“Different World” actress joins campaign to report police abuse


The Atlanta Citizens Review Board is using some star power to let city residents know they can now report bad behavior by police officers confidentially.

Broadway veteran Jasmine Guy, best known for her role on the late 80’s sitcom “A Different World,” has cut a public service announcement for the board’s recently launched “Nobody Needs to Know” campaign.

"If you ever feel uncertain or intimidated about filing a complaint against an Atlanta police or corrections officer, remember you now can file anonymous complaints with the Atlanta Citizen Review Board," Guy says in the PSA. "Nobody needs to know."

The campaign, which will include billboards installed around the city, comes eight months after the Atlanta City Council changed a city ordinance that had required anyone filing a complaint against police to provide his or her name when making a charge. The updated ordinance allows for anonymity.

The review board, charged with investigating the complaints, pushed for the change after a study that found several groups, including the LGBT community and the homeless, were afraid to come forward openly in cases of alleged police harassment or assaults because of fears of retaliation.

“This is an opportunity for us to help those who have felt they could not speak up before,” said Lee Reid, the board’s executive director.

The review board has had trouble in past public campaigns. It suspended last year's "Don't run" initiative, which encouraged residents not to flee police, after citizens complaints.

Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, said anonymity is critical because the LGBT community is still marginalized, despite advancements such as marriage equality. For example, transgender women of color nationally are often harassed and mistaken as sex workers. Using their names to file complaints can be humiliating because of transphobia and fear of exposing a life change to family and friends.

“I commend Atlanta for taking this step,” Oakley said. “You have to make sure that people are in a place where they feel they can be honest.”

Guy, an Atlanta resident who grew up near the Atlanta University Center, signed on to the campaign because of run ins she’s had with Atlanta Police both before and after stardom. She said in one incident, years after she achieved celebrity, she was pulled over in a traffic stop at 1 a.m. The cop recognized her and asked her out on a date.

“He hit on me,” she said. “He had me in a vulnerable situation and he abused his power. I drove home shaken.”

Guy said she called friends in city government and asked that someone talk to the officer. She didn’t want to see him fired, but wanted him to know his behavior was inappropriate.

“The balance of trust is very important and it needs to be reinstated,” she said.