Atlanta mayor receives advisory council’s initial use-of-force report, issues 3 orders

Two weeks after the creation of an advisory council to review Atlanta’s use-of-force policies by police, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has received the initial recommendations and issued three administrative orders as a result.

The newly established Use of Force Advisory Council provided Bottoms with 10 recommendations, three of which were adopted, according to a news release. The other seven are undergoing further "legal and operational review."

The administrative orders focus on body camera compliance within Atlanta police, witness footage of use-of-force by officers and the Atlanta Citizen Review Board (ACRB).

The first order directs the chief of police to identify policies and procedural changes that could improve the percentage of officers complying with wearing and turning on body cameras during arrests. That level is currently 94%, according to the release.

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In addition, the first order also directs police to improve transparency and responsiveness to public requests for officer footage.

The second order directs the department’s chief information officer to develop a platform in which the public can submit witness recordings of apparent use-of-force violations. The submissions will be incorporated into investigations “ensuring that public recordings are included with APD footage in decisions,” the release said.

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The third order directs the chief of staff and city attorney to work with the ACRB to “identify measures to further strengthen the organization,” the release said. Bottoms said those measures can include legislative, budgetary and operational needs.

In addition to the administrative orders, Bottoms issued a letter to the ACRB “highlighting the importance of their independent perspective and critical role in maintaining accountability,” the report said. She added that the ACRB received a $427,000 budget increase for the next fiscal year.

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The new advisory council, which Bottoms announced June 3 in response to a call for action by former President Barack Obama, consists of 28 members and held its first meeting June 10, the release said. Bottoms received the board's recommendations two weeks later.

“In just 14 days, the Use of Force Advisory Council has developed meaningful recommendations to begin the process of revising Atlanta’s Use of Force polices to rebuild trust in our communities,” Bottoms said in the release. “Thank you to the members of this Advisory Council for your diligence and thoughtfulness. Together, we will harness this moment in history to reimagine our use-of-force policies and elevate the Atlanta Police Department as a national model for modern policing.”

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The other seven recommendations by the Advisory Council that remain under the mayor’s review are:

1. Commit to revising the Use of Force continuum in Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to increase specificity and align with best practices;

2. Ensure that changes taken under the Mayor’s Administrative Orders 2020-18 align with best practice policy changes from other cities and continue measures for accountability;

3. Mandate immediate drug testing for officers when a use of force incident resulting in serious injury or death occurs;

4. Commit to re-evaluating and revising mission, vision, core values and oath of the Atlanta Police Department;

5. Conduct additional screenings, including mental health and implicit bias assessments, for all applicants during the recruiting process, and on an ongoing basis for all officers;

6. Require more exhaustive background checks with attention to record of complaints from other agencies, previous applications to police departments and social media sentiment;

7. Begin to evaluate policies, procedures and partner organizations for least harm approach to reduce the likelihood of use of force long-term, including use of non-law enforcement officials for community crisis response and expansion of the pre-arrest diversion program.

The full Advisory Council report can be accessed here.

The Advisory Council will submit its 45-day recommendations near the end of July.

In other news:

If signed by July 1, the new law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.