Georgia Senate rejects bill teaching drivers how to interact with police

Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) raises her fist in protest as the House passes a measure that would have required drivers to learn "best practices" on how to interact with police during traffic stops on the final day of the 2021 Legislative session Wednesday, March 31, 2021. The bill ultimately failed. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Combined ShapeCaption
Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) raises her fist in protest as the House passes a measure that would have required drivers to learn "best practices" on how to interact with police during traffic stops on the final day of the 2021 Legislative session Wednesday, March 31, 2021. The bill ultimately failed. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

The Georgia Senate on Wednesday rejected legislation that would have taught Georgia drivers how to interact with police during a traffic stop.

As filed, Senate Bill 115 would have required the Department of Public Safety to create a course to educate drivers about interacting with police during traffic stops, including their discretion on use of force.

The bill failed after the House amended it to include a provision that would have allowed local governments to put speed cameras in school zones. Senators voted 26-23 against the new version of the measure.

“The most important thing to me is always to protect people and save lives,” said state Sen. Randy Robertson, a Cataula Republican and former police officer who sponsored the measure. “This is about saving lives.”

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The legislation was being considered less than a year after Rayshard Brooks, a Black man, was killed by an Atlanta police officer who had questioned him for being asleep and intoxicated in his car. And in Minneapolis, the nationally watched trial is underway of an officer accused of killing George Floyd.

Members of the House approved the measure 98-72 earlier in the day before sending it back to the Senate for its consideration.

Supporters of the measure said it was commonsense that drivers should know to pull over in a well-lit area, turn on their car’s dome light and put their hands on the steering wheel as an officer approaches.

“This bill recognizes the fact that we have to develop expectations for officer conduct,” said state Rep. Martin Momtahan, a Republican from Dallas. “The sole purpose of Senate Bill 115 is to protect our families, our citizens and our officers through education, to teach them what those expectations should be.”

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The curriculum would have been part of the instruction given to new drivers and those who need to take driver improvement courses. Instruction would also include an explanation of consequences when someone is a habitual offender and convey that officers can request ID, choose to use force and detain drivers.

“This bill simply seeks to absolve law enforcement of their own responsibility,” said state Rep. Erica Thomas, a Democrat from Mableton. “Dictating solutions and assigning blame to motorists is not a productive way to engage with our communities that have been on the receiving end of state-sponsored violence for generations.”