Metro Atlanta agencies plan for response to Ferguson decision

Metro Atlanta agencies plan for response to Ferguson decision

Metro Atlanta is nearly 600 miles from Ferguson, Mo. But local law enforcement agencies are preparing for what could happen here when a Grand Jury’s decision is announced on whether to indict a police officer who shot Michael Brown last summer.

Representatives from several metro police departments will meet Thursday afternoon to discuss preparations to handle response to that decision, which could come as early as Friday. Before that decision is made, dozens of protests have already been planned around the country, including in metro Atlanta.

Officials with Atlanta, Marietta and DeKalb County police will be joined by representatives from the Georgia State Patrol, Emory and Georgia State universities and Morehouse College at the 1 p.m. meeting at the DeKalb County Board of Education offices in Stone Mountain.

“The meeting will address how individual entities are planning for incidents that may occur as a result of the [grand jury] decision,” DeKalb police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said in a media release Wednesday. “In addition, the briefing will review how the region is collaborating to ensure metro Atlanta communities remain safe and are not negatively impacted by events that may unfold in Ferguson.”

Leading the meeting will be DeKalb’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Public Safety, Dr. Cedric Alexander. Alexander, who is also the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, traveled to Ferguson in August to help ease tensions during unrest that unfolded in the wake of Brown’s shooting.

Atlanta police have also met with other law enforcement agencies, including the Georgia State Patrol, MARTA police, and campus police at colleges and universities, Officer John Chafee said late Wednesday.

“We certainly anticipate that citizens will want to express their First Amendment rights concerning the grand jury decision, and will respect their right to peaceably assemble,” Chafee said in an emailed statement. “We will not, however, tolerate those who violate our laws, destroy property or endanger lives.”

Underground Atlanta is listed as among the sites for people to gather in response to the verdict, according to a group called Ferguson National Response Network. Kennesaw has also been on the list, according to police.

“We hope that if the protests take place and wherever the actual place is chosen that it’s all done in a peaceful manner,” Officer Scott Luther with Kennesaw police said.

Information about the St. Louis County, Mo., grand jury’s decision on whether there is enough evidence to charge Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson with a crime could come Friday.

While there is no specific date for a decision to be revealed, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch has previously said he expects a decision from the grand jury in mid- to late November.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency Monday and activated the National Guard in anticipation of a decision possibly being announced this week.

— Staff writer Alexis Stevens and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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