Atlanta Council Delays Action on CRB Reforms
(APN) ATLANTA — The Atlanta City Council’s Public Safety/Legal Administration Committee (PS/LA) was set to discuss and possibly vote on an ordinance granting new powers to the Atlanta Citizens Review Board at its meeting on Tuesday, February 23, 2016.
However, numerous citizens who planned to attend and speak learned that the PS/LA Committee Chairman Ivory Young (District 3) decided to postpone action. Activist Janine Brown said she learned about it at a Committee Briefing held earlier that day.
The Committee now plans to hold a Work Session in the very near future, but it has not yet been scheduled.
Councilman Young, who sponsored the legislation, tells APN it could still come up for a Committee vote as early as Tuesday, March 08, 2016.
“Most of my colleagues I have consulted with are very supportive, in principle, of the Citizens Review Board. It’s been a minute, now that they have had to deal with a number of incidents and cases… it’s a good opportunity to perfect the viability and purpose of the board. That’s what’s reflected in the amendments and the legislation,” Young told Atlanta Progressive News.
One of the most important changes is that, if the Chief of Police of the Atlanta Police Department chooses not to accept the ACRB’s recommendations regarding officer discipline, he or she will have to explain why they made that decision.
“The most important is the letter from the Chief about why the decisions are being made the way they are. There is value to that… it holds the officers and the agency accountable,” Lee Reid, Executive Director of the Atlanta Citizens Review Board, told APN.
“More detail in the letters is a way to continue to be accountable. We’re not saying they are not disciplining, but we want to continue the dialogue at the deeper level,” Reid said.
“It’s not an us against them mentality. Right now there’s so much, going in the nation, can we trust the police? Can the police trust their own? We have a relationship with APD, they offer trainings, participate in trainings, which is beneficial. They provide access, records… what we are trying to know is, why aren’t they disciplining certain cases?” Reid said.
“One really big thing is right now they [ACRB] can’t accept anonymous complaints. That would be a huge improvement. Folks are fearful of the police and scared,” Janine Brown of Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment, told APN.
“The new ordinances will provide some clarity around the expectations for board members to receive training… that gives them better expertise on the issues. I think the staff is really good… their have their own investigator,” Brown said.
“More training wouldn’t hurt… one of the things about the board is that they are impartial. They need to understand what the citizen and the officer is facing, then make an informed decision,” Brown said.
“The fact that [APD Chief George] Turner doesn’t have to give a reason makes no sense. Some officers have multiple complaints. It doesn’t give the citizens an opportunity to have a real redress,” Brown said.
Reid also noted that because of the ACRB’s current lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the organization has to turn away thirty percent of cases.
Other changes include term limits, mandatory trainings, and adding additional seats to the board.
There is one ACRB seat that has remained unfilled from the Mayor’s office.
Atlanta Progressive News contacted the Atlanta Police Department to inquire on Chief George Turner’s feelings about the proposed changes to the ACRB; and if he or someone from APD would be attending the next work session.
Elizabeth Espy, Public Affairs Director, told APN that they knew nothing about the reschedule and would be refraining from comment.
Stay tuned to APN for vote coverage on the upcoming Council vote.