Atlanta Mayor says demonstrations across U.S. will change policing

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms talks at a press conference at the Atlanta Police Headquarters May 31, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms talks at a press conference at the Atlanta Police Headquarters May 31, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that it has become clear in the aftermath of another African American man being shot by police that racial bias training isn’t working.

Bottoms made her comments Sunday night during a CNN town hall meeting with three other nationally prominent African American mayors.

A white Atlanta Police Department officer shot Rayshard Brooks Friday night after a struggle, in which Brooks wrestled away an officer Taser and apparently fired the stun gun at officers as he fled. An autopsy found Brooks died from two gunshot wounds “of the back.”

Bottoms said on CNN that it may be impossible to train some officers to put aside their prejudices, and that the country needs to have a much broader discussion about racism.

“We are not in post-racial society,” Bottoms said. “There are so many biases that people have that they don’t recognize.”

Bottoms said that her husband Derek, an executive at Home Depot, had once been wrongfully detained at a Walmart for suspected shoplifting. Bottoms also said she reviewed video of the fatal encounter between Brooks and the two white APD officers.

“This was a guy you were rooting for,” Bottoms said. “Even knowing the end, watching it, you’re going: ‘Just let him go. Just let him go. Let him call somebody to pick him up.’”

Officers had tried to detain Brooks, who had fallen asleep in a Wendy’s drive through line. The initial half-hour exchange was not confrontational, with Brooks talking about planning his daughter’s birthday party. But the struggle began after officers tried to arrest him.

The encounter was captured on video and led to the immediate firing of Officer Garrett Rolfe, who shot Brooks. The incident also led to the resignation of Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, and more mass demonstrations over the weekend. The Wendy's restaurant where the encounter took place was burned to the ground.

Bottoms was joined on CNN by Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Bottoms promised that the deaths of those wrongfully killed by police would not be in vain.

“There is a movement across this country and it is changing all of our cities,” Bottoms said.

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