Mayor Bottoms encourages residents to complete census, discusses police morale

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is encouraging Atlanta residents to quickly complete the 2020 Census after President Donald Trump ordered early collection of the data – a move which has prompted a lawsuit from cities and civil rights groups.

“The Trump Administration shaved off an entire month of time,” Bottoms said during a Sept. 16 virtual press conference. “The deadline was originally Oct. 31 and now its Sept. 30, which is problematic. We have the COVID-19 pandemic, fires, hurricanes.

Bottoms said accurate census data helps to determine, among other things,  infrastructure and school funding as well as congressional representation. The mayor said she believed the shortened deadline was a political play by Trump to undercount minority populations and exclude undocumented workers.

“It’s a political play because it speaks to representation in Congress,” Bottoms said. “In my personal opinion, it’s disregard for the U.S. Constitution.”

A federal court ruled last week that an executive order issued by Trump to exclude people who are in the country illegally from being accounted for in redistricting violates the law.

Bottoms said the response rate in Atlanta was currently at 57.7 percent. She said it took her only 15 minutes to complete the census for her family of six.

The mayor also addressed the search for a new chief of police and morale within the department, which saw more than 20 officers resign in the last month. Bottoms said the higher than normal resignation rate was happening across the country, but said morale was “stabilizing.”

Interim Chief Rodney Bryant said he believed morale was “on the mend, but still has a way to go.”

“I won’t minimize the concerns of our officers,” Bryant said. “They are concerned about the state of law enforcement in this country.”

The media has reported that hundreds of officers across the country have quit in the wake of high profile police brutality cases and the resulting protests.

As for the search for a new chief, Bottoms said it was an “inopportune time” to conduct a search due to the ongoing pandemic and the scrutiny on policing. She said Bryant was being considered as the permanent replacement for Erika Shields, who resigned earlier in the summer in the wake of an APD officer shooting and killing Rayshard Brooks during a DUI arrest.

“We’ve been advised to give our interim chief the support and resources he needs while we evaluate to see if Bryant might be who we want,” Bottoms said, praising Bryant’s 30 plus years of experience with APD.

Bottoms created a task force to recommend changes to APD’s use of force policy in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by an officer in Minnesota. She issued seven administrative orders last month on use of force policy, including directing intervention if an officer witnesses unreasonable force being used to subdue a subject. APD officers staged a mass walkout in June after murder charges were brought against the officer show shot Brooks.

The mayor said the city could move to phase three of its reopening plan by Sept. 24 if COVID-19 numbers continued to trend downward. Phase three would include workers returning to offices, larger gatherings, and the city would begin accepting special event applications again.

The city recently moved to phase two, which allows gatherings of 10 people, keeps government offices shuttered, and the mask mandate in place. All of the phased guidelines are available at this link.

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