Atlanta passes ban on police chokeholds, empowers citizen review board

A protestor chants during a peaceful protest march from Cleopas Park to Atlanta City Hall, Sunday, June 7, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

A protestor chants during a peaceful protest march from Cleopas Park to Atlanta City Hall, Sunday, June 7, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

The Atlanta City Council approved several police reform measures Monday, including a ban on chokeholds and expansion of the citizen review board’s powers.

These changes and recommendations come after weeks of criticism and protests over race-based police brutality nationwide and here in Atlanta. Fired Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe is charged with felony murder along with 10 other counts for shooting and killing 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy's on June 12. Rolfe was released on a $500,000 bond Tuesday.

Council members on Monday fortified the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, the independent body that reviews allegations of police misconduct.

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The board must now investigate and hold public hearings for all incidents involving the discharge of an officer’s firearm, stun gun or Taser when someone is killed or seriously injured — even when no allegation of misconduct has been made.

But Atlanta police are not bound by the board’s recommendations.

Council members also approved a set of eight measures as laid out in the "8 Can't Wait" campaign, which claims that these eight changes together can decrease police violence by 72%. The plan has spread around social media as a solution to the national policing problem. But some activists say the campaign doesn't go far enough.

The eight measures are the banning of chokeholds and strangleholds; requiring de-escalation strategies; requiring warning before shooting; exhausting all alternatives before shooting; duty to intervene [from other officers]; banning shooting at moving vehicles; requiring use of force continuum; and requiring comprehensive reporting [involving use of force against civilians].

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Members of the public left messages for the council that were played during the public comment section of the meeting on Monday. The 13 hours and 31 minutes of public comment means council members were expected to keep listening until about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Nearly all of the messages revolved around defunding the police. Some argued that the police have shown they can’t be trusted with public money; others said defunding police would leave them unsafe and shrink the tax base.

Credit: AJC

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