Bill seeks changes to how police testify to grand juries

Police officers accused of killing or seriously injuring a suspect would no longer get the last word in grand jury proceedings under legislation filed Tuesday in the Georgia House.

House Bill 941, sponsored by House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Chairman Rich Golick, R-Smyra, would make several key changes to state law:

  • It would still allow an officer under investigation to testify to the grand jury, but it would no longer allow him or her to be present for the entire grand jury hearing.
  • The officer would, for the first time, face questioning from prosecutors should he or she decide to testify.
  • If the grand jury decides not to issue an indictment, the panel would be required to prepare a public report detailing the evidence presented and their findings.

The bill comes after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a grand jury has indicted a police officer in a fatal shooting only twice since 2010, and one indictment was dismissed the next day by the district attorney.

Most recently, former DeKalb County Officer Robert Olsen was indicted in January in the shooting death of Anthony Hill, a 27-year-old veteran killed while naked and unarmed outside a Chamblee apartment complex.

There have been 187 fatal shootings by police officers in Georgia since 2010.

An indictment of a police officer in a use-of-force case is rare, in part because of the special exemption granted to law enforcement officers in Georgia enabling them to be present during the entire grand jury proceeding and make a statement without cross-examination.

See more of the AJC's investigation into police shootings in Georgia here.