Streetcar’s moved past glitches
We’re pleased that the Atlanta Streetcar is newsworthy and has caught the attention of many who care deeply about the system’s operation and safety (“Streetcar lurches through first year,” News, Dec. 20). But we’d like to see more balanced and relevant reporting about the system as a whole. Not these investigative, watchdog stories that get into the weeds of dated forecasts. For example, we have yet to see a story about the improved service we’re delivering. When we launched a year ago, it took three vehicles to deliver a 15-minute service frequency. Over the past year, we’ve made great progress to fine-tune the system, which is tricky given the streetcar operates in an environment it does not have sole control over - unlike MARTA rail. We can now reach that 15-minute frequency with only two vehicles — but it has taken time, coordination and some trial and error.
The system has not operated with perfection, very few start-up operations ever do. Yet we’ve delivered a fundamentally safe service as our paramount priority — with commitment to continue to improve, mature and grow. The reality is the streetcar’s benefits far outweigh the growing pains. With $842 million in new investment within a five-minute walk of the route and another $1.1 billion under construction or planned, there’s no denying the streetcar is enhancing the Atlanta brand.
A.J. ROBINSON, PRESIDENT, CENTRAL ATLANTA PROGRESS/ATLANTA DOWNTOWN IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT
Lethal force story needs context
I read with great interest The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s examination of police shootings in Georgia. While I dispute some of the analysis and conclusions, I do commend the AJC for its significant research.
It is disappointing that the AJC failed to put these tragic events into context. The fact is fatal police officer-involved shootings are the rare exception to the rule, and most police encounters do not involve any use of force.
Context would have informed the public that the reason, in many cases, for more than 50 Georgians to be shot in their own home is because that is where domestic violence occurs, frequently resulting in serious injury or death — and a plea by the victim for a police response.
The story included a scoreboard-like link, “171 dead, zero prosecuted.” This figure seems to assume and suggest that the deaths resulted from some malice or at least the gross negligence of the officer. There are 37,533 sworn active officers in Georgia. The average annual number of fatal police shootings in Georgia is about 21. Thus, a scoreboard of 37,533 officers and 21 fatal shootings would provide a more complete and relevant context.
Context could have been provided if the number of calls for service officers responded to during that period, which numbers in the millions, had been provided. Each arrest, citizen contact or call for service, if mishandled, can become a deadly force event.
Context would have noted that 25 percent of those killed suffered from mental illness, but a national study found those afflicted with mental illness were killed 36 percent of the time by police. Georgia officers had almost one-third fewer shootings involving those suffering from mental illness than their national counterparts. This is directly related to specialized mental illness training many Georgia police officers have received in the last 10 years.
In most cases of use of force, officers act correctly and selflessly, some even gallantly. In some instances, officers react inappropriately or irresponsibly, but those are only a handful of cases and each deserves scrutiny and, when contrary to law, rigorous prosecution.
Education, poverty, domestic violence, drug abuse, homelessness, and mental illness are frequent factors that influence crime and public safety. I encourage the AJC to continue to explore the data, beyond the police action, and identify the public policy failures that often create the environment for these tragic outcomes.
LOUIS M. DEKMAR, CHIEF OF POLICE, LAGRANGE