Mayor’s Briefing: City remains in phase two of reopening, while police budget amendment likely to be reintroduced

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the City of Atlanta will remain in phase two of its five phase reopening plan as COVID-19 cases increase.

Bottoms made the announcement during a July 2 conference call with the Atlanta City Council. “We’ll stay in phase two for the foreseeable future,”  the mayor said, noting that over the last two weeks, 45 percent of new COVID-19 cases are in the city, with 51 percent of those cases and 86 percent of the deaths in the African-American community.

Bottoms said City Hall would remained closed and remote meetings in compliance with the state’s opening meetings act would continue. Phase two guidelines include limiting gatherings to 10 people or less, asking the public to continue getting takeout and curbside from restaurants, and teleworking.

After Savannah’s mayor issued an order earlier this week for all its citizens to wear masks, Bottoms said she is closely monitoring the situation. Since the Savannah order defies Gov. Brian Kemp’s, Bottoms said she didn’t want to do something similar in Atlanta that wouldn’t be enforceable.

Discussion then turned to the failed 2021 budget amendment that would have sequestered $73 million of the Atlanta Police Department’s funding until Dec. 31 while a plan to “reimagine” policing took place in the city.

While the amendment failed during last month’s approval of the budget, City Council President Felicia Moore said she expected it would be reintroduced this month.

Bottoms said it would be illegal to cut into salaries and pensions for APD officers, which sequestering $73 million would do.

Councilman Antonio Brown, who was one of the backers of the amendment dubbed the Rayshard Brooks bill, sought to clarify misinformation on the amendment and said reallocating the $73 million to a trust fund would give the city, police, and public an opportunity to reimagine what public safety should be in the city.

“There is a false narrative being shaped that we are defunding the police with this amendment,” Brown said. He said sequestering the money would not have cut into police salaries or pensions.

Brown said the the “community has spoken in overwhelming support” of what is now being called the Rayshard Brooks bill in honor of the man gunned down by a police officer during a DUI arrest in June.

“There is a distrust in poor black and brown communities, who grew up and lived under black leadership, who feel like they’ve been forgotten and their voices aren’t being heard,” Brown said. We’re here not to give the community a seat at the table, the community is the table. Our actions should be a reflection of what they are seeking.”

Just after the meeting ended, the mayor’s office issued a press release announcing that Bottoms had signed an administrative order to “procure services to conduct citywide engagement for a comprehensive examination of policing in the city.”

According to the order, this community engagement process will bring a diversity of voices to the table to gain public input on policies of APD, as well as the attributes and qualities desired in city public safety leadership.

“Recent events have shown the need for an evolution in how Atlanta enforces the law within our communities,” Bottoms said in a statement. “Across the country, there is a cultural shift that in the end will make us stronger—but only if residents, law enforcement, and stakeholders alike shift forward together.”

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