ATLANTA — In the wake of the Derek Chauvin verdict this week, there’s still talk about re-imagining police response here in Atlanta.
A new plan has nothing to do with defunding the police or reducing officers.
State Rep. Sandra Scott, D-Clayton County, said the murder of George Floyd may spark enough momentum to lead to criminal justice reform across Georgia.
She’s introduced five bills that would do everything from mandating de-escalation training and banning military weapons in police departments, to creating citizen review boards in every jurisdiction.
“We’re tired. We can no longer take this,” Scott said. “We cannot continue to go on in the cycle that we’re going on, where African Americans are killed at the hands of police at the rate that they’re being killed.”
In Atlanta, City Councilman Antonio Brown introduced legislation that would change how the Atlanta Police Department handles excessive force.
“It’s really putting in place a true pathway for officers to hold their colleagues accountable,” Brown said.
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The resolution would ask APD to change operating procedures so that it becomes mandatory for officers to report excessive force incidents and other misconduct.
“I think a lot of officers that I’ve spoken with, they feel a sense of retaliation would occur if they operated through what’s currently existing within the standard operating procedure around duty to intervene,” Brown said.
But even some supporters of police reform say the issues are deeper than what’s been proposed.
“Any reform that doesn’t focus on changing the reward structures is probably self-sabotaging,” said Thaddeus Johnson, a former police officer who is now a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University.
He said until officers are rewarded for community building instead of clearance rates and arrests, there’s no incentive to do it.
“Community policing hasn’t had that effect that we wanted to have. Because we have to reward officers for community policing, so rewarding for the job we want to see them do. That’s what I’m talking about,” Johnson said.
This week, the Atlanta City Council authorized a $2,500 bonus for some APD officers to try and boost morale and keep them from leaving.
Kim Hill runs Blue Thanksgiving, an organization to boost officer morale in Cobb County.
“These officers are not paid enough to do what they have to do,” Hill said.
She said most officers are good people and the assumption that they’re not hurts morale in every department.
“I wouldn’t trust my life in the hands of anyone. More so than the officers who have gone through the training that’s already in place,” Hill said.
The legislation Scott has proposed will be taken up in the next legislative session which would be next year.
Scott said she plans to meet with law enforcement leaders in the meantime to work on tweaking it.
The Atlanta resolution was introduced on Monday. Brown is hopeful it will get support in the coming weeks.