Here’s how Atlanta plans to reform the police department

ATLANTA — During a tumultuous week that has included the police shooting of a black man at a Wendy’s, the resignation of the police chief, the firing of the officer who pulled the trigger and protests that resulted in the Wendy’s being set on fire, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has set the city’s sights on police reform.

The mayor has issued two new administrative orders related to transforming the City of Atlanta Police Department. The first order calls for reforms to the Atlanta Police Department’s use of force policies. The second order calls for a comprehensive review of how policing should be handled by the city.

“We are taking a top to bottom review of how we police in Atlanta,” said Bottoms. “These Administrative Orders will help accelerate our efforts to transform public safety within our city.”


Why it Matters: After the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, calls to reform or defund police departments have echoed throughout the nation. Atlanta is one of a growing list of cities nationwide that is looking at ways to limit use of force by the police and find new ways to conduct police work that are community-driven.

The first order directs the Interim Chief of Police to immediately adopt and implement changes to the standard operating procedures and work rules of the Atlanta Police Department concerning the department’s use of force. The immediate reforms include:

  1. Intervening in unreasonable use of deadly force: requiring officers to intervene when seeing another officer using force that is beyond what is reasonable under the circumstances, and reporting deadly use of force to the on-duty supervisor;
  2. Shooting at moving vehicles: provide lawful restrictions on when an officer may use deadly force at a suspect who is in a moving motor vehicle;
  3. Addressing officers’ response to resistance: apply de-escalation techniques to gain voluntary compliance and use only the amount of objectively reasonable force necessary to successfully protect themselves or others during an arrest or to bring an incident under control when dealing with members of the community, suspects, and detainees; and
  4. Reporting deadly use of force: require the reporting of all uses of deadly force by a police officer to the Citizens Review Board.

The second order directs the Chief Operating Officer to coordinate with the Interim Chief Procurement Officer to provide the mayor with a comprehensive set of recommendations concerning how policing should be handled in the City of Atlanta. Expert providers will examine subjects such as what situations are appropriate for police to respond to, how police officers are trained, and how to reduce unnecessary interactions with the police.

In addition to these administrative orders, Mayor Bottoms recently issued an administrative order to convene an Advisory Council comprised of community members and partners to examine the City’s use of force policies and procedures. The Advisory Council will make recommendations for operational and/or legislative changes to the City’s existing use of force policies.

Since taking office, Bottoms has implemented a number of actions to reform Atlanta’s criminal justice system. including the elimination of cash bail bonds, equipping all officers with body cams, and closing our city jail. She has also reduced the Department of Corrections budget by nearly 60%, with more reductions coming this week.

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