Atlanta’s mayor is vowing to change police use-of-force policies and require continuous training so that officers do more to deescalate situations before consequences become fatal.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced her plans after more large protests were touched off by the police killing of another black man, Rayshard Brooks, outside a fast-food restaurant on Friday.
“I am often reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — ‘There is a fierce urgency of now in our communities,’” the mayor said. “It is clear that we do not have another day, another minute, another hour to waste.”
The mayor said she’ll also require officers to intervene if they see a colleague using excessive force, saying “they are duty-bound to intercede.”
Pleading through tears on Monday, Brooks’ relatives also called for non-violence but insisted on changes in policing and criminal justice.
An autopsy found that Brooks, 27, was shot twice in the back. Two white officers had responded to calls about a man who was asleep at the wheel in a Wendy’s drive-thru lane.
Police video showed him cooperating until a breath test determined his blood-alcohol level was over the legal limit and one of the officers moved to handcuff him. Brooks was wrestled to the ground, broke free and took off with a stun gun; a white officer shot him as he tried to run away.
“When does it stop? We’re not only pleading for justice. We’re pleading for change,” said his niece, Chassidy Evans.
Relatives described Brooks as a loving father of three daughters and a stepson who had a bright smile and a big heart and loved to dance. Evans said there was no reason for him “to be shot and killed like trash in the street for falling asleep in a drive-thru.”
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said he hopes to decide by midweek whether to bring charges in the Brooks case. Officer Garrett Rolfe, who fired the shots that killed Brooks, was fired, and the other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, was put on desk duty. Police Chief Erika Shields resigned.
Several Democratic lawmakers joined the protests and called for Georgia to repeal its citizen’s arrest and stand-your-ground laws, among a slate of other reforms. Republicans who control the legislature have pushed back against most of the Democratic agenda, but even some GOP leaders called for swift action on a hate crimes bill.
Elsewhere, the New York City Police Department is disbanding the type of plainclothes anti-crime units that were involved in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner and have long been criticized for aggressive tactics, Commissioner Dermot Shea said Monday.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said a panel of residents, activists, and one police official will review the Police Department’s policy on when officers can use force. Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mayor Tim Keller wants a new department of civilian social workers to provide another option for 911 callers.
And New Jersey’s attorney general ordered police to begin divulging names of officers who commit serious disciplinary violations.