Atlanta Police Department Chief Erika Shields called charges against six officers in the excessive force case against two college students “political jockeying” in an email to employees.
The AJC reports that Shields sent the email Tuesday evening after Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard filed a host of charges against the APD officers, including assault and battery. Shields fired two of the officers after reviewing disturbing body camera images of the students being tased and dragged from their car on Saturday night in Downtown during the George Floyd protests.
“Now that the charges have been announced, I’m very concerned with the space we find ourselves in, both tactically and emotionally,” Shields wrote in the email. “Multiple agencies that were assisting us in managing this incredibly volatile time have pulled out, effective immediately. They are not comfortable with their employees being leveraged politically by the potential of also facing criminal charges.
“The officers were fired because I felt that is what had to occur. This does not mean for a moment that I will sit quietly by and watch our employees get swept up in the tsunami of political jockeying during an election year.”
At a press conference with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on May 31, Shields said she was “shocked” by the body camera footage. “We have a responsibility not to escalate and cause harm or injury. I was shocked by the video of how these college students were manhandled in their car. I knew there was only one option and that was to terminate these officers. I apologize to both of the students and how we behaved as an agency. It was unacceptable.”
In her email to employees, Shields described the charged officers as “good people and good cops.”
“But if we are ever going to change the narrative around policing, we must be committed to being accountable always, regardless of the situation or the additional stress it may bring,” Shelds said in the email.