Mayor Reed responds to protestor demands

Mayor Kasim Reed attempting to calm protestors on the downtown connector, July 8, 2016. Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal
Mayor Kasim Reed attempting to calm protestors on the downtown connector, July 8, 2016.   Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal
Mayor Kasim Reed attempting to calm protestors on the downtown connector, July 8, 2016.
Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration has responded to the Black Lives Matter protests of July with the 2016 Atlanta Civic Activism Response, a plan to end certain policies of the Atlanta Police Department (APD). The ATLisReady coalition made the demands on July 11 during the protests, and finally, the city has responded.

Released on July 18, the nine-page document addresses the protesters’ demands for a complete renewal of the Atlanta Police Department’s training methods, to immediately terminate the gun prevention task force known as Operation Whiplash, hold officers accountable and invest in alternative social services and pre-arrest programs.

Reed’s administration responded that APD officers already exceed state mandated training requirements set by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) and on average, graduate with a total training time of 1,360 hours (34 weeks).

“APD recruits currently receive APD-mandated instruction in several areas related to de-escalation, crisis intervention and culturally-sensitive communications,” the administration stated in the document.

APD officers also volunteer in youth-mentoring and community outreach programs like Every Kid Needs a Hero, Coffee with a Cop, Police in the Park and the Junior Cadet Program to help foster friendly relations between locals and the police.

Operation Whiplash is the informal name of the Atlanta’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, whose objective is to stop gun crimes in Atlanta neighborhoods with increased crime rates. ATLisReady said the operation promotes racial profiling, to which the city of Atlanta answered that the collaborative efforts of the police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “have been effective in making communities safer.”

Reed rejected ATLisReady’s demand for a redirection of APD’s funding to social services, like affordable housing and equitable health. The released document said it was deemed unnecessary due to “the city’s strong financial health”, thus putting Atlanta “in the now fortunate position of having the resources to be able to make necessary investments across areas of need.”

In the response to demands for alternative pre-arrest programs like social welfare, the city of Atlanta marked June 2016 as the initiation of the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative Alternative, which brings together legal experts, community officials and service providers together to create a pre-arrest diversion system that meets Atlanta’s specific needs.

Perimeter College Alpharetta campus officer Phillip Thompson said implementation of programs are the court’s responsibility above all.

“As far as programs are concerned, it’s a matter of the implementation of the courts; however, first, being constructed within different political and judicial levels, and in start, possible organizations. A charge is not attached to a person until the judge bangs the gavel. When a person or persons are arrested, they are charged. However, that charge becomes valid or dismissed per decree of the court.”

When it comes to redirecting the city’s attention to struggling communities, Georgia State student Aminata Bojang strongly believes that funding would benefit the people that the police serve.

“I strongly believe that more pre-arrest programs should be implemented and that there is room for improvement in every community,” she said.

Protesters also called for citywide mental health response units, to which the APD countered with the existence of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), founded in 2004. As of 2015, all graduating APD recruits are required to complete CIT training.

Officer Thompson had CIT training and said he believes that it has been very effective so far.
“[The CIT] is another tool to help mentally ill and mentally unstable people because it gives more understanding [to APD] and teaches officers to be more compassionate,” he said.

So far, the ATLisReady coalition has not yet commented on Reed’s response, but organizer Avery Jackson told the Reporter Newspapers the coalition still holds meetings and has started a campaign known as “Don’t Call the Cops”, which requests white people not to call the cops for minor incidents that occur with people of color.

“Law enforcement, if carried out correctly, is not supposed to stigmatize anyone for their race, religion, sexual orientation and so forth. However, there are some officers who have made those mistakes as an individual and do not represent the entire police force as a whole in pursuit of a fair and unbiased objective,” Officer Thompson said.