Experts examine Atlanta candidates' safety plans

Aware of the angst many Atlantans have about public safety, several mayoral candidates have put together plans they say will make the city safer.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked three experts to review the plans and give us their thoughts. They are:

● Dave Klinger, a former police officer who is an associate professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

● Stan Savage, former Atlanta Police Department major who is now director of public safety for 100 Black Men of America.

● Mittie Southerland, professor emeritus of criminal justice at Murray State University.

Their findings:

City Council President Lisa Borders

They liked her approaches to pay for public safety initiatives, such as training police recruits from other local governments for a fee.

Borders wants to add about 170 police officers in her first term, reach the national standard of four firefighters on trucks and engines and create a program that sends crime alerts such as text messages to residents on their cellphones.

They said Borders should have had some ideas in her plan about community policing.

“I did not see dialogue concerning community-based policing and efforts to obtain assistance ... to address youth and the fact that youthful offenders are indeed victims and perpetrators of high percentages of crime,” Savage said.

Councilwoman Mary Norwood

Klinger and Southerland liked her idea to allow police officers to defer retirement to help train younger officers.

Savage was more cautious about the idea and said Norwood’s plan to remove some cops from administrative positions and put them on patrol won’t be easy.

Norwood wants to improve code enforcement, believing that allowing problems like dilapidated properties to fester encourages criminal activity.

Savage said he wanted to read more about technology enhancements. Southerland said she liked Norwood’s commitment to work with youth programs.

State Sen. Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta)

Each expert liked that Reed wants to find solutions to keep young people out of trouble. Savage said he was “intrigued” by Reed’s proposal to engage former gang members.

“It represents somewhat of a new paradigm to the culture of policing in this area and has to have strategic implementation,” Savage said.

Klinger wondered where will Reed find the money for his plan to increase the police force by 750 officers in his first term.

Savage said Reed’s idea of hiring a new police chief without a contract is “positive.” Southerland countered that Reed’s idea could make it difficult for a chief “to make changes without political interference.”

Jesse Spikes, partner, McKenna, Long & Aldridge

All three experts had reservations about him possibly hiring a public safety commissioner.

It “may add another level to the bureaucracy of addressing crime,” Savage said.

Spikes said he’ll increase foot and bicycle patrols and encourage more Neighborhood Watch programs. He also wants to create a comprehensive mentoring program targeting at-risk African-American males, an idea lauded by the experts.

Southerland said she wanted more from Spikes.

“He has some really great ideas, but not much detail,” she said.

The plans

Here are links to the public safety plans:

ExploreLisa Borders
ExploreMary Norwood
ExploreKasim Reed
ExploreJesse Spikes