Mayor issues new administrative orders on police use of force policies

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms if flanked by APD Interim Chief Rodney Bryant at a June 15 press conference.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has issued three new administrative orders on the Atlanta Police Department’s use of force policies  after receiving initial recommendations from an advisory panel.

The orders include an increase in use of officer body worn cameras and creating a repository system so that the public can submit videos they take of officers using excessive force.

According to a press release from the mayor’s office, the Use of Force Advisory Council provided 10 early action recommendations to Bottoms spanning three focus areas: law and policy, police culture and mindsets, and community and partnerships.

“In just 14 days, the Use of Force Advisory Council has developed meaningful recommendations to begin the process of revising Atlanta’s Use of Force polices to rebuild trust in our communities,” Bottoms said in statement. “Thank you to the members of this Advisory Council for your diligence and thoughtfulness. Together, we will harness this moment in history to reimagine our use of force policies and elevate the Atlanta Police Department as a national model for modern policing.”

Upon receiving the advisory council’s recommendations, Bottoms acted upon three of the 10 recommendations by issuing three administrative orders and a letter to the Atlanta Citizen Review Board (ACRB). The remaining seven recommendation are under legal and operational review to determine further action.

The recommendations that have been adopted and acted upon by the administration are:

  • Commit to identifying policies to improve officer compliance and public transparency of captured body worn camera footage,
  • Create a centralized repository for witness footage of use of force by officers, and
  • Extend powers and community awareness of Atlanta Citizen Review Board (ACRB).

The first administrative order directs the Chief of Police to identify policies and procedural changes to further improve body worn camera compliance from the current level of 94%. The order also directs APD to outline improvements to existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to improve transparency and responsiveness to public requests for officer footage.

The second order directs the Chief Information Officer to develop a platform that allows the public to submit recordings of use of force violations. The recordings will be incorporated into future use of force investigations, ensuring that public recordings are included with APD footage in decisions. Further, it directs the development of SOPs to outline the use of videos during investigations, retention policies on citizen submissions and providing access to the Atlanta Citizen Review Board for independent investigation.

The third order directs the chief of staff and city attorney to work with the ACRB to identify measures to further strengthen the organization. These measures include legislative, budgetary, and/or operational needs to begin a proactive review by ACRB of all deadly use of force cases. The mayor  also issued a letter to the ACRB highlighting the importance of their independent perspective and critical role in maintaining accountability. ACRB received a $427,000 budget increase for FY2021 to support new staff, community outreach and resolution review.

The 28-member Use of Force Advisory Council 10 early actions are outlined below:

  1. Commit to revising the Use of Force continuum in Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to increase specificity and align with best practices;
  2. Ensure that changes taken under the Mayor’s Administrative Orders 2020-18 align with best practice policy changes from other cities and continue measures for accountability;
  3. Commit to identifying policies to improve officer compliance and public transparency of captured body worn camera footage;
  4. Create a centralized repository for witness footage of use of force by officers;
  5. Mandate immediate drug testing for officers when a use of force incident resulting in serious injury or death occurs;
  6. Commit to re-evaluating and revising mission, vision, core values, and oath
    of the Atlanta Police Department;
  7. Conduct additional screenings – including mental health and implicit bias assessments – for all applicants during the recruiting process, and on an ongoing basis for all officers;
  8. Require more exhaustive background checks with attention to record of complaints from other agencies, previous applications to police departments, and social media sentiment;
  9. Extend powers and community awareness of Atlanta Citizen Review Board (ACRB); and
  10. Begin to evaluate policies, procedures, and partner organizations for least harm approach to reduce the likelihood of use of force long-term, including use of non-law enforcement officials for community crisis response and expansion of the pre-arrest diversion program.

In the coming weeks, the Advisory Council, which was created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police in Minneapolis and incidents here  in Atlanta, will submit its 45-day recommendations.

The full Advisory Council report can be found at this link.

Information and actions by the Advisory Council can be reviewed here. Questions or comments regarding the Advisory Council can be submitted to: useofforce@atlantaga.gov.

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