The five candidates took stances on the city’s jail and the Buckhead cityhood topic

An hour hadn’t even passed during Atlanta’s second mayoral forum before one of the five candidates threw shade at his competitors.

“Corruption is a crime … We can’t have a mayor that can fight crime in the city of Atlanta when they’re facing federal investigation,” City Councilman Andre Dickens said, eliciting “oohs” in the audience.

Dickens was actually referring to two of his opponents — former mayor Kasim Reed, whose administration has been subject to a years-long federal corruption investigation, is personally under a federal grand jury investigation for alleged wire fraud; and Councilman Antonio Brown is under a federal fraud indictment for incidents that allegedly occurred before he won office.

Reed and Brown have repeatedly said they are innocent.

Reed, Brown and Dickens, along with attorney Sharon Gay and City Council President Felicia Moore, are running to replace Keisha Lance Bottoms as the city’s 61st mayor.

The forum — moderated by Lisa Rayam of NPR’s “Morning Edition” — was hosted by the Upper Westside Improvement District, Northwest Community Alliance, and the Works development in the Upper Westside.

ExploreAtlanta’s mayoral candidates pitch public safety plans to address crime

Moore and Dickens repeatedly referred to the “cloud of corruption” at City Hall. Moore said our elected leaders must serve ethically with accountability.

Reed ignored the mudslinging and said up to 30% of Atlanta’s revenue is at stake if the Buckhead community secedes from Atlanta. Reed said he can reduce crime in Atlanta and stave off the cityhood movement.

The candidates all agreed that Buckhead shouldn’t leave Atlanta.

“Buckhead wants to divorce from the city of Atlanta and we know that with divorce comes alimony,” Moore said.

Moore and Reed said that officers on desk duty should be patrolling the streets during the crime wave. Moore promised to address issues within the police force by enacting a “culture change” to boost the morale needed to improve each officer’s ability to address crime.

ExplorePublic safety issue dominates Atlanta’s first mayoral forum

Reed said he wants to give the police department control of the officer hiring process to get up to 750 more officers as soon as possible. He wants to use the city’s $200 million in reserves to address “hotspots” in the city, to reopen recreation centers, and to fund more youth programs.

But Gay said Atlanta can’t rely on past leadership to address crime. She said non-emergency situations require social and mental health services, and that police need to learn “smarter strategies” to address crime, or else those officers will be removed.

Brown said more officers won’t solve the generational poverty that’s “the root cause” of crime. However, Brown and Dickens both said they wouldn’t “defund the police” either. Instead, the councilmen said they would expand community policing programs.

Brown also said he supports Bottoms’ desire to close the city’s detention center to create an equity center, which could address homelessness in Atlanta.

Dickens, Gay, Moore and Reed disagreed. They said the Atlanta City Detention Center could address overcrowding at the Fulton County jail, which Gay called “an inhumane housing crisis.”

“It should not be closed and we should not have announced that it was closing in the middle of a global pandemic and a surge in crime. Atlanta has about 500 to 600 repeat offenders,” Reed said.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter J.D. Capelouto contributed to this article.

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