Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration has responded in detail to a list of protester demands in the wake of a July 11 Black Lives Matter march in Buckhead. In the nine-page answer to the ATLisReady protest coalition, the city claims it is already carrying out most of the demanded police reforms, while rejecting several ideas and saying officials are open to working on some others.
“APD [the Atlanta Police Department] has adopted a philosophy of serving as protectors and guardians, and is continually working to build community trust and nurture relationships with Atlanta’s residents,” the city said early in its point-by-point answer, which is titled, “2016 Atlanta Civic Activism Response.”
Avery Jackson, one of the ATLisReady organizers who met with Reed and Police Chief George Turner during the Buckhead protest, said the coalition has made “no response” to the city’s answers. He did not indicate if or when there might be one.
Meanwhile, ATLisReady has carried out smaller protests aimed at gentrification. The coalition also continues to meet, with more than 45 organizations and 70 people joining a recent gathering, Jackson said.
But ATLisReady has not held marches on the scale of the July protests that followed the police killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, both of whom were black. Five straight nights of Atlanta protests were joined by thousands of people, culminating in the July 11 Buckhead march that was intended to shock the city by entering a neighborhood with many wealthy and white residents.
The Buckhead protest ended when organizers successfully demanded an on-the-spot meeting with Reed and Turner, which was held inside a police truck outside the Governor’s Mansion on West Paces Ferry Road. A follow-up meeting at City Hall was held July 18, but fell apart in a dispute over whether it should be open to the public and questions about the legitimacy of Sir Maejor, a Black Lives Matter activist who had disagreed with many ATLisReady organizers on personal issues and their inclusion of LGBT rights activism in protests. Sir Maejor appeared at the Buckhead protest, where several other protesters said they were upset to see him, and more recently was revealed to have a record of impersonating police officers and FBI agents, according to Fox 5 news.
Despite the disputes, ATLisReady published a list demanding more than two-dozen policing-related reforms for the mayor’s consideration. Reed’s administration responded to those, as well as some other concerns raised at the July 18 meeting. His response was published, apparently without notice, sometime in August on the city’s website, in the “Projects and Initiatives” section of the Mayor’s Office page.
On many points, the city said it is already doing many of the demanded reforms, such as training police officers in de-escalation of potentially violent situations and in being aware of racial bias.
Among APD’s training principles, according to the city’s response, is that “All people, even well-intentioned people, have biases,” and that “Officers can learn skills to reduce and manage their own biases.”
On some points, such as a halt to immigration-violation detentions, the city said it has no power to change or disobey state or federal laws. The city said some other points are not applicable to it, such as reducing school system policing, which is now carried out exclusively by the district’s own police.
The city rejected several demands, including an end to anti-terrorism training in Israel; the halting of the “Operation Whiplash” gun-crime crackdown; and a release of all evidence in the controversial police killing of Alexia Christian, who was shot in the back of a police car last year after somehow escaping handcuffs and drawing a gun, according to police.
Operation Whiplash was created partly due to residents’ demands, the city said, adding that such “collaborative efforts…have been shown to be effective in making communities safer.”
Then there were some points where the city was willing to accept some room for improvement. They include more community outreach hours for officers; reviewing the “no-knock” search warrant policy; alternatives to private, outsourced probation companies; and improved mental health screenings and programs for officers.
The city acknowledged that a reform movement is underway for court fines and fees in the wake of the Ferguson, Mo., protests. A federal investigation found Ferguson relied heavily on such court income and that its impact on poor and black residents was part of the context for the protests and riots in 2014.
“The Reed Administration is open to exploring alternatives to the use of private probation and private collection firms,” the city’s response says.
Correction: This story previously said the “Don’t the Call the Cops” effort was organized by the ATLisReady coalition rather than by some activists involved in ATLisReady protests.