recommendations result from work by previous task forces to devise reform proposals and are appropriate for Atlanta. They include proposals contained in the 2015 report to then President Obama: Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and ones presented by a policy arm of Black Lives Matter, the 8 Can’t Wait, by Zero Campaign.
“There are good recommendations we need to implement in the City of Atlanta to get ahead of this curve,” Moore said.
Bottoms has called for reforming, not defunding, APD. Bottoms has established a Use of Force Advisory Council. On Tuesday, the mayor announced the council’s two co-chairs and 25 members. By June 18, the council is to deliver its proposed revisions of APD’s use of force policy. The policy was updated 19 months ago, in November 2018, and is due for review in 2022. It governs the use of lethal and non-lethal force to control individuals and keep the peace.
“The gravity of this Advisory Council’s actions and recommendations — and their potential to fundamentally transform the relationship between law enforcement officials and those they serve — cannot be understated,” Bottoms said in a statement. “With peoples’ very lives at stake, I look forward to their recommendations and assistance in implementing needed reforms to the City’s Use of Force policies.”
The discussion that’s taking shape could lead to changes in the role of Atlanta police officers in the social fabric of the city’s communities. Moore noted the vast expectations residents have of police officers – to include the control of e-scooters on sidewalks.
Across the country, discussions range from reforming police policies and procedures, to defunding police departments and shifting the money to social services.
Moore said the latter notion isn’t relevant in Atlanta because most social services, such as mental health treatment, are the responsibility of Fulton County and the State of Georgia.
For example, Atlanta doesn’t provide psychiatric services. Such services are provided at Grady Memorial Hospital, which is partly funded by Fulton County and has 24 beds to provide treatment for patients with psychiatric issues, a state report shows.
The three measures Moore presented are:
- Adopt the 8 Can’t Wait recommendations from Campaign Zero. Campaign Zero is a policy arm of Black Lives Matter that was established in 2015, according to a report by vox.com. The 8 Can’t Wait measures relate to city policies on use of force by police officers – including a ban on chokeholds and clear regulations on the escalation, or continuum, of force. APD already bans chokeholds in its 2018 use-of-force policy and restricts a continuum of force. Chokeholds typically are portrayed by advocates as means of non-lethal force to control suspects. George Floyd died in custody of Minneapolis police while he was in a form of chokehold;
- Adopt the recommendations included in the Obama-era report: Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing;
- Possibly reallocate funding within the Atlanta Police Department. The Atlanta City Council could approve the amount of money proposed for APD in the budget recommendation submitted by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The budget must be adopted by June 30. Subsequent to adopting a budget, the council could redirect funding within APD to provide additional training for police officers, or to pay for other reform measures, Moore said.
Moore presented her recommendations during her regular event on Facebook: Conversations with the Council President, Let’s Talk Atlanta. Moore answered questions from viewers, most of them about police and public safety. Moore concluded the event by urging viewers to express their opinions about police funding issues to the city council before June 15. That’s the date the council is slated to adopt the mayor’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.