This article was co-authored by Aja Arnold and Liz Mytinger.
ATLANTA — Atlanta City Council will reconvene for its next Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee meeting on Mon., April 26 beginning at 2 p.m. According to the meeting’s agenda, council members will review a number of newly introduced resolutions, a majority of which include new means of expanding policing, increased police spending, and enhanced surveillance within the city.
These resolutions arrive as communities nationwide simultaneously grapple with the conclusion of the Derek Chauvin trial — in which the former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of all charges presented in the murder of George Floyd — and the increase in police killings that have taken place since the trial began. The New York Times reported that police officers were responsible for three or more deaths in the U.S. since the first day of Chauvin’s trial, including Matthew Zadock Williams who was shot and killed by DeKalb County Police officers on Mon., April 12.
Here are a few things we are looking out for in Monday’s council meeting.
The installation of license place readers in the city
A new resolution (21-R-3299) by Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit will be introduced on Monday seeking to authorize the mayor to execute agreements necessary to permit the City of Atlanta to coordinate with the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) concerning the location and position of license plate reader (LPR) cameras that APF has “secured in accordance with its three-year partnership with Flock Group, Inc.”
Why we care about this: This resolution, if passed and enacted in city ordinance, would establish another link between the Mayor and the Atlanta Police Foundation in the interest of increasing surveillance within the City of Atlanta, which is already one of the most surveilled cities in the U.S.
Funding from Homeland Security for more surveillance equipment
A new resolution (21-R-3400) by the Public Safety and Legal Administration seeks to authorize the mayor to permit the Atlanta Urban Area Security Initiative Agency to expend $412,706.35 of Homeland Security grant funds on behalf of the Atlanta Police Department and the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department for “purchase of equipment to enhance regional responses to terrorist attacks and all-hazards responses.”
Why we care about this: The Atlanta Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), was created in the aftermath of 9/11, in which communities nationwide experienced increased and enhanced policing through speciality law enforcement teams, increased surveillance, and infringement of First Amendment rights in the name of safety. These efforts have historically harmed low-income communities of color by expanding police powers, rather than preventing instances of white supremacist attacks and hate crimes.
According to the Atlanta UASI website, it has equipped local agencies with “tools they need to respond to emergency situations,” which include: modernized and standardized video downlink systems and digital cameras for helicopters; state-of-the-art bomb robots and protective suits to better equip regional bomb technicians; other key equipment such as “specialty vehicles for mobile command posts, active shooter ballistic vests and helmets for tactical rescue field medics, and ballistic anti-vehicle barriers.” It is apparent that the UASI has directly contributed to the over-militarization in local policing and seeks to expand that effort. This resolution also adds yet another costly link between the mayor’s office and the police.
A donation from the Atlanta Police Department and Atlanta Police Foundation to the mayor and increased police presence
A new resolution (21-R-3401) by the PSLA committee, as drafted on April 23, would authorize the mayor to “accept on behalf of the Atlanta police department, the donation from the Atlanta Police Foundation” of four “mobile surveillance trailers” which are valued at $144,250. Another resolution authorizes the mayor to accept a 2021 Dodge Charger, which is valued at approximately $48,825, as a donation from the Atlanta Police Foundation, presented on behalf of the Atlanta Police Department. The vehicle is intended “for use as an additional Atlanta Police Department vehicle in order to augment the police presence through the City of Atlanta.”
Why we care about this: Not only is Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and her office receiving multiple direct donations and funds through and from the Atlanta Police Foundation, which have spearheaded defenses of police officers charged with murder and other charges, but all donations are streamlined in a greater effort to increase policing and police presence in the city.
A new resolution (21-R-3301) by Councilmember Antonio Brown will “encourage the Atlanta Police Department to amend its standard operating procedures for the purpose of expanding” the standard operating procedure regarding officers’ “duty to intervene.” The resolution will essentially seek to expand the definition of responsibilities officers have to consider to “intercede when fellow officers are engaged in using excessive force or other unlawful activities.”
Why we care about this: While this resolution arrives in council on the heels of the conclusion of the Derek Chauvin trial, in which multiple officers did not intervene while Chauvin pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck which directly killed him, it is one reform that comes in a long line of many that have already failed. Police, particularly in APD, have already demonstrated that they are prone to breaking rules and standards of operation, as witnessed in the police brutality committed against Rayshard Brooks, Messiah Young, and Taniyah Pilgrim last summer, and other Atlanta police killings and mistreatments that preceded them.
We will continue to report on these resolutions as they make their way through council.
Atlanta’s municipal elections, which includes all seats for city council and the mayor’s office, take place this November. The Georgia General Assembly elections take place in the fall of 2022. Stay tuned for more resources and coverage from us ahead of these elections. Subscribe to our newsletter here to stay connected.