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Atlanta mayor announces policing plan and moves on jail-closing plan

Atlanta police on duty during protests in summer 2020. One passive technique Atlanta police use to defuse demonstrations is to place its reserve officers out of sight of protesters. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan Atlanta police on duty during protests in summer 2020. One passive technique Atlanta police use to defuse demonstrations is to place its reserve officers out of sight of protesters. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan

By Maggie Lee

Faced with a grim number — 157 homicides in Atlanta in 2020 — Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced several policies this month, in what her office said would be the first part of a broader effort to bolster support for police and also reform policing.

“The spike in violent crime in Atlanta and across the country must be addressed by both immediate and long-term actions,” Bottoms said in a press release. “The One Atlanta: One APD Immediate Action Plan will address crime, and also the systemic issues that lead to violence.”

The immediate points include expanding enforcement of laws against nuisance properties, focusing enforcement and resources on gangs and gun violence and growing the city’s police camera network.

Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant told a Council Committee this week that part of the plan is also recruitment: making sure the force continues to look like the city, and giving recruits a better knowledge of the city.

Shootings in north Atlanta have got Buckhead especially directing intense anger toward Bottoms. Area Councilman Howard Shook has said “utter lawlessness” defines what it means to live in Atlanta.

But the mayor also has plenty of progressive constituents — and folks on Council —who are looking for the city to make good on promises to help fight mass incarceration, which long predate COVID-19 or the spike in drag racing, or a year of 157 homicides.

Last week the Bottoms administration worked with Council to schedule a work session on closing the city jail, something Bottoms has been moving toward since 2018.

Closing the jail is part a social justice move, and part a move to save money by not having a jail in a city that no longer wants to incarcerate folks for things like a little weed or for being homeless.

Atlanta wouldn’t be completely without a jail if the Atlanta City Detention Center closed — folks would instead get sent to one of Fulton’s jails.

The Jan. 21 work session will focus on recommendations from the Reimagining the ACDC Task Force’s work, which included much work by and outreach to formerly incarcerated people.

Broadly, the group recommended closing the jail and replacing it with a home for a range of social services — setting it up for the benefit of folks who need some of the supports that help keep wealthier people out of jail in the first place.

The center, as envisioned, might include anything from job training to day care to housing to GED classes. And the recommendations align with what Bottoms has long said she wants to happen at the jail site.

For the last six months or so, the daily jail population has stayed around two or three dozen people — higher on the weekend. The detention center’s capacity is 1,300 people.

To attend the virtual work session on the jail, keep an eye on Atlanta City Council’s calendar for a link.

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Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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