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Rewrite of Atlanta police ‘use of force’ rules to include input from Atlanta City Council

By David Pendered

The “use of force” regulations that govern Atlanta police remain under active review almost six months after George Floyd died while in a choke hold in Minneapolis. Plans in Minneapolis for a “defund the police” policy have collapsed.

Atlanta’s regulations that intend to regulate police ‘use of force’ are under review at Atlanta City Hall. File/Credit: Kelly Jordan

In Atlanta, Sept. 14 is the date of the most recent version of the Atlanta’s use of force policy. Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant signed the new standard operating procedure. It replaces a policy signed Nov. 5, 2018 by former Police Chief Erika Shields.

Shields resigned after the fatal police shooting on June 14 of Rayshard Brooks, shot while reportedly fleeing police with a Taser he’d taken from an officer.

APD’s new policy does not appear to change the rule regarding the use of force that can be viewed as “reasonable,” including situations where, “the subject actively resisted or attempted to flee,” or would, “create a continuing danger of serious physical harm to any person,” as described in another city document. However, this area is under specific review that is expected to result in, “additional safeguards and restrictions on the most severe type of force that an officer can use.”

In Minneapolis, efforts have stalled for what had been lifted up as a national example of the “defund the police” movement. The idea is to redirect taxpayer funding from police department to social services and other programs, as described in a June report by Brookings. The Minneapolis effort stalled for an array of reasons that have been widely reported, including a Sept. 26 piece in nytimes.com that observed in a headline:

  • “When a majority of City Council members promised to ‘end policing as we know it’ after George Floyd’s killing, they became a case study in how idealistic calls for structural change can falter.”

Atlanta has not yet suffered that fate.

Now, the Atlanta City Council is poised to get involved with establishing use of force regulations. The council wants to join in the deliberation of recommendations from the Use of Force Advisory Council, established June 4 by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Several recommendations have already been implemented.

Atlanta City Councilmember Joyce Sheperd, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, introduced the measure for the council to collaborate with the administration. Councilmember Michael Julian Bond cosigned.

The council on Oct. 19 is slated to approve a non-binding resolution to join in revising APD’s Policy Manual. The first such meeting is to be scheduled this year. The council and its staff is scheduled to conclude its work for the year during the week of Dec. 14, when it begins a winter break that’s to last until Jan. 4. 2021.

The administration supports the joint effort to review the policy, according to a presentation by Jerome Jordan, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff. Jordan and members of the council’s Public Safety Commission discussed the collaboration Monday.

Jordan stopped short of saying the administration would accept recommendations from the council. He did say the administration would participate in a conversation:

  • “We had a work session with this committee, near the end of August, after the recommendations came out and received input. In many ways, I see the legislation you’re bringing forth today as an extension of the work session, for us to come back and continue dialogue for recommendations we’re already moving on, such as the Law Department and APD, and give you a status update and discuss more of those and have dialogue on other recommendations brought forth.”

Jordan said the administration would coordinate with Sheperd and her staff to set a date for a work session, “And be ready to answer questions at that time.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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