On June 12, amid worldwide protests against police killings of Black people, 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was shot in the back by an officer of the Atlanta Police Department (APD). His death has amplified the calls for police reform at the department.
Established in 1873, the APD has around 1,700 officers patrolling the city’s seven zones with a fleet of 300 vehicles. It operates on an annual budget of just over $204 million. African-Americans account for 58 percent of the force, and Whites 37 percent.
Qualified APD applicants are required to undergo police academy training, including physical, defensive, firearms and academic instruction. Graduates are required to complete additional field training under the supervision of a field training officer. They are also routinely coached in crisis intervention, fair and impartial policing, and reality-based scenarios.
The department has a use-of-force policy that governs the use of tasers, pepper spray, firearms and control holds. The APD has also banned choke holds, strangleholds, neck restraints, carotid artery holds and other weaponless control techniques that have the potential to cause serious injury or death except in self-defense.
Despite having a use-of-force policy on the books, this is not the first time the APD has come under fire for use of excessive force against a Black person. The department was subject to a federal investigation in 2006 after officers shot and killed 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston when they entered on a no-knock warrant. During the George Floyd protests, APD officers pulled two Black students from their vehicle and tased them.
Experts believe that Rayshard Brooks did not have to lose his life and that police could have explored other alternatives.
#8CantWait is a nationwide campaign focused on saving civilian lives by demanding that police departments adopt the following eight policies: 1. ban chokeholds and strangleholds, 2. use of de-escalation techniques, 3. verbal warning before shooting, 4. exhaust all alternatives before shooting, 5. duty to intervene when fellow officers are using excessive force, 6. ban shooting at moving vehicles, 7. establish a use-of-force continuum and 8. comprehensive reporting.
The APD has already banned holds and established a use-of-force policy. In the wake of protests over Brooks’ death, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has also agreed to implement de-escalation, a duty to intervene and better reporting. #8CantWait urges Atlanta citizens to put pressure on their lawmakers to adopt policies around verbal warnings, exhausting alternatives and not shooting at vehicles.
Organizations such as the Georgia NAACP, Just Georgia, and the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) of Brunswick/Atlanta have also issued demands for changing how police interact with the public. These include eliminating laws that disproportionately criminalize Black people, ensuring the safety of protestors, conducting thorough investigations of police misconduct and requiring the APD to make amends for the systemic harm it has inflicted on Black families.
M4BL Brunswick/Atlanta: https://m4bl.org/week-of-action/brunswick-atlanta-georgia/
Just Georgia: https://www.just-georgia.org/
Georgia NAACP: https://www.naacpga.org/
This brief was compiled by Laura Plummer. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org>